Brownsville Retail Market

The retail “flood gate” in Brownsville truly opened in 1999, when Dillard's purchased Sunrise Mall, relocated Kmart from the mall to anchor the Sunrise Commons Shopping Center and expanded the mall to more than 1 million square feet to accommodate its new store. Dillard's closed its 25-year-old Amigoland Mall store to position itself in Brownsville's northern growth area. Amigoland closed and has since been purchased by UT Brownsville to become its new ITEC facility. The primary retail sector in Brownsville continues to grow with the Sunrise Commons project leading the way as an extension of the Sunrise Mall retail mass.

In 2000, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stretched the Brownsville retail market with their new locations on Alton Gloor and Expressway 77/83. Wal-Mart further defined the retail sectors by building a second Supercenter on Highway 48 at FM 802 and rebuilding its Boca Chica store into what will be a third Supercenter for Brownsville.

It is no longer difficult for retailers to choose which area in Brownsville's market is best for them to be. Brownsville retail is now clearly defined with a “three-legged stool.” Expressway 77/83 between FM 802 and Alton Gloor is primary retail with regional mall and power centers; Boca Chica between Expressway 77/83 and Highway 48 is secondary retail with a few big boxes with national and regional retailers; and Highway 48 at FM 802 is third-tier retail with a Wal-Mart Supercenter and shadow retail.

The Home Depot opened its second store at Morrison Crossing and Expressway 77/83 (an 80-acre master-planned retail project) in 2005, which began the infill retail between Alton Gloor and FM 802 on the expressway.

The 38-acre Las Tiendas Shopping Center is now under construction on the northeast corner of Expressway 77/83 at Morrison Road. The project will be anchored by Target.

The opportunity for continued expansion is still present with several key retailers not present in the Brownsville market, such as Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, Hobby Lobby, Conn's, HEB Plus, Kohl's and Foley's, to name a few. North Towne Plaza, which is located across from Sunrise Mall on Expressway 77/83 at FM 802, will be a 40-acre project that will be able to accommodate many of these retail prospects.

Through all of the primary retail sector growth, TXDOT has been reconstructing the Expressway 77/83 system from Brownsville to McAllen. With the expansion of lanes and overpasses and converting off-ramps to on-ramps, and vice versa, access/function and traffic circulation is changing the face of these markets and helping to facilitate the growth.   

In the near future, the “secondary” corridor, Boca Chica from Expressway 77/83 to Highway 48, will see older space re-tenanted and some parcels redeveloped due to the maturity of the neighborhood, Wal-Mart's third Supercenter being completed and the market demanding increased rents.

Brownsville's population is very young, with more than 50,000 of its nearly 175,000 population under high school age. With the continued migration from Mexico, a rebounding winter Texan market and retiring baby boomer population moving south, South Texas will continue to be within national retailers' sights.

— Mark Barnard is a managing broker and Jimmy Barnard is a commercial broker with Brownsville-based Coastal Realty.

©2006 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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