A giant, bright red crane slowly lifted into place the first wall of The Fountains at Farah shopping center on Tuesday, where a Nordstrom Rack will be located.

"It's hard to imagine looking at this concrete and steel out here, but a year from now (The Fountains) is going to be open," said Paul Foster, the owner of the property. "It's fun to think about what this is going to look like a year from now - all the people, stores and activity."

The half-mile-long retail development is slated to open in a year at Interstate 10 and Hawkins, next door to Cielo Vista Mall. It's located on the site of the old Farah plant where men's slacks were once manufactured.

Farah Manufacturing Co. was El Paso's largest employer in the 1970s when El Paso was known as the city that puts the pants on the nation. The plant later closed and became an eyesore.

The developer of the shopping center, Centergy Retail, is moving fast. Its president West Miller said they promised retailers an opening before Christmas 2013.

On Tuesday morning, nearly 500 construction workers were on the site. Foster expects that as many as 3,000 will be working there at the peak of construction.

About 60 percent of the center's 615,000-square-feet of retail space is pre-leased, according to Miller, and about 25 percent of those retailers are new to El Paso. Miller said he hopes to make some of the retailers public by the end of the year.

The development received up to $12 million in tax breaks combined from the city and county, which were eager to see the derelict plant redeveloped. In return, Miller promised retail that would be new to El Paso and more upscale.

Foster said he is excited about the retailers they have recruited but also continually frustrated.

"There are still some retailers that just don't want to go to El Paso and don't think we have the economic base and wage levels to support certain retail," he said. "That is a frustration, but we are still working on it. We are going to get them one of these days."

Retailers rumored to have leased space there include women's clothing chains Chico's, White House Black Market and TJ Maxx, as well as HomeGoods, Dick's Sporting Goods and Best Buy.

Barnes and Noble is expected to move its Eastside store.

Email El Paso Inc. reporter Robert Gray at rsgray@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422 ext. 105.





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