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The Fountains agreement with City of El Paso allows for relocation of some tenants

The Fountains at Farah offers a mix of stores that are new to El Paso, and others that either opened new locations or left their old space behind.

The stores that are raising some concerns – Best Buy and Barnes & Noble – are leaving their current locations at the Viscount Village Shopping Center and moving half a mile to the west to the new retail space.

“We want to be perfectly clear. The City is not incentivizing relocation of businesses (to the Fountains),” said Marissa Monroy, City Development Coordinator.

That agreement for city tax rebates for the Fountains states that the Fountains would be penalized if an “anchor store” from another shopping center relocated to the Fountains.

There is even a diagram showing the area that is off-limits to recruiting – from just East of U.S. 54 to Zaragoza and George Dieter.

But there is a catch: The anchor store must occupy 30,000 square feet in a shopping center of 500,000 square feet for the penalty to go into effect.

“They will not rebate that property until the property is 90 percent occupied,” Monroy said.

It appears the only shopping centers large enough to fit the criteria would be Cielo Vista Mall and Bassett Place.

ABC-7 checked the square footage of a smaller shopping center, Viscount Village, which houses Best Buy and Barnes and Noble. It is nowhere close to that reuirement, at roughly 200,000 square feet. So, Viscount Village andother strip malls with lucrative storesaren’t protected by that agreement.

When asked if the city didn’t do enough to protect smaller shopping centers, Monroy said, “I think the City at the time was looking to get rid of that blighted area. This is one of the most heavily trafficked areas in the city and I think we just really wanted to see some sort of development fill that area. We were tired of looking at that old, abandoned building.”

The City also wants residents to put this agreementin perspective. This agreement to help the owners of the Fountains was drawn up in 2008 — a year that El Paso and the rest of the nation was in the midst of the recession. It was alsoa time when economic development — especially of this size — was unheard of here and anywhere else in the U.S.

“This isn’t just a retail center. This is a lifestyle center,” said Monroy. “You’re not just going to go there to shop. You’re going to dine. You’re going to see outdoor concerts. There’s going to be an outdoor amphitheater. There’s going to be a shuttle to take people around the development because it’s so massive.”

Monroy added that those stores haven’t approached the City for the rebate, so the City hasn’t looked into whether Farah can be penalized for the store locations.

The Fountains at Farah is scheduled to open in October.

Editor’s note: The diagram obtained by ABC-7 Thursday showed tenants that have yet to finalize their lease agreements. ABC-7 will withhold the diagram until the deals go through in order to present an accurate list of stores.

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