Best Buy considers move to Fargo's West Acres, opening other potential changes nearby
FARGO—Best Buy here could soon make a short move to the former Sears store—but the potential change also raises questions about what West Acres Shopping Center might do to redevelop other properties it owns in the area.
Plans entered into the city's Inspections Department system Tuesday, Aug. 22, show a $1 million project set for the former Sears that opened in 1972 as an anchor of West Acres, 3902 13th Ave. S. Sears closed in late March.
The plans aren't complete, meaning these public records don't show many of the interior details necessary for redevelopment. But documents filed by project designer SM Foss Architects offer the first public clue about what could be coming because a large portion of the building is simply labeled "Best Buy."
In a written statement on Friday, Aug. 25, the mall's Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Alissa Adams said Best Buy hasn't yet signed a lease with West Acres. She said mall officials are still in talks with the electronics retailer.
The most recently filed plans are for general site work, she said, something that needs to happen regardless of the eventual tenants.
Speaking strictly in "hypotheticals," Adams said mall officials consider several things during the leasing process, including if it's something West Acres customers like and want that would provide something unique, whether it's an experience, range of products or service. They also look to see if a potential new business will have staying power and the draw to attract more tenants.
"Best Buy would meet all of these criteria," she wrote. "They have proven their ability to not only survive the volatility of the current retail environment and online competition, but to compete and do so successfully."
Adams said this move would give Best Buy an opportunity to update its store format and expand its current product offerings in a larger store.
If the latest plans are finalized, Best Buy would take over about 51,000 square feet of the former Sears, according to Chris Heaton, Senior Vice President of Property Management for West Acres.
That leaves between 30,000 and 32,000 square feet open for other development along the northern edge of the building, Heaton said.
According to Adams, West Acres is looking to use that northern space, along with open areas in the Sears wing, for a potential new "large project" that would feature multiple tenants. More details on that project aren't yet available.
A former Radio Shack store in the Sears wing is now vacant, and Lux Spa's current spot there will relocate this fall to the JCPenney wing.
The plans also show a new hallway could be built to connect West Acres to a new 6,200-square-foot tenant space in the southwestern corner of the Sears building.
The former Sears service garage was demolished in July, bringing the building footprint down from just shy of 100,000 square feet to about 90,000, according to Heaton.
But a new question will arise if all this does happen: What will the mall do with the Best Buy building, 1615 38th St. S., where the retailer has operated since 1994?
The structure, which is owned by West Acres Development Co. just like the mall, has about 46,000 square feet of space.
Best Buy first opened in the community in 1985 in south Moorhead's former Holiday Mall that has since been demolished. It was the Minnesota-based company's first store outside of the Twin Cities. Best Buy moved in 1994 to its Fargo location.
In a written statement, Best Buy's Senior Director of External Communications Jeff Shelman said relocating to West Acres could lead to more room dedicated to appliances and space to feature more premium appliance brands.
"While we are still working to finalize a lease, the potential of having a new and better store for our customers in the Fargo-Moorhead area is exciting," he wrote.
Adams said it would also open up possibilities for land just south of the mall. In addition to the Best Buy building, West Acres' ownership group owns a 52,000-square-foot former Menards building and connected structure to the north at 1623 38th St. S. that add up to about 74,000 square feet.
Current tenants there include Savers, Spirit Halloween and The Ball Yard. West Acres Development Co. bought the complex in 2006, and a new holding company with the same owners called West Acres Adjacent Properties has owned it since earlier this year.
Not far away, a vacant property at 1649 38th St. S. seems to be the only building on the block not owned by West Acres.
City records show the 5,490-square-foot structure that was built in 1977 is owned by JPR Investments LLC, an ownership group with the same address as Roers, 200 45th St. S., Fargo.
It was a Hooters restaurant from the early 1990s until 2008, and it then operated as Casa Ramos Mexican Restaurant for about two years before that closed in 2011.