El Paso-centric info and commentary from the Center of North America

Will the $100M Fort Bliss mall kill its civilian competitors?

Well, this raises all kinds of questions. While the news release notes that the project will put more than $5.5 million in sales taxes into the city budget, it also quotes project officials as saying that shoppers benefit from a “tax-free” environment, and that retailers will have an advantage because they’re not paying property taxes. Wonder how the folks fighting over the Farah building proposal feel about this. While it will provide 900 civilian jobs, one assumes those will be mostly retail jobs. And since the project is so big, will it swallow most of the retail boom folks were hoping for once the post gets up to full ramp? How will this affect Dyer Street, or Northeast El Paso retail development? What about plans for the Farah Building, or Downtown?

This is just one aspect of the impact Fort Bliss will have on the community as it continues to grow. While all the elements of whether it’s a net benefit to the community or not can be debated, one thing cannot be debated: The folks who have the contracts to build the stuff on post are making boo-coo bucks. All the rest of it, well, we’ll have the next few generations to debate.

Here’s the news release:

History Is in the Making at Fort Bliss

New Shopping Center is the First of its Kind

DENVER, July 8 /PRNewswire/ — On Friday, July 17, 2009, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and ServiceStar Development Company will commemorate the groundbreaking of Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss, the first-of-its-kind retail development to be part of a United States military installation.

Fort Bliss is undergoing significant expansion under the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005 including $4.8 billion in fully-funded construction that is already underway. By 2012, Fort Bliss is expected to grow by more than 60 percent and reach a population of more than 127,000 including Army personnel, National Guard and reserves, retirees and military families.

To better serve the growing Fort Bliss community, AAFES and ServiceStar Development Company have teamed, in a public/private venture, to create the first-ever opportunity for national, regional and local retailers to privately operate within a shopping center on a military installation. In addition to the Post Exchange and Commissary, which are both expanding, the open-air center will feature a multiplex, first-run movie theater as well as premium branded specialty retail offerings including apparel, jewelry, sporting goods and several full service restaurants.

“AAFES provides retail and quick-service restaurant offerings to active duty, guard and reserve members, military retirees and their families at tax-free, competitively low prices on military installations around the world,” said Joe Giuffreda, vice president, AAFES. “With the creation of Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss, we’ve been able to revolutionize the shopping experience and provide even greater convenience to the men and women who serve our country.”

Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss will have a gross leasable area of 455,875 square feet. Anchoring the project will be an expanded Post Exchange, the on-installation department store, which will be 217,240 square feet, the Commissary, the Post grocery store, consisting of a new 111,180 square-foot store and a new privately-operated, multi-screen, first-run movie theater.

“With Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss, we are creating a new market for retailers,” said Mark DeRose, chief executive officer, ServiceStar Development Company. “Our retail and restaurant partners have a truly unique opportunity to expand and reach new customers, operate in an environment free from property taxes and the advantage of locating next to existing, well-established anchors that provide long-term sustainability.”

The new shopping, dining and entertainment open-air marketplace will serve as the social gathering place for the greater Fort Bliss community and enhance the lifestyle of the people that work and live on and around the Post. By 2012, the daytime population of Fort Bliss will reach 49,000. The new retail destination will play host to community celebrations and events throughout the year and will feature many amenities including a children’s play area, outdoor dining areas and free wireless internet access.

Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss will be a boon to the local economy. Current annual sales at Fort Bliss are $175 million. With the addition of Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss, annual sales are projected to exceed $350 million. Fort Bliss is currently the second largest employer in El Paso. When complete, it is estimated that Freedom Crossing will generate 900 civilian jobs and $5.5 million in sales tax revenue for the City of El Paso, Texas annually.

Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss is designed to achieve a Silver Rating from the United States Green Building Council and its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. Sustainable practices including use of recycled materials, day-lighting principles, xeriscape and low-water usage were incorporated into the center’s design.

When it opens in the fall of 2010, the $100 million retail development will serve the Fort Bliss community, which will include more than 108,000 active military, retirees and their family members. Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss will serve as the model for proposed retail developments at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, WA, and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX, which will be developed by AAFES.

The Friday, July 17, 2009 groundbreaking celebration is open to the public. The event begins at 11 a.m. and will take place on the southeast corner of the intersection of Haan and Pleasonton Roads. Members of the media should arrive at the Cassidy Gate, off of US 54, at 10:30 a.m. for access to the event.

Retailers interested in learning more about the space available at Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss should contact David, Hicks and Lampert Brokerage at (303) 694-6082 or

For more information on Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss, please visit


The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is a joint command and is directed by a Board of Directors which is responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and the Air Force through the Service Chiefs of Staff. AAFES has the dual mission of providing authorized patrons with articles of merchandise and services and generating non-appropriated fund earnings as a supplemental source of funding for military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. To find out more about AAFES’ history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our Web site at

About ServiceStar Development Company

ServiceStar Development Company, founded in 1987, has successfully developed more than $500 million in open-air centers, mixed-use projects, neighborhood retail shopping centers and single tenant build-to-suits around the country. Through real estate investment, acquisition and development, the ServiceStar team creates highly-successful projects with enduring community appeal. For more information on the company and its projects, please visit

Web Site:


Written by newspapertreeelpaso

July 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. As much as


    July 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm

  2. As much as I will benefit from this, I will remind EP city council that with this stiff competition, you should have concentrated on developing local business. Greed clouded your judgement.

    Oh well, at least I and others will have a great place to shop, FT Bliss.


    July 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm

  3. El Paso Inc. published a story about the mall a couple weeks ago that answers the questions.

    A reader

    July 8, 2009 at 2:04 pm

  4. Reader, thanks. Would you help us out and post the link here?



    July 8, 2009 at 2:08 pm

  5. Its a shopping center on Fort Bliss, where there are plenty of retailers already. They serve an exclusive market. I don’t see them competing with the civilian sector because most civilians can’t shop on post. I shop on and off post, mostly off post. I find better selection in civilian stores and sometimes the price is low enough to make up for the sales tax savings. If there are civilian stores on post that charge sales tax, that’s good for the city, maybe they’ll lower my property tax.


    July 8, 2009 at 3:42 pm

  6. The El Paso Inc article is at It says that the private companies will generate sales tax revenue as if they were operated off post, but the PX, etc. will continue to be tax-free.

    Another reader

    July 8, 2009 at 5:07 pm

  7. Back in the 70’s military personnel had a great benefit in shopping on post. Gasoline, tobacco, and alcohol products without state and local taxes were a great bargain. Then the rules were changed to protect local businesses. AAFES prices were raised to reflect local pricing off post. Many of the new soldiers will be living off post and will shop closer to home. This seems to be a win-win propostion.

    Ken G

    July 8, 2009 at 5:43 pm

  8. It’s “beaucoup” not “boo-coo”.


    July 9, 2009 at 5:55 am

  9. Stores cannot charge a tax on-post.

    The reason the prices are higher in some cases, look at the quality and the price. Would you rather have an item that is more expensive but will last much longer or go cheap and have it last for a short period. Granted you buy what you can afford. Look at the meats, the qualty is much better on-post and the cheaper meats sold off-post do not even come close. In short off-post shopping will be limited to emergency shopping.

    Most will not live off-post with the enconomy the way it is and as posted on other blogs, the soldiers and families have complained about the dramatic increase in rent of being priced out of range. They will live off-post if there is no on-post housing available. The NEW quarters are much bn better quality. The older quarters still have problems and it will take time to renovate.


    July 9, 2009 at 10:14 am

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