New Colorado Springs Wal-Mart at Academy and Austin Bluffs set to open in early November

Rich Laden |

A fourth Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is scheduled to open in November in Colorado Springs, part of a major face lift for an aging northeast side shopping center that’s been without an anchor for more than seven years.

The 43,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market will take the space that was previously occupied by an Albertsons grocery in the 28- year-old Austin Bluffs Plaza, northeast of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard.

Bentonville, Ark.,-based Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has had a major presence in the Colorado Springs area for years with its Supercenters and Sam’s Club stores. Last year, it opened its first Neighborhood Market at Platte Avenue and Murray Boulevard in the Springs, in a remodeled storefront once occupied by a King Soopers.

Since then, Wal-Mart has constructed two Neighborhood Markets – one near South Academy Boulevard and Chelton Road on the Springs’ south side,, and the other near Union and Palmer Park boulevards in the central part of the city.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified, said the fourth Neighborhood Market will open early next month inside the former Albertsons; she didn’t have a specific date. The store already has hired the roughly 95 full- and part-employees who will staff the store, she said.

Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Markets are basically grocery stores, akin to a Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons, that feature full lines of frozen foods, meats and dairy products, fruits and vegetables and prepared foods.

They also sell health and beauty products, paper goods and pet products, and feature pharmacies, but don’t stock clothing, electronics and other items that are found at Wal-Mart’s Supercenters, which are roughly five times bigger.

Wal-Mart has said its Neighborhood Markets are meant to offer convenient places for customers who need milk, eggs and other items, but don’t want to shop at a Supercenter.

When asked if the new stores are cannibalizing sales from one another or from the Supercenters, the spokeswoman said “there was a demand for each location, and we have found that our customers are responding positively to the benefits of the new format.”

The opening of the Neighborhood Market will give a boost to Austin Bluffs Plaza, said Blake Larson, an associate broker with Legend Retail Group in Denver, which markets the center. In addition to having lost Albertsons, the center used to be home to a Longs Drug store.

“It is a big, big difference,” Larson said. “You’ll see a completely new tenant mix in the center that you probably haven’t seen in 10, 20 years.”

Among new tenants coming to the center, he said: A Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and tax service H&R Block. Existing tenants include Taco Bell, Austin Bluffs Plaza Liquors, Waffle House and Radio Shack.

Wal-Mart paid $1.9 million to purchase the Albertsons site, but other portions of the shopping center continue to be owned by a limited liability company formed by Endeavor Real Estate Group of Austin, Texas.

Larson said Endeavor is upgrading the center with new glass door fronts and building facades. The center also is getting a new parking lot and roof, he said.