Pre-Winrock History (1920-1961)
The story of Winrock Town Center Mall begins in June 1920, when the University of New Mexico (UNM) purchased a 480-acre lot on Albuquerque’s East Mesa. Initially meant for a vegetable garden for residential students, the plan never materialized, leaving the lot empty for decades.
In the 1950s, UNM began selling portions of the land to residential developers, sparking a population movement to the area and eventually creating the need for a retail center.
The Birth of Winrock Shopping Center (1961–2011)
In 1958, UNM President Tom Popejoy and Winthrop Rockefeller collaborated to build a regional shopping mall on the East Mesa land. The Winrock Shopping Center, designed by architect Victor Gruen, opened on March 1, 1961, becoming the first regional shopping mall in New Mexico.
The $10 million project attracted around 30,000 visitors on its first day, with Montgomery Ward, JCPenney, S.S. Kresge, and Safeway among the original tenants.
In 1965, the rival Coronado Center opened nearby, but Winrock remained profitable for years. Dillard’s established their first store at the location in 1971, and the shopping center continued to expand and evolve throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
It peaked in the mid-1980s with 1,000,000 square feet of gross leasable area and 130 stores. Winrock was even featured in the 1971 film Bunny O’Hare starring Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine.
Despite its success, Winrock faced challenges in the late 1990s, and vacancy rates began to climb. By 2005, leases were not renewed in anticipation of redevelopment, and the once-thriving mall was left nearly abandoned, with only a few remaining stores.
Redevelopment: A New Era for Winrock (2002-Present)
In 2002, PruWinrock LLC announced plans for an open-air community center, but the project faced delays and was eventually sold to the Albuquerque-based Goodman Realty Group in 2007.
The new developers presented a master plan that included office, retail, restaurant, residential units, a hotel, a movie theater, a grocery store, parks, plazas, and ample parking spaces.
Construction began in 2012, with the demolition of the old Winrock Center mall and the signing of long-term leases with three major restaurants – Genghis Grill, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, and Dave and Busters.
The redevelopment continued, and by 2017, a Red Robin opened in the space initially intended for Joe’s Crab Shack.
Today, the Winrock Town Center is an open-air mixed-use development anchored by two Dillard’s locations and a Regal 16-screen IMAX and RPX Theatre. It serves as a testament to the area’s growth and evolution, a symbol of progress and modernity, and a place for the community to come together.
Winrock Shopping Center Timeline
|Winrock Shopping Center opens
|Rival Coronado Center opens
|Dillard’s establishes its first store
|Largest renovation of Winrock
|The late 1990s
|The decline in mall popularity
|PruWinrock LLC announces redevelopment plan
|Goodman Realty Group acquires the property
|Demolition of Winrock Center Mall begins
|New restaurants, theaters, and stores open
Winrock Town Center: A Hub for Entertainment and Dining
The revitalized Winrock Town Center is now a bustling hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment in Albuquerque. The center attracts residents and visitors by adding popular eateries like Dave and Busters, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Genghis Grill, and Red Robin.
In addition to these dining options, the Regal 16-screen IMAX and RPX Theatre provide a top-notch cinematic experience for movie lovers.
A Lasting Legacy
Winrock Town Center came a long way from its humble beginnings in 1961. While it faced challenges and decline, the community’s resilient spirit and developers’ dedication have brought it back to life.
Today, Winrock Town Center symbolizes progress and modernity, and a lasting legacy of the past, reminding us of the rich history that has shaped Albuquerque’s East Mesa.
As Winrock Town Center continues to evolve and grow, it remains a vibrant part of Albuquerque’s community. The center’s storied past serves as a reminder of the area’s history. Its success is a testament to the dedication and resilience of those who have worked to revitalize it.
The future looks bright for Winrock Town Center, as it continues to be a beloved destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment in Albuquerque, NM.