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HOUSTON-Wulfe & Co. has marked a milestone in its quest to restore the 700,000-sf Gulfgate Center to its former glory, breaking ground for two anchor tenants.

The first to sign leases in the center’s rebirth are grocer H-E-B and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse. San Antonio-based H-E-B will construct an 85,000-sf supermarket on the north end of the72-acre mall, positioned just off the Gulf Freeway near Loop 610 south. Demolition work has begun.

The North Carolina-based Lowe’s will construct a 165,000-sf warehouse store on the mall’s west side. The site is part of a 24-acre tract of land Wulfe & Co. had purchased earlier this year to offer more retail sites. Wulfe is expanding the original center on the west side of Woodridge to make a bigger statement and a bigger retail environment, according to Ed Wulfe, president of the Houston-based realty firm.

About half of Gulfgate’s 31,000-sf retail pad building has been pre-leased to smaller tenants, and Wulfe is negotiating with other tenants in businesses such as apparel, electronics, office supply and sporting goods, to occupy the rest of the mall’s 700,000 sf.Gulfgate’s redevelopment, estimated to cost between $50 million to $60 million, is a joint venture between Wulfe & Co. and the City of Houston, which had purchased Houston’s first shopping mall, once the talk of the town.

Wulfe says it took six years to successfully refurbish Meyerland Plaza after years of neglect left it in gross disrepair. So when it came to Gulfgate, he had opted to demolish the existing structures and start anew with new retailers.

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