LIVE OAK — Residents eager to shop at the new Ikea megastore may get their wish sooner than expected.
The anticipated spring 2019 opening could instead take place in late January or February, the company announced.
No official debut has been set.
The signature blue panels of the exterior walls of the behemoth furniture and home goods store started going up on the framework Aug. 9, meaning interior finish-out can begin earlier than scheduled.
“Installation of blue panels at the future IKEA Live Oak marks a critical milestone for our construction plans and brings us a step closer to our store opening next winter,” said Lars Petersson, Ikea’s U.S. president, in a prepared release. “We cannot wait to bring customers in the San Antonio area the unique Ikea shopping experience and will begin to transform the interior space over the next few months.”
The store will anchor a planned shopping complex at Interstate 35 and Loop 1604.
City Manager Scott Wayman knew as well as anyone what to expect driving along Pat Booker Road toward Interstate 35 on a late June afternoon, but it still took him by surprise.
The steel framework of a massive Ikea store under construction emerged from a hilltop at the southwest corner of I-35 and Loop 1604. Nearby, heavy equipment prepared yet more acres for another 500,000 square feet of retail space, part of Live Oak Town Center.
“It’s amazing how tall that building is overlooking I-35,” Wayman said.
The structure also looms large as part of a healthy economic outlook for Live Oak, already swelling in size during workdays at places such as The Forum at Olympia Parkway shopping center and the corporate headquarters of Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, just a stone’s throw from where Ikea is rising.
With affordable do-it-yourself furniture, all sorts of home goods and a café specializing in meatballs in cream sauce, the Swedish company is slated to open in spring 2019.
The first segments of the rest of the shopping complex will begin coming online a few months thereafter.
“Ikea is an active business neighbor in the communities where our co-workers live and work at our stores,” said Latisha Bracy, a senior spokeswoman for the corporation’s U.S. arm. “We bring jobs and significant sales and property-tax revenues that provide economic benefits to the local economy, as well as new customers to the area as a result of our regional draw.”
Bracy said Ikea envisions 250 hires, many local job seekers.
“In addition, Ikea plans to be an active member of the community, involved with supporting a variety of local community charitable organizations through contributions and volunteerism,” she said.
The 289,000-square-foot building is the fifth in Texas for the retailer. Others are in Round Rock, north of Austin; Grand Prairie and Frisco in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex; and in Houston. Ikea’s 47 U.S. franchises, 414 worldwide, are considered magnet stores drawing people in sometimes from a hundred or more miles away.
As for the rest of Live Oak Town Center, the area can expect numerous new restaurants, retailers and local service businesses.
“We’re well into our marketing phase and interest has been fantastic,” said Michael Schoenbrun of The Weitzman Group, the firm responsible for bringing tenants to the development.
He said to expect several eateries, including many regional and national chains currently without a presence in San Antonio. Hotel, entertainment and fitness places also will be prevalent.
The general area around where I-35 and 1604 intersect has about 2 million square feet of retail space, much of that in The Forum. The Town Center will add nearly 50 percent more, Schoenbrun said.
However, increased activity also means extra traffic.
Unlike many shopping-center roads, lanes connecting the center to surrounding thoroughfares will be Live Oak streets falling under the city’s rules and regulations. Several signals will be improved, and dedicated left-turn lanes installed where needed, including construction of the Ikea/RBFCU Parkway.
“The access, I think, is going to be fantastic,” Schoenbrun said. There will be few stop signs, he said, unlike the numerous four-way stops at The Forum. The main street will be a two-lane, divided roadway with brick pavers and a large roundabout with public art in the middle.
Wayman said as soon as tenants start moving in, the city can begin releasing money to The Weitzman Group to pay for the infrastructure. Because the developers are footing the bill up front, the town hasn’t issued bonds to cover costs.
Instead, 75 percent of the city sales tax generated on the site will go back to the developer while Live Oak collects only 25 percent of the property tax until the payback threshold is met.
Wayman thinks the financial return should take about nine years after the opening, creating a nice boost in city sales-tax revenue and property-tax collection after 2028.
Meanwhile, incremental new money coming into municipal coffers over the next decade will pay for three additional police officers and another building inspector, taking pressure off firefighters doing double duty.
“They’ve been really good community partners,” Wayman said of the developers and construction contractors, who are buying 50 million gallons of water to compact the soil and settle the dust before water rationing began.