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Some Industry Observers Skeptical of $97-Million Infomart Venture : First of Many Planned Computer Trade Centers Opens Today in Dallas

January 21, 1985|From Times Wire Services

DALLAS — Infomart, a $97-million attempt to market computers from one trade mart the way clothing and furniture marketers do, opens the doors to its mammoth white building today amid skepticism from some industry observers.

The structure, with 1.5 million square feet of space near downtown Dallas, is the first of several planned high-technology trade centers where promoters hope competitors will sell their products and services.

"In its simplest form, it's a meeting ground, so buyers can sell and meet and understand each other," said Bill Winsor, Infomart's president and general manager. "It's similar in many aspects to furniture and clothing sellers."

The project--a structure of lacy white metal and reflective glass modeled after London's Crystal Palace and financed primarily by Dallas developer Trammell Crow--is near Crow's World Trade Center, a trade mart that deals heavily in furniture and clothing.

Major tenants include International Business Machines Corp., Texas Instruments Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp., Burroughs Corp., Durango Systems, Timberline Systems Inc., General Telephone Co. of the Southwest and UCCEL Corp.

Xerox and General Telephone have leased 25,000 square feet, while IBM will occupy 24,000 square feet, Winsor said.

Some industry observers have questioned whether Infomart will be effective, considering the increasing number of computer stores and other trade-related shows.

Observers point to Infomart's scaling back of projections through its three-year construction as an example of the difficulty such projects face.

At least 74 companies have signed lease agreements, including three on Friday, Winsor said, well short of the 300 developers originally predicted or even the current projection of between 255 and 275 companies.

Winsor says, however, that some tenants have leased more square feet than anticipated, and he believes that Infomart can survive in the volatile computer retailing industry by attracting potential computer buyers and then channeling them into the specialized stores after they make their product choices. By the end of 1985, he said, Infomart should be 80% full.

The Infomart backers are so confident of success that plans are under way for a 1.3-million-square-foot facility in Times Square in New York. That mart is expected to open in 1988, Winsor said.

"We also have plans to build another facility in Los Angeles and we are building another in Paris, France," Winsor said.

Boscom, a highly touted rival trade mart, is under construction in an 850,000-square-foot building on a Boston pier, but has encountered delays and has reduced the computer portion of its showroom to 234,000 square feet.

Developers are studying the possibility of similar centers in Atlanta and other cities. California DataMart, a $21-million project under way in San Francisco's Showplace Square section, is scheduled to open next July with 136,000 square feet of permanent showroom space, according to the developers, Bay West Development Co. and Metropolitan Properties.

The recent shake-out of companies in the computer industry hasn't had an adverse affect on the Infomart project, Winsor said, pointing out that most of the affected companies produced a limited number of products.

"We've been calling on companies that had a diversity of products," he said.

So far, 42 trade shows, symposiums and exhibitions are booked at Infomart for 1985, Winsor said.

"Our expectation on the original bookings was 25 to 28," Winsor said.

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