In response to its tremendous growth, Albuquerque decided to jump on the mall-building trend and began planning the state’s first mall in 1960. Due to development patterns favoring the sprawling east side, combined with the pending completion of Interstate 40 across Albuquerque around the same time, a centrally-located site was selected along Interstate 40 at Louisiana Boulevard – about 6 miles east of downtown.
Once the site was selected, Victor Gruen – the Grandfather of malls – was hired to design Winrock Center, which opened in March 1961. It opened with 42 stores, anchored by Safeway, Kresge, Walgreens, Fedway discount mart, Montgomery Ward, and JCPenney. Wards and Penneys flanked the eastern side of the center, and the rest of the anchors were located along the western side with a semi-enclosed mallway in between. The semi-enclosure consisted of a roof with open grillwork to allow the free flow of air into and through the center. In addition, two completely open-air plazas existed on the east and west ends of the center.