Glenwood mulls more retail at Meadows | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood mulls more retail at Meadows

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

Post Independent/Kelley Cox

GLENWOOD SPRINGS A developer says retail development at Glenwood Meadows is the perfect economic engine to drive the city toward its goals.”Meadows is the best retail center in the valley,” said developer Robert Macgregor, president of Aspen’s Dunrene Group. “Glenwood Springs is in an enviable position.”Macgregor said Glenwood Springs could use money generated by additional retail to move toward anything it wants. Maybe affordable housing, a conference center or hospitality in the confluence area.Last year, Meadows generated about $3.19 million in city sales tax revenue. Since opening its first stores in October 2005, Meadows jumped to representing about 21.4 percent of the city’s total by the end of 2006. Macgregor estimated that if a proposed retail development goes in, Meadows would probably generate in excess of $4 million a year for the city.

“I believe there’s a very compelling case to increase the economic engine of Glenwood Springs by the addition of this piece,” he said. “And money could be used to progress any other agenda.”Glenwood Springs sales tax figures show that revenue has increased for almost all other areas since Meadows opened, despite some fears that Meadows would hurt other businesses.But the Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning commission voted on Aug. 28 to recommend denial of a proposal for retail development on a 10-acre plot of land that Glenwood Meadows LLC – essentially the same company as the Dunrene Group – owns. The application was described as including a large, prominent retail building and also a small restaurant.”We’re looking at a major clothing store and a major electronics goods store,” Macgregor said.

The overriding issue in some planning and zoning commissioners’ minds was that additional retail wouldn’t fulfill the more diversified set of uses for which the land was zoned.The property was originally envisioned for hospitality uses, including a conference or convention center. But a feasibility study concluded that it wouldn’t be financially viable without a large amount of subsidies. Some planning and zoning commissioners believe the space still could be put to another use beside retail or a convention center.Russ Arensman, a former planning and zoning commissioner who is seeking election to City Council, wrote a letter to the commission. It said Meadows was supposed to be about balance and variety, and that the long-term vitality of the development should be considered over only potential sales tax revenue more retail could bring.Macgregor said the characterization that developers only want to bring retail to Meadows is unfair. The Dunrene Group spent about $900,000 and worked for about two years to build 120 affordable housing units on the hill south of Meadows, he said, but the numbers didn’t work.

“I’m extremely sorry and much the poorer that it has failed. It’s quite wrong to say that we haven’t paid attention to the residential,” Macgregor said. “You have to borrow tens of millions to build, and you don’t have enough money to pay it back. Everything in business is dictated by the ability to at least make a modest return on your money. This is not magic. It’s basic economics.”He said 50 acres of residential land south of the shopping center is under contract to be built and will become a reality. The land is approved for 475 housing units and must have at least 71 affordable housing units under Glenwood Springs’ residential code, he added.Macgregor said that the remaining 10 acres at the west end of Meadows zoned for mixed use can’t become retail because it’s not visible enough from the road. An area just south of Wulfsohn Road and Market Street is zoned for mixed use, he said, and it will include about 20 residential units in eight potential buildings. The idea there is to have residential units above possible retail or office spaces, he added.The retail development application is on City Council’s draft agenda for Sept. 20.