Home Depot ‘interested’ in Marketplace | AspenTimes.com

Home Depot ‘interested’ in Marketplace

John Colson

The Home Depot chain of stores is “interested” in Carbondale as a location for a new store, but no deal has been signed, a spokeswoman for the corporation said this week.Rumors are rampant in town that the current developers of the Crystal River Marketplace site, Richard Schierburg and the Peregrine Group Development LLC, have been talking with Home Depot about moving into a “big-box” space at the project.Both Schierburg and representatives of Home Depot confirmed this week that talks have taken place, and that company officials have made site visits, but that there have been no decisions.The rumors come on top of recent news from the town that a “big-box” retail store is back on the table for the Marketplace site as a backup option. The site, which California developer Brian Huster owns, is in a meadow along the western side of Colorado Highway 133 near its intersection with Main Street.Recent talks among the town, Schierburg and the citizen-led Carbondale Economic Roadmap Group, which has been working on plans for the Marketplace site, have called for a 60,000 square-foot limit to the size of buildings there. But the town board recently agreed with Schierburg that, if the guidelines the Roadmap Group worked out are not feasible, a “big-box” plan must be part of the backup options.At least one member of the Roadmap Group has said publicly that she will fight the idea of a big-box store at the Marketplace and plans to attend town board of trustees meetings to let her feelings be known.”I’m opposed to anything over 60,000 square feet,” Roadmap Group member Ro Mead said, explaining, “that was not part of our real recommendations.” She added that if a proposal involves “an institute of some sort,” such as the recently announced Sustainability Center of the Rockies, she might make an exception.As for the rumors, Mead said, “I don’t think that Carbondale needs a Home Depot.” The nearest Home Depot store is in Avon, and another is in Grand Junction.It was largely the “big-box” aspect of a previous development proposal, which called for a 125,000-square-foot retail shop along with other smaller stores, that led to a 2003 election battle that killed the plan by overturning the board of trustees’ approvals.Mead and others formed a political action group, the Town Mothers, which spearheaded opposition to the Marketplace. But the Mothers, Mead said, are no longer an active organization, and no other group has emerged yet to assume the Mothers’ mantle. She said the Roadmap Group will meet before the next town board meeting to discuss the matter.”We’re interested in Carbondale,” Home Depot spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher said. “But nothing’s firmly baked enough for us to talk about it publicly.”She said company officials typically will research a city and a region regarding potential new locations, “to see if there is a need, if the market will support a Home Depot store.” Specific questions about possible sites include whether the access to a site is adequate, what the home ownership versus tenancy patterns are, and information about the potential service area’s population.Gallagher acknowledged that Home Depot, which has been exploring expansion into the newly accessible mainland China market, has been “slowing our growth” starting “a couple of years ago.” She said at one point the chain was opening “a store every 48 hours,” but that it is now opening about 100 new stores per year and focusing more on customer service and such things as installation assistance.As far as the possible design of a store is concerned, Gallagher pledged, “We’re very flexible, working with cities, counties” and other governmental entities to see that a new store meets the design criteria of local codes, and that building facades meet with local approval and the entire project “blends with the community.”Gallagher said she could not discuss what the corporation considers the minimum size for a viable store while talks about a Carbondale site are “on the drawing board.”She said the average Home Depot contains 102,000 square feet of retail space inside the building, with a 28,000-square-foot garden center outside.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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