Store Wars

Scott Condon

Glenwood Springs appears to have grabbed the lead over Carbondale in an unofficial tug of war to land a Target store.

Developers of large commercial projects in both towns have made it no secret that they want to draw Target as their anchor tenant. Robert Macgregor would like to see the store’s big red bull’s-eye in the center of his Glenwood Meadows project near the new Glenwood recreation center.

Brian Huster knows that a national retailer is exactly what his Crystal River Marketplace project along Highway 133 in Carbondale needs to take off.

Macgregor, managing partner of Glenwood Meadows LLC, appears to have gained the advantage due to the politics hampering the Crystal River Marketplace. His project has obtained the necessary zoning and annexation agreements with the city of Glenwood Springs. Plus, the town has already held its philosophical discussion on the desirability of big-box retailers. Shopping won.

Carbondale still a controversial site

Carbondale is still locked in debate over shopping versus community character. The Town Council approved Huster’s 252,000-square-foot commercial project on the old Colorado Rocky Mountain School property west of Highway 133 and north of the 7-Eleven. The site includes a 125,000-square-foot superstore for a Target or something like it.

But foes intend to collect signatures for a petition drive that would force the issue to the ballot. The referendum would allow town citizens to decide if the project deserves approval.

While Macgregor creeps through the Glenwood review process, Huster is fighting for his project’s life. Even if he ultimately wins approval from town residents, it remains to be seen how a potential anchor tenant will respond to a heated political battle. There are plenty of places that would welcome a superstore, which might spook a retailer away from a town where there is controversy.

Macgregor has already made overtures to Target.

Glenwood’s advantages

“Target is very interested in coming to us, given the right economic conditions,” said Macgregor. He is working with a Denver firm called Miller Weingarten to develop his commercial property. The firm has developed three Target complexes in Colorado, according to Macgregor.

Glenwood Meadows has a 125,000-square-foot home where it wants Target to settle. Macgregor said company officials have already acknowledged to his colleagues that the site works from a practical standpoint. With good access and high visibility just off Interstate 70, the property is strategically located to attract shoppers from the entire Roaring Fork Valley as well as from Parachute to Vail.

Macgregor is convinced that demand already exists to support a Target. Glenwood Springs has a 115,000-square-foot Wal-Mart and a smaller Kmart. Target enjoys a classier reputation than the other two. Supporters contend it offers higher-quality merchandise than its competitors.

Even the development of a Wal-Mart superstore, which carries the usual merchandise plus groceries, in Rifle leaves Macgregor unfazed. Target knows it could compete effectively in the Roaring Fork Valley, he said.

Approval by summer?

Macgregor said Target officials indicated to him they wanted to come to the valley for the past five years but couldn’t find the right property.

“Because it’s so hard to get these projects done, we’re behind the curve when it comes to demand,” he said.

Macgregor’s agreements with the town would allow maximum development of 495,000 square feet of commercial space and 475 residential units at Glenwood Meadows. Along with an anchor like Target, Macgregor said his project will include a 58,000-square-foot site designed for a supermarket. He plans to submit site-specific plans to the city of Glenwood this spring and hopes to have approvals for his first phase by summer.

The only factor that could scare Target away, Macgregor said, is if city exactions drive the cost of development so high that the national retailer decides to look elsewhere.

A different type of uncertainty faces Crystal River Marketplace. Foes of the development were expected to submit a draft petition earlier this week that meets legal requirements necessary for a referendum. Once the wording of the petition is approved by town officials, organizers can then collect signatures that will force the issue to the ballot.

The debate over the Marketplace has already divided Carbondale for two years. Supporters in town and on the Town Council said the project is needed to meet the demands created by a flurry of residential development in recent years and to raise revenues to offset the town’s costs of providing services required by that growth.

Reports show that up to $900,000 in sales-tax revenues “leak” out of Carbondale when area residents must go elsewhere to find what they want to buy.

“Ultimately, the majority share of the Marketplace’s sales will have to come from capture of sales currently leaking from the market to larger comparison markets in Denver and Grand Junction,” said an economic feasibility report prepared for the Carbondale town government by BBC Research and Consulting of Denver.

“This scenario is most probable if the Crystal River Marketplace is successful in attracting a uniquely strong brand – such as Target – that is capable of drawing shoppers from a considerable distance because of its image of style and value,” the report continued.

The report also makes it clear that luring a major tenant like Target is what Huster needs to make the rest of the project attractive to tenants. The plan for the Marketplace includes a 58,000-square-foot space that’s being pitched as an alternative location for City Market, which currently operates in a smaller space in Carbondale.

The site plan also shows that three retail locations of varying sizes would be connected to the grocery store. Two free-standing retail sites, a restaurant site and a gas station would round out the development. BBC’s feasibility study labels the Marketplace a “super community center – something bigger than a community mall but not quite a regional shopping center.

BBC concludes that the Roaring Fork Valley can handle another national discount retailer, based on 13,000 households from Glenwood Springs and the surrounding I-70 corridor; 3,332 households in and around Carbondale; and 8,734 households in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

But if the numbers make a Target work in Carbondale, they also work for Glenwood Springs. The unofficial tug of war is on.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is