Fort Collins Coloradoan | 04-25-2014
With the Northern Colorado economy running nearly full throttle, communities along the Interstate 25 corridor are embracing new development that will bring more visitors, shoppers, jobs and tax revenue to their cities and towns.
From a massive indoor shooting range and a separate psychiatric hospital in Johnstown to Bass Pro Shops in Loveland, an events center in Windsor, Costco in Timnath and a 55,000-square-foot industrial building in Wellington, developers are building more than a half-million square feet of new retail and commercial space along the 20-mile stretch of interstate.
That's enough square footage to fill the White House 10 times over.
A new building boom
While development along Northern Colorado's transportation spine has come in spurts throughout the past decade, this is the largest boom in years, said Jay Hardy of developer McWhinney. The company's Centerra project along I-25 in Loveland is home to The Promenade Shops and the new Bass Pro Shops that will begin construction in late summer.
The new commercial development represents a $123.5 million investment in the corridor and continues a transformation that kicked into high gear in 2003 with the opening of the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. The Promenade Shops outdoor mall followed in 2005, and Medical Center of the Rockies opened in 2007, before the recession hit and construction went largely dormant.
"We have pent-up demand. Things have not been built since 2007 or so," said Eric Holsapple, executive director of the Everitt Real Estate Center at Colorado State University. "The Colorado market nationally is phenomenally healthy. We didn't go down as much as others, and we were quicker to come back."
In 2009, glimmers of renewal started to shine along the interstate when Walmart opened a Supercenter at I-25 and Harmony Road in Timnath and Embassy Suites opened near The Ranch in Loveland.
Timnath scored an economic victory with Walmart, which immediately pumped more than $1 million in sales tax revenue into the town that up until then had lacked any substantive sales tax revenue. Walmart might still have additional plans for the corridor. It retained its property rights in Windsor, giving it three more years to plan a store on the west side of town.
As Northern Colorado's economic rebound continues at a pace many other regions can only envy, developers are again targeting the I-25 corridor.
"There's a renewed sense of optimism about Colorado in general and Northern Colorado specifically," said Walt Elish, president and CEO of Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp.
"Some of these projects have been in the works for some time," he said. "Coming out of the recession, businesses are feeling more comfortable about the economy and these have been pent-up projects, and now they see the opportunity to go forward."
While Larimer County is teeming with construction elsewhere, it's a widely held assumption that cities grow toward major arterials and larger cities, Hardy said. "Look at all the cities growing toward I-25 and Northern Colorado growing toward Denver."
Like it or not, we live in a mobile society, and nearly half of Northern Colorado residents wake up in one city and go to work in another, he said. "Transportation corridors are important; that's why there's so much discussion about the expansion of I-25 and what's going to happen there."
I-25 is already a major north/south transportation corridor that runs from southern New Mexico to northern Wyoming. Northern Colorado is at its core, midway between the Canadian and Mexican borders and midway between I-70 and I-80.
"If you look back a decade and look at why the Walmart Distribution Center is located here, that's why," Hardy said.
Here's a look at some of the plans either in the works or under construction:
• Johnstown: Liberty Firearms Institute plans to build a 100,000-square-foot indoor shooting range that would include five indoor firing ranges. It would be the largest facility of its kind in Colorado and would also include a gun store, restaurant and classrooms.
Strategic Behavioral Health broke ground this month on a 92-bed acute behavioral health hospital east of the I-25 U.S Highway 34 exit in Loveland. It is expected to open next summer and bring about 250 new jobs to the area.
• Loveland: Bass Pro Shops plans to build an 80,000-square-foot store (with room to add 20,000 square feet) northeast of the I-25/U.S. 34 interchange. Developed by McWhinney, it will be accompanied by a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, and additional retail and restaurant space. Construction on Bass Pro Shops should begin in the next few months and be completed late summer or early fall 2015.
• Windsor: The Summit, a 50,000-square-foot entertainment center, is set to open in June and had been in the works for eight years. It is being developed by Martin Lind's Water Valley Corp., and will include a 7-Eleven convenience store east of the I-25/Crossroads Boulevard exit.
• Timnath: Costco, a 148,000-square-foot membership-based grocery store, is under construction at I-25 and Harmony Road, south of the Walmart Supercenter. It is expected to open Oct. 1.
• Fort Collins: Fox Grove, 113 single-family homes clustered around 6 acres of open space, is planned on the northeast corner I-25 and Mulberry Street. The overall development plan has been approved, but the project still needs final approval.
• Wellington: Cameron Oil is building a 55,000-square-foot industrial building to support the oil and gas industry west of the I-25 Wellington exit.
Fort Collins looks inward
Through the years, major projects have come and gone at Fort Collins' gateways along Harmony and Prospect roads and Mulberry Street. Some buildings changed hands, others were rehabbed, but the construction boom largely bypassed the city. Some projects were felled by economic conditions, some by floodplain issues and some by city leadership.
In 2008, the Fort Collins City Council voted 4-3 against rezoning 86 acres at the northeast corner of I-25 and Prospect Road from industrial to commercial. An affirmative vote would have cleared the way for a regional shopping center. Proponents argued rezoning would be good for the local economy. Opponents questioned the merits of developing all the interchanges along I-25.
The land, owned by David White, has remained undeveloped. Through it all, the city has never wavered on its commitment to creating attractive gateways into Fort Collins, officials say.
"The gateway into our community on Harmony is a critical one," said Bruce Hendee, the city's director of sustainability, who supports a master plan for the area.
Today, the western side of the Harmony interchange is occupied by a gas station, tree farm, an industrial building, a park and ride, and 259 acres of undeveloped land that has seen numerous proposals heat up and cool down.
The latest plan is expected to come from JD Padilla of Post Modern Development in about 90 days. Padilla declined to talk about the plan until details are worked out. The city's planning department will host a neighborhood meeting Monday to discuss an overall development plan for the site.
"It's just a matter of time," before Fort Collins develops more commercial and possibly residential areas along the interstate, Holsapple said. "It makes all the sense in the world. You want to be careful that you have enough land for commercial on the highway, but after that, residential makes a lot of sense."
While the city might be missing out on some development opportunities and losing potential sales tax revenue to Timnath, Windsor or Loveland as I-25 develops, Holsapple said regionalization is healthy. "We don't want it all in Fort Collins."
Redevelopment of Foothills Mall and Midtown Fort Collins might be enough to offset the losses of Costco and Walmart to Timnath. With a new Foothills expected to come online late next year, Trader Joe's opening Oct.1 The Square shopping center nearby and other projects on the horizon, Fort Collins may restore itself to the shopping destination of Northern Colorado.
Before Centerra and the decline of Foothills, "everyone came to Fort Collins to shop," Holsapple said. The city lost that standing when the Promenade Shops opened, and Foothills suffered from inattention.
"Now it has a chance to really make a difference and reverse itself."
Cameron Oil, a 55,000-square-foot, $6.5 million industrial building to support oil and gas industry.
Fox Grove, 113 single-family homes clustered around 6 acres of open space northeast of the Interstate 25 Mulberry Street exit. A neighborhood meeting will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. Monday at Mountain Life Church, 5236 Strauss Cabin Road.
Costco, a 148,000-square-foot, $20 million retail warehouse scheduled to open Oct. 1.
The Summit, a 50,000-square-foot, $15 million entertainment center expected to open in June. Walmart has land reserved through August 2017 for a potential 190,000-square-foot Supercenter.
Bass Pro Shops, a 100,000-square-foot, $20 million retail store; $11 million Courtyard by Marriott hotel; $8 million in additional retail and restaurant development; and $9 million in infrastructure and site work. Bass Pro Shops construction should begin in the next few months and be completed late summer or early fall 2015.
Liberty Arms Institute, a 100,000-square-foot, $15 million indoor shooting range and gun store; Strategic Behavioral Health, 62,000-square-foot, $16 million psychiatric hospital. Both planned for the southeast corner of I-25 and U.S. 34.
Total investment in Northern Colorado: $123.5 millionBack to News | View Related Link
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