Monument Marketplace attracts big box stores

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“If you build it, they will come,” Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella was promised in the movie, “Field of Dreams.”

Like Kinsella, Rick Blevins of Vision Development decided to build a 650,000-square-foot retail center in Jackson Creek. And already 85,000 customers from surrounding neighborhoods are preparing to line up at the door – three years sooner than anticipated. Colorado Structures will be the project’s general contractor.

Blevins admits the commercial development is way ahead of schedule, based on original plans for the Jackson Creek residential neighborhood. “Instead of five years, we had enough new homes up after two years to break ground on Monument Marketplace,” he said. “There’s pent-up demand for the products and services. Close to 40,000 people live within a five-mile radius with an 85,000 population within 10 miles.”

“Big box” anchor tenants, in categories such as sporting goods, office supply, super-discounters, apparel, and electronics, will soon join The Home Depot in the expansive center, which is east of I-25, off Jackson Creek Boulevard. Mark Useman and Greg Kaufman, both of Sierra Commercial Real Estate, are negotiating with several national tenants – and have a Wells Fargo bank with drive-through facilities under contract. Another seven pad sites are available for fast food, convenience or other businesses.

“I don’t want to disclose who we’re talking to yet – not until we have signed leases,” Useman said. “Home Depot is definitely in and will open in July 2004. They will occupy a free-standing 100,000-square foot center on the project’s north end.”

Of its impact on existing Monument businesses and restaurants, both Useman and Blevins believe Monument Marketplace may affect smaller entrepreneurs, but the positives outweigh any concerns, they say.

Gleneagle resident, Mike Law, agrees. “We’ve needed many of these stores for a long time,” he said. “Driving all the way into Colorado Springs to shop just isn’t practical. I work downtown, but once I’m home, I’d rather not have to get in the car and drive that far. I’m a progress kind of guy, so I think it’s good to have the new business that will generate additional revenues for the Tri-Lakes area. I’ve also talked with Rick [Blevins] and think he has good intentions.”

Law did say that work still needs to be done at the Baptist Road intersection.

“It needs to be widened and access from the highway onto Baptist Road needs drastic improvement,” he said. “The stoplights are in, but they’re creating logjams. The road definitely needs to be expanded to four lanes, but overall the local residents are looking forward to new services. It’s been a long time coming.”

Monument city planner, Mike Davenport, said Vision Development succeeded in winning over the town’s board of trustees by adhering to all zoning and subdivision regulations and by listening to public input about the Marketplace’s aesthetics and access off Jackson Creek Parkway. He said that the Monument Marketplace represents the single largest commercial development ever for the area – supported by the construction of 700 new homes in Jackson Creek, with 100 housing starts in the approval process.

Another 1,000 units are on the drawing board for Jackson Creek – and that doesn’t include the Fox Run, Kings Deer, Higby Estates, Bent Tree and High Forest Ranch neighborhoods.

Davenport said the shopping center is well-located and likely will be less congested than Wal-Mart’s site, which is farther south.

He said the developer is required to complete a number of road improvements including widening Jackson Creek Parkway to four lanes, south to Baptist Road, north to Higby Road and east to Leather Chaps Boulevard. In addition, Vision Development must widen Baptist Road from the existing King Soopers shopping center to ramps on and off I-25. The latter required the developer to seek approval from the Colorado Department of Fish and Wildlife and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because overpasses must be constructed over natural habitats, including the Jackson Creek bed.

“Some residents have expressed concern over the heavy traffic, but the developer has committed to replace the frontage road,” Davenport said. “He’s also willing to integrate input on architectural standards, signage and lighting.” He said that a final plan is still being worked on for an additional mixed-use development between the shopping center and Jackson Creek Parkway.

“Vision also started discussing the project with local residents in advance of presenting a final plan,” he said. “For example, the downtown merchants have an association, and as a group they wound up not opposing the shopping center.”

Like Davenport, small business owner and 2003 chairwoman of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Suzanne D’Innocenzo of Petal Pushin’, a home décor store featuring silk and dried arrangements, sees a number of positives in welcoming national retailers to the community.

“I’ve been in business here for 14 years,” she said. “The Monument Marketplace will certainly challenge downtown shops like mine to rise to the competition, but we’ll just continue to be the best that we can be. In many cases, large national chains can’t offer what we offer – and vice versa. I think it may harder on our restaurant owners, but overall, it’s time for the Tri-Lakes to grow.”

D’Innocenzo, like Davenport, said that keeping sales tax dollars close to home will be a welcome addition to the area’s coffers. “We hope the increased revenues will be used to help improve not only downtown but bring better schools, more parks and trails as well,” she said.

Useman and Kaufman see the Marketplace as an ideal mix of large and small retail and restaurants. “We’re bringing a different level of retailer which will, in turn, create more competitive pricing,” Useman said. “The local merchants have done well and many will continue to do so. But a lot of people will choose to shop where the arterials are.”

He also believes northern El Paso County will continue to be the destination of choice for newcomers to the area.

“I’ve lived in Monument for 22 years and done a lot of business here,” Useman said. “The town is similar to where Castle Rock was a few years ago. I think we’ll see many of the same trends, including the continued influx of high income residents from places like California who think nothing of a 20 to 25 minute drive to get to work in Colorado Springs. Now with commitments from companies like Wells Fargo and Home Depot, one of the world’s smartest retailers, it’s a real vote of confidence in our growth.”