University Village almost ready to welcome shoppers

The first retail outlets at University Village Colorado will open their doors to shoppers Oct. 28. Costco and Smashburger are the first in a long line of openings, including Panera Bread, planned at Colorado Springs’ newest shopping center during the next few months.

The first retail outlets at University Village Colorado will open their doors to shoppers Oct. 28. Costco and Smashburger are the first in a long line of openings, including Panera Bread, planned at Colorado Springs’ newest shopping center during the next few months.

Kevin Kratt of Kratt Commercial Real Estate said during December that he expected the first stores at University Village Colorado to open during the third quarter of 2009. Right on schedule, Smashburger, a Denver-based restaurant chain, will offer customers a sneak peak on Oct. 27, and open for business the next day.

At the same time, Costco, one of University Village Colorado’s premier anchors, also will open its doors.

Kratt, a development partner, expects Chipotle, XSthreads, a fashionably hip pre-owned clothing store, and Panera Bread to open the same week.

By February, nearly 70 percent of the 650,000 square-foot shopping center will be leased as its other major anchors, Kohl’s and Lowes Home Improvement welcome shoppers.

With an aesthetically modern look and feel, the shopping center sits on several tiers that step down a hill west from Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road. Several retail buildings are spread throughout the landscape but share the common style designed by architecture firm RTA.

When developers first announced the project, all seemed positive. Consumers in the city’s north central neighborhoods, in sore need of a modern destination shopping center, would finally see development closer to home; students attending the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs would have pedestrian access to sit-down restaurants and coffee shops; and the eyesore that formerly was North Nevada Avenue would be transformed into a clean environment.

Then the national real estate bubble burst and the worst recession in decades presented a timing problem for Kratt and his partners Tom Cone and Diamante Properties. Holding commitments from Lowes, Costco and Kohl’s, the partners decided to go ahead with the project and now seem confident that University Village Colorado is primed to take advantage of an improving retail environment.

“The downturn in the economy has been challenging from a leasing standpoint,” Kratt said. “With those anchor commitments in tow, the first phase of the center is constructed and we’re in a good position to capitalize on the market as it gets better. We’re seeing a good amount of momentum in this third quarter and we feel that’s going to get better as we open the 2010 calendar year.”

Fashion trade-ins

Clothing swaps have become somewhat of a trend these days, as frugal shoppers look to upgrade their wardrobes for pennies on the dollar.

Local shoppers get their chance the first week of November when the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado hosts the Eco-Chic Fall Clothing exchange from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 315 E. Costilla.

For a $20 donation, participants can check in their new, near-new or gently used wardrobe items from 5:30 to 7. Organizers will treat attendees to complimentary spa treatments, hand massages and aroma therapy during the collection period. The swap, which benefits the Women’s Resource Agency, begins at 7 and shoppers can then take their favorite items free of charge.

The Women’s Resource Agency is a nonprofit organization that helps women attain and maintain self sufficiency through expansion of skills and knowledge.

For more information, or to purchase tickets online, visit http://wrainc.org.

Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.