Copper Ridge betting on Bass to bait other business

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The planned 2.4-million-square foot Copper Ridge retail center sprung back to life last week when Gary Erickson’s Northgate Properties announced that it had lured one of retail’s biggest fish — Bass Pro Shops.

But is the Bass Pro shop enough to spur the creation of a new retail hub and will it benefit existing retail establishments?

Experts say yes. It will draw shoppers to the region and could drive new retail development.

“Bass Pro Shops is not like any other store,” said Chris Lucas, senior research analyst for Robert W. Baird & Co. in Virginia. He specializes in retail shopping center development. “You can get yourself a 25-foot boat with an outboard motor there. You can’t get that at Costco or Target. You have to go to Bass Pro for that.”

He said those differences mean Bass Pro can draw from a much larger geographic area than most retailers.

“If the standard suburban mall has a 7- to 20-mile draw depending on population density, then Bass Pro might draw from 100 miles out.”

Rickey Hayes, who owns the Oklahoma-based economic development consulting firm Retail Attractions, said he’s seen Bass Pro draw from even farther away than that.

The company claims that it is the largest tourist attraction in some of the states where it has stores. It’s not just a retailer. The interior of the buildings feature waterfalls and running creeks stocked with fish for lessons. The one proposed for Copper Ridge will have an under-water-themed 12-lane bowling alley and restaurant.

“Bass Pro is a highly sought after huge outdoor sports anchor,” Hayes said. “In terms of being able to change the face of a city — they’re known to do that.”

Since people are coming in from farther distances to shop at Bass Pro, it means they’re more likely to make a day of it and visit other nearby stores and restaurants, he said.

“I see it as a positive,” Hayes said. “Those retailers along the I-25 corridor are going to benefit from the out of town consumers drawn in by Bass Pro.”

Just three miles down the road and a single exit south on I-25, Nor’Wood Development Group is slowly building up its Marketplace at Interquest. The commercial center is home to a Hollywood Theaters, Colorado Rocky Mountain Brewery and Cheddars restaurants along with a Brunswick Zone bowling center currently under construction. The stalled 300-room John Q. Hammons Renaissance Hotel also sits there, empty and unfinished while Flintco, the Oklahoma-based construction contractor that won it in foreclosure, tries to find a buyer for it.

Nor’Wood Vice President Fred Veitch said in the past he thought the market was too shaky for another major retail development like Copper Ridge to gain traction.

Erickson said two years ago that he was courting high-end retailers like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus to fill out the retail space.

Hayes said he has seen Bass Pro Shops drive major retail growth up to three miles out from a site.

“Now, will it draw upscale development?” Hayes said. “If by upscale you mean Neiman Marcus and Saks, those types, the answer is: I don’t know. But if your definition is big box anchored traditional power lifestyle centers — they definitely have the ability to draw that type of development into an area.”

Lucas said most Bass Pro Shops move into exiting retail centers and enhance them, but don’t typically drive other development.

“That’s where Nordstrom comes in and Apple,” Lucas said. “Those are the tenants that drive other retailers to move into a development.”

Most Bass stores are surrounded by restaurants and nearly all have a bar-b-que restaurant nearby. They’re also typically surrounded by other retail, but not particularly high-end retail.

J.C. Penney often has stand-alone stores near Bass pro Shops.

“I don’t know if that’s just coincidental,” said Tim Lyons, senior regional communications specialist for J.C. Penney. “We’re both chains and you’ll find a lot of chains wind up near each other. It’s one of the reasons for the existence of malls — strength in numbers.”

J.C. Penney has two stores in Colorado Springs, a five-year-old stand-alone store at Nor’Wood’s First and Main Town Center on Powers Boulevard and one in the Chapel Hills Mall, less than a 10-minute drive from proposed Copper Ridge.

Former Chapel Hills general manager David Moss said in 2010 that he suspected a new mall development at Copper Ridge would drain his retail center and that it wouldn’t add sales tax revenue, but rather spread it out.

Current mall manager Victoria Harley declined to comment.

Lyons said that both Colorado Springs J.C. Penney stores are strong performers in the company, but that he’s not aware of any plans for new stores.

Lucas said there has been almost no inventory growth in retail space over the last five years or so, which means those retailers wanting to grow have limited space to choose from and he’s starting to hear people talk about building new centers for the first time in years.

The trick is that they want to go into proven areas with solid demographics. Many were burned when they tried to predict growth and built before the rooftops were there, Lucas said.

“The question is: Is this in the path of growth or is it in an area that will always be relatively less dense?” Lucas said. “If it’s going to grow more dense, all this guy is doing is prospecting the long-term track of growth, which is risky.”

But, he said, it’s a great spot for Bass Pro with a lot of open land for a large retail center and a big parking lot for trailers and campers. It has highway visibility and easy access. It’s in a part of the world where people hunt and fish and there’s a market for those goods.

“For Bass Pro, that’s all you need,” he said. “It has more to do with environment, a modest level of density and a decent income. It will be successful so long as the weather is good and people are interested.”

The Bass shop wasn’t at the top of the list of tenants that Copper Ridge developers were initially interested in attracting.

Jennifer Crowley, general manager of the Promenade Shops at Briargate, a lifestyle retail center fewer than five miles south of the Erickson’s proposed project, said she was surprised by the news.

“Bass Pro wasn’t something that had originally been listed on their A-plus-plus list of who they wanted,” she said. “I hadn’t heard anything about it in quite a while.”

Erickson initially said he was courting retailers like Cabella’s, also a major outdoor sports chain, Nordstrom and Coach.

When the list of proposed tenants was announced in 2010, the skeptics were many.

Broker in commercial real estate, other developers and retail managers said they didn’t think the project would get traction in this economy, that the demographics weren’t right for the high-end luxury retailers Erickson wanted, that it was too close to Park Meadows Mall in South Denver, that there was already too much retail in Colorado Springs and that it would cannibalize existing shopping centers. Most said they didn’t think it would get off the ground.

But now that it has, some are wondering what it might mean for the future of retail on the north end of Colorado Springs.

“At this point, it’s phenomenal for the north end to have a Bass Pro,” Crowley said. “It drives more traffic here. Of course, I’m curious if that is the anchor that will lead to the rest of the development.”

In 2010, she admitted that she was afraid a major new mall development like that could poach some of her successful retailers. And she said this week that it’s still a concern, especially for women’s fashion retailers.

But there’s no telling exactly what is coming next at Copper Ridge. Erickson failed to return multiple phone calls requesting comment.

Larry Larsen, senior planner at city land use review division, said he only knows what he’s read in the papers about Bass Pro. North Gate Properties hasn’t yet filed any subdivision plans or zone plats, he said.

There is a master plan for the development that has been on file since the earliest stages of project planning, Larsen said.

The plans include several big box retail sites and a hotel.

Erickson’s press release about Bass Pro stated that he’s planning a family-oriented resort-style hotel with a 300-square foot indoor and outdoor water park.

Other than that, the public can only guess at what might follow massive 117,ooo-square foot Bass Pro Shops into Copper Ridge.