No shortage of space

Commercial projects keep coming

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— Developers aren't waiting for the retail rental market to tighten before building more commercial space in Steamboat. Instead, they seem to be following the "Field of Dreams" maxim: build it and they will come.

No concrete numbers about the amount of vacant commercial space are available either from real estate professionals or business groups. But it's safe to say that new commercial projects are going up at the same time a significant amount of other retail space is sitting empty.

In addition to the Chieftain building downtown, Steamboat residents can expect to see in the near future 30,000 square feet of commercial space go up just south of Wal-Mart. Developers are banking on what they've seen in the rest of Central Park where businesses have flocked and it's now tough to find a parking space at times.

Arctic Liquor owner Joe Armstrong is counting on the same thing happening in the retail area around Clark's Market where he and his partners have set up shop.

"Like everywhere else in this country, new shopping areas open up and you kind of wonder what they're doing. A year later you come back and it's crawling with people," Armstrong said. "So it's not a question of if the area will be successful, but when will it be six months or five years?"

Armstrong and his partners, Harris Greene and Damon Roth, are doing well, but admit they would be better off if the surrounding vacant property were filled. Nevertheless they say they are constantly gaining more customers and their numbers are going up, Armstrong said.

"We moved out here because we saw the growth west of town, and that the market in Steamboat is saturated. Growth is spilling out over here," Armstrong said.

Landlord Byron Chrisman meets with his tenants in the Clark's Market center once a month, and keeps them informed on new businesses and tenants. So far, two of six available spaces are under contract contingent on financing, Armstrong said.

Like the Arctic Liquor owners, Clark's tenant Carol Schmidt, who with her husband owns Steamboat Cleaners, is counting on the retail area around her gaining momentum and renters.

"They will absolutely fill up no problem. By the summer there will be quite a bit of activity," Schmidt said.

Initially, Schmidt and her husband, Stan, were nervous about being the first tenants in the Clark's Market center. But she said the customer response so has been enough that four months in they already are thinking about expansion.

While much of the retail space on both sides of Clark's Market stands empty, the final phase of Central Park Plaza is moving toward completion, Old Town Realty broker Jim Hansen said.

"This final phase will be located at the south end of the parking lot adjacent to Wal-Mart. At this point, on the first floor, there will be approximately 30,000 square feet of commercial retail space available for lease," Hansen said.

Additionally, there may be up to 20 bedroom apartments available on the second level.

"We anticipate to commence construction (in the) fall of 2000 or spring of 2001," Hansen said.

While new projects are being designed or near completion, older commercial properties in the city are experiencing vacancies and quick turnovers.

Steamboat Seafood Co. outgrew its space in Sundance Plaza, and relocated to Yampa Street. AT&T will soon take over the space Steamboat Seafood left behind, Sundance Plaza owner Bill Moser said.

The advantage of leasing old property is that it can be rented at a much more moderate rate than new space, Moser added.

For an example on how to attract tenants, other commercial property owners need look no further than Riverside Center on the city's west side. The retail space that had fewer tenants than empty store fronts for many years "has been a great success story," Moser added.

Riverside, which used to be occupied by the U.S. Forest Service and a large furniture store, was improved and divided into smaller spaces last year when the Forest Service moved to the city's south end.

"Reception by businesses has been great," Moser said of Riverside where there is one remaining vacancy a 4800-square-foot space that Moser believes is still empty because of its unique shape.

Between downtown and the mountain, the future of the Mid-Valley Center continues to unfold. The owners are merging with new owners, who will develop new architectural and commercial plans for the center, Colorado Group Realty broker Jim Cook said.

"It is still a significant piece of property at a good location, but the previous owners were not in a position to move forward with it," Cook said.

Cook also has taken over leasing space in the Chieftain building at Fourth Street and Lincoln Avenue downtown. Zing, a furniture shop at 435 Lincoln Ave., will relocate to the Chieftain as will architect Bill Rangitsch, Cook said.

The building will have space for retail, offices and limited residential.

The entire first floor of the Alpine Bank near Central Park Plaza building has been spoken for by lessees, but continued development in the area will eventually provide 60,000 to 80,000 additional square feet of retail, office, and residential space. Residents can expect much of that construction to begin in June, Cook said.

The old city hall on Eighth Street which will be torn down and redeveloped as well as an addition to the Kali's Boutique building on Lincoln Avenue also will provide more retail, office, and residential space in the year ahead.

"[Steamboat has] been dormant for so long, now the demand for all of this space is quite high. In part it has been caused by the type of homeowners entering the area in places like Storm Mountain, Lake Catamount, and some of the larger homes in the countryside," Cook said. "This level of buyer demands more in the way of retail and services. There will be some attrition some businesses won't survive."

To contact Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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