Sundance Plaza remodel under way

Shopping center to feature mixture of new and old businesses

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— The developers refurbishing Sundance Plaza shopping center intend to complete preparations by late fall so that a new breakfast restaurant and a Starbucks coffee shop can open this year.

"We're really at risk with the weather," Jim Larson of AlpenGlow Ventures said. "We have to get done with our flat roofs in October and we have to pour our concrete in October."

Still, Larson is confident that remodeling for the Egg and I restaurant will be complete this fall -- the new tenants intend to begin interior remodeling this month. The breakfast restaurant will occupy the space formerly rented by Sundance Liquor.

Owner Tim Poynter said Friday The Egg and I will serve upscale breakfasts and lunches daily. He is a franchisee who owns stores in Estes Park and Windsor. He sold food to the restaurant chain for 12 years before opening his first franchise. The chain began in Fort Collins, and the Steamboat store will be its 14th. He said he and his wife have been looking for a Steamboat location for three years. The restaurant is tentatively scheduled to open Nov. 3.

Another business tentatively set for Sundance is a family-style Mexican restaurant.

Jose Rodriguez, owner of Fiesta Jalisco, said this week he intends to open in Sundance Plaza by Nov. 1. Larson confirmed the plans, but said lease negotiations are not yet finalized.

Some of the dishes on his menu are authentic (to the Mexican state of) "Jalisco, and some are California style," Rodriguez said. "It's more real Mexican food, cooked fresh daily."

Rodriguez said his family owns a 25 restaurants in Colorado and Washington, including locations in Silverthorne, Breckenridge, Avon and Frisco.

Larson and his wife, Susan Larson, are

the owners of the shopping center, and are taking a hands-on approach from an office at Sundance. Their son, Bob Larson, is managing the center. The Larsons paid $5.58 million for Sundance Plaza in January 2002. Jim Larson said the remodel is a "multimillion-dollar" project.

Construction crews are working at multiple buildings around the 20-year-old shopping center. Although the entrance to many storefronts is through a temporary covered walkway, Sundance Plaza is open for business. Larson said Joe Jones, the project manager for general contractor TCD, is working with individual tenants to try to reduce the impact on their businesses.

"It's tough when the Pet Kare Clinic is full of dogs and cats and there's a jackhammer right outside the door," Susan Larson said. "But our tenants have been great."

Some of the existing tenants at Sundance will remain in place, some have already left and some are on their way out.

Pet Kare Clinic is moving to a new building across U.S. Highway 40 next to the Kum and Go. AlpenGlow assisted with the veterinary clinic's acquisition of its new building.

Wheels bicycle shop intends to remain in the center, but move to a new location, Larson said. One key tenant that is remaining is the branch post office.

Among the new tenants, Larson said he intends to assemble a logical mix of businesses that fit into the general description of home improvement and furnishings. Steamboat presently lacks centers with that kind of retail concept, he believes.

"The town hasn't had groupings of retail that support one another," he said.

The theme will be carried on across Anglers Drive, where a second shopping center, also under the Larsons' ownership, will be built. Larson said he intends to begin construction on the new center next summer and is in the final stages of negotiations with an anchor tenant that he did not name.

"It's one large provider that's perfect for the town," Larson said. "It will be a franchise operation of a brand name. It's something Steamboat doesn't have."

Larson is currently in talks with four to five local businesses he has targeted to move into smaller storefronts flanking the larger retail space. They are stores that currently do not enjoy significant walk-in traffic, but could reverse that situation, he believes, by locating next to his anchor tenant.

As an enticement, Larson is talking with some of those businesses about purchasing commercial condominiums in the center. Others are negotiating leases structured with options to buy.

"We're willing to do that because we're local developers," he said.

Larson is also negotiating with several restaurants, he said, both for the existing center and for the new center across Anglers.

The restaurant site in the new center would share an entrance with McDonalds on Anglers Drive. Larson said he is talking with representatives of two national chains with entrees in the $12 range. He declined to name them.

Independently of the restaurant negotiations, Larson said he was approached by representatives of a banking chain with locations on Colorado's Western Slope. He said the chain is considering several mountain towns, but if the bank does decide to come to Steamboat, it could be at his restaurant site. He believes it already lends itself to a drive-through bank lane.

Steamboat is a town of 10,000 that already has five banks, Larson acknowledged. He said a higher ratio of banks to population is common in communities with enclaves of high-end second homes. The trend can be explained by the second homeowners, who often seek to build relationships with local bankers, Larson said. They make significant deposits to initiate those relationships and to begin the process of becoming well-connected in the business community.

Tentative plans to construct an 84-room Country Inn and Suites at the east end of the new commercial project are on indefinite hold, Larson said. Investors are unwilling to proceed until the outcome of United Airlines' bankruptcy, and the long-term status of the Yampa Valley's commercial air service, are known.

This year's remodeling project at Sundance will stretch into 2004. Renovations include heavy trusses at the entrances to stores, concrete columns wrapped with stone, cedar shingles and rustic-looking corrugated metal panels.

The old windows in the shopping center are being replaced, and additional new windows will be cut into the existing walls. The original building overhangs were designed with open spaces that allow rain and snow to fall on patrons. Larson said that problem also will be fixed in the remodel.

A stamped and tinted asphalt product will be used in many of the pedestrian areas.

"It won't be until next fall that all of the landscaping is done," Larson said.

Starbucks is moving into the space that has been occupied by Danny's Hunan Restaurant. The new tenants also will take up some of the present Pizza Hut restaurant, as the latter downsizes. Wendy's is tentatively scheduled to undergo a major remodeling, Larson said. But the direction has not been chosen, and permits are not in place.

Ultimately, Larson's plans are to usher in a new era for commercial development near the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Anglers Drive.

"What will happen, I think, will be that it will become a very nice place to shop," Larson said. "Three years from now, people won't remember the old Sundance Plaza.


-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or

e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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