Sundance Plaza to get a facelift

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— Promised changes in the retail mix at Sundance Plaza are under way.

Ted Heid, owner of Sundance Liquor, is conducting a going-out-of-business sale after 16 years.

His lease was not renewed by landlord AlpenGlow Ventures, he said this week. A lease has already been signed to replace the liquor store with a breakfast restaurant, the shopping center owners confirm.

Next door, Use it Again Sports is also selling out the used sporting goods equipment it specializes in. However, owner Fred Garrison said AlpenGlow's desire to shuffle the deck at Sundance Plaza is coincidental with his retirement plans.

"I made this decision three years ago," Garrison said. "Both of my kids are out of college and it just all coincides for me."

The changes underway at Sundance Plaza are part of a plan to reenergize the 20-year-old shopping and office complex on Anglers Drive. The new owners say that at the same time they give the buildings a more modern look, they want to put together a group of tenants that can support one another.

AlpenGlow principals Jim and Susan Larson paid Litchfield Equities Group LLC $5.58 million for Sundance Plaza in January 2002. They paid another $1.2 million for 15 undeveloped acres immediately across Anglers Drive.

They consulted with local Realtor Jim Cook on the project. Cook and the Larson's son, Bob, manage the center. Larson is a broker associate with Colorado Group Realty, where Cook is one of the principals.

The two men said they would like to see stores in the housing and kitchen accessory business. Cook, who lives within walking distance, said he thinks a mix of cafes, restaurants and stores offering prepared foods, perhaps a gourmet deli, would do well in the center.

They also say they see the potential to reshape the shopping center's flavor in part by taking better advantage of its location along Fish Creek.

The developers are in serious talks with six to eight local entrepreneurs, Cook said, but declined to name any of them.

Larson said AlpenGlow is also in "serious" talks with one national chain and two potential operators of national franchises.

Bob Larson said this week that, pending city approval, his company intends to move aggressively this summer and fall on a multi-million dollar facelift for the shopping center. AlpenGlow has interviewed eight contractors about the job and has narrowed the field to three local firms. This summer's work will focus on five buildings, Larson said and the hope is to have a new breakfast restaurant called "The Egg and I" open in autumn.

"From June until Nov. 1, we want to get as much done as possible," Larson said. "We'd like to have a real nice product by the fall." However, he said there's a likelihood some of the first-phase work will carry over to the summer of 2004.

This summer's schedule of work could involve two of three office buildings at the east end of the center, near the post office, but Larson can't say for certain which buildings would be tackled first. Remodeling all of those buildings at once would create too much commotion in the area, he explained.

AlpenGlow's plan to develop a new commercial center across Anglers from Sundance will not go forward this summer, and is being handled separately in the city approval process, Larson added.

Moving on

The list of businesses leaving the center includes Hunan Chinese Restaurant and The Pet Kare Clinic.

Larson said he and Cook have tried to help Hunan look for a new space, but the owners also have other plans of their own. The Chinese restaurant is next door to Domino's Pizza, which also shares a building with Pizza Hut.

Domino's is under new ownership and will stay, Cook said. He has attempted to initiate conversations with Pizza Hut about downsizing and refurbishing the restaurant.

Across the parking lot, Wendy's will remain, but probably not in its present form. Wendy's has agreed in principle to sharing the cost of a major remodel, Cook said. That effort could even include scraping the existing restaurant off its pad and starting over with a more contemporary store.

Heid, whose lease ran out in July, has been on a month-to-month arrangement since then. He is not happy about losing his lease, but said he fully intends to reopen in a new location. Finding that new location may take months during which he won't be open for business.

"I saw this coming," Heid said. "Change is sometimes good, but change is sometimes expensive."

Garrison, who first opened Use It Again in November 1994 and moved into the present location in August 1995, said he feels the business has fulfilled a need in Steamboat. Use It Again was a place where parents could pick up used inline skates or previously owned shape skis at a modest price.

"It's either this or garage sales for people to exchange and swap out stuff," Garrison said. "The store succeeded over its time, however, rents take away from overall profit. Rents are high, but I signed a lease. (Customers) are looking for a 'use it again price,' and it affects things."

Chris Johns, who has worked with Garrison to establish a bicycle repair shop, Wheels, within Use it Again Sports, is planning to remain on a month-to-month basis this summer. Larson said Johns is aware that a letter of intent has been signed with a potential new tenant for the space. The two men have discussed moving Wheels into another space in the center, Larson said.

Carol Kraig of Paws 'N' Claws 'N' Things will remain in Sundance Plaza although the veterinary clinic adjacent to her pet supply shop is leaving.

"I'm staying. I'm happy," Kraig said. "Bob and Jim have gone the extra mile to keep me happy."

The vet office, the Pet Kare Clinic, has a lease that includes a series of three five-year renewals, but co-owners Dr. Paige Lorimer and Dr. Susan Colfer said they agreed to Cook's suggestion that they move on.

The clinic is cramped in its present space and Cook worked to find them a new location, Lorimer said. The owners of Pet Kare are close to purchasing a new building, but declined to name it.

"We were going to leave within a couple of years," Lorimer said. "It's a good move for us and I think they can use the space for something that works better for them."

Not far away, and around the corner from Sundance Liquor, Evlyn Berge of Special Places said she hopes her property management company remains in its present location for a long time. At the same time, she said she is open to proposals.

"I have one more year on my lease with a renewal option. I have no plans to go elsewhere," Berge said. "However I'll be 100 percent cooperative with any proposal as long as it doesn't cost me anything and the new location is equal to or better than what I have now."

Larson said Berge is a strong operator with a good business and he's content to have her in her present location until a better option for both parties presents itself.

The cost of doing business

Sundance Plaza, built in the early '80s has seen a discounter called Yellow Front and a country western dance hall come and go. For much of the last decade, the center was full with tenants whose business plans couldn't afford the $25 to $35 a square foot rents that are predominant on Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat. As recently as the autumn of 2001, one tenant at Sundance was paying $15.50 including any fees for common areas and maintenance (CAM).

Cook said it's his intent to keep rents in the range of $16 to $18 per square foot even after the remodel of the shopping center. He said new and existing tenants will be offered "generous" tenant finish allowances.

Lease terms will vary with the needs of different businesses, Cook said. In some cases, shopping center management will participate in the upside with a percentage of gross receipts above a ceiling. With other tenants, that will not be the case, he said.

"Sundance Plaza was purchased as a good real estate investment and it is that, as it sits," Cook said. "The Larsons' desire and direction has been to keep the rates affordable. They have a very strong desire to accommodate local businesses."

Larson confirmed his family expects to lose money on the shopping center in the first years after the remodel is completed, but they regard it as a good long-term investment. The alternatives were to watch it decline or plan to flip it to a new buyer when market conditions were right.

Larson said this summer's work will give the 20-year-old shopping center a fresh look and draw customers to enjoy the banks of Fish Creek. Architect Eric Smith has helped the developers choose exterior building materials that rise to the level of the new Ski Haus building on U.S. 40 a half mile south of Sundance.

All of the buildings are destined to get new roofs with new heating and air conditioning units, Larson said. The new roofs will be clad in dark green asphalt shingles. Gabled entries, on both the parking lot side and creek side, will be built of heavy timbers. There will also be accents of corroded metal and stucco, he said.

Heid expressed some melancholy about the passing of what he viewed as a more benign era in Steamboat retailing.

Heid and his family have been involved in retailing here for decades. His father, Timer, opened his first grocery store on Lincoln where Allen's men's wear is now. Later, he owned Boys Market on the current site of Oak Street Plaza. Ted Heid worked at Werner's Storm Hut for 17 years, he said.

"It used to be more friendly," Heid said. "All of the liquor stores used to work together and help each other."

Larson said his plans for Sundance Plaza are all about creating opportunities for local business people.


-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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