Walgreens goes below big box threshold

Pharmacy developers change strategy at Steamboat Crossings

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— The developers seeking to build a Walgreens store just off U.S. 40 at Pine Grove Road are back in the city planning process with a redesigned proposal, or more accurately, two different proposals.

THF Real Estate of St. Louis, Mo., previously proposed a small commercial center on the north side of Pine Grove Road at U.S. Highway 40 with a condominium project of more than 100 units on the south side of Pine Grove. They were all part of a single proposal called Steamboat Crossings.

Now, THF has split off the condominium development as a separate project called The Groves. It includes about 130 one- and two-bedroom units. Also, there have been significant changes to the commercial project, which would house a smaller Walgreens. At the urging of city planning staff, the developers added residential housing to the commercial project, which retains the North Steamboat Crossings name.

North Steamboat Crossings is scheduled to go before Planning Commission with its petition for a development permit on Nov. 16. The Groves is scheduled for a Dec. 14 hearing.

"They are two separate and distinct projects," City Planner Jonathan Spence said.

The proposed Walgreens store has been reduced in size from 14,280 square feet to 11,013 square feet. The downsizing eliminates the need for the developers to meet the requirements of the city of Steamboat Springs' "big box ordinance" which applies to retail stores greater than 14,000 square feet.

The original Steamboat Crossings development came through the advisory stage of the city planning process in the spring at the same time the city was developing its inclusionary zoning ordinance. It requires housing developments to devote 15 percent of the units in their project to deed-restricted affordable housing.

That posed a dilemma for THF, which already was planning to use the residential component of its development to fulfill its obligations to the big box ordinance. That ordinance requires developers to provide substantial community benefit in order to get their project approved.

"It was hard for the applicants to know what additional housing they would be required to provide in order to satisfy the big box ordinance," Spence said.

The size reduction of the Walgreens removes that hurdle, Spence agreed.

The center now includes four commercial buildings and three residential buildings, plus more condos over several detached garage sheds. The site is close to Fish Creek.

Spence said the city urged mixed-use in the commercial project because it is called for in the community plan.

"We hoped they would go vertical with the residential units, but they were uncomfortable with condos over the commercial, and their plan was to provide office space above the retail," Spence said.

THF's newly named spokeswoman for the project, Karen Blumenstein, could not be reached for comment.

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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