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The downfall of Englewood’s Kmart — a hulking, 140,000-square-foot structure that puts the “big” in big box — may give rise to what a developer described as a “modern and aesthetically appealing building” with restaurants, self-storage and a new facade.
Amid an industry-wide decline in brick-and-mortar retail, developers are taking on challenging properties like the one at 200 W. Belleview Ave. The store went out of business last fall.
“The retail apocalypse — it’s real, and it’s happening,” said Zeb Ripple, managing partner at Capital Pacific, a company involved with the proposed project at the Kmart site. Retailers “are shrinking their floor plan, they’re closing, not looking to expand.”
A hurdle in finding retailers to occupy the former Kmart building is its front-to-back depth — modern-day retailers and restaurants or coffee shops look for less space, Ripple said at a neighborhood meeting June 7 that discussed the proposed development. About 50 came to the presentation at the former Kmart.
“The trend we found, nationwide, is that self-storage facilities are moving into boxes like this,” taking the back part of the buildings, Ripple said. Here, that could generate money that can be used to redesign the front of the building to attract other businesses, he added.
Local food, bar and coffee establishments in the metro area may be candidates to occupy space at the front of the building, and gym company Chuze Fitness has signed a long-term lease for its south side, Ripple said. Chuze Fitness will take up about 40,000 square feet, with plans calling for one or two retailers to take up about 30,000 square feet in the center of the building and three or four smaller restaurant or retail users covering around 2,000 square feet each, according to project developers. About 60,000 square feet would go to a StorQuest self-storage space with an drive-in loading area inside the building.
“The product that’s succeeding and thriving in the world today, it’s experiential retail,” Ripple said, using a term for services like restaurants that consumers can’t get online. “Communities are coming together, not just shopping. It creates a sense of community.”
The project would also resurface and “green up” the parking lot, said Jon Suddarth, vice president of real estate for The William Warren Group, which owns StorQuest, the company hoping to put a self-storage facility in the back side of the former Kmart.
Aside from turning around a vacancy, the city would also see more sales-tax revenue if the project goes through, Suddarth said.
“Sales-tax revenue generated with the new plan would go up quite substantially,” Suddarth told the audience. Kmart paid sales tax that, “for this size, is not that much,” he added.
To reuse the building with the plan based on the self-storage facility, the developers need the City of Englewood to approve a planned-unit development application, which lays out a design for the site, and a change to the property’s zoning to allow for the self-storage use. That process could take months, and six to nine months of construction would ensue after that, Ripple said. Chuze Fitness could open around the start of 2019, he said.
One woman in the audience asked if more storage units would be a problem in the Englewood area due to its homeless population — she mentioned the possibility of homeless individuals staying around the building — but Suddarth said the building will have security measures.
One man mentioned the “tremendous eyesore” of a former Kmart site at South Monaco Parkway and East Evans Avenue in Denver, which has sat vacant for years.
“So I appreciate everything you’re doing,” he said.
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