Going head-to-head with Whole Foods? Frisco reviews plans for new Natural Grocers | SummitDaily.com

Going head-to-head with Whole Foods? Frisco reviews plans for new Natural Grocers

Developers are taking the first steps toward opening a new Natural Grocers store on the north end of Frisco, just across the street from Safeway and the 6-month-old Whole Foods.

At the town's planning commission meeting today, two Front Range developers will present preliminary plans and conceptual drawings for a 15,000-square-foot store on a property located along Ten Mile Drive. Due to the proposed size of the Natural Grocers space, the developers will also ask for a revision to the original plan adopted in July 2014.

The property — known formally as the Frisco Retail property but known to longtime locals as the Christmas tree lot — has sat vacant since 1981, when it was first approved for commercial development.

Plans for a 2,000-square-foot Starbucks as the property's anchor tenant were proposed in 2012. Those plans were scrapped, and now NAVA Real Estate Development, the Denver-based owner of the Frisco Retail property, is working with Leadership Circle Real Estate Development to bring Natural Grocers to the property as an anchor.

The public meeting begins at 5 p.m. in Frisco Town Hall, with representatives from the two developers and architectural contractor on-hand to lead the presentation.

"They (Natural Grocers) provide a product the market really likes right now," said Brian Levitt, owner of NAVA Real Estate. "The healthy foods, the organic foods, the wellness products — all of those are very high in demand right now. It will be great to make those available to the local public."

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Yet for residents of Dillon and Frisco, the proposed building might appear puzzling. Whole Foods opened a 32,000-square-foot store in Frisco last spring, and Safeway sits directly across from the construction site along Summit Boulevard.

On the Wednesday afternoon before the meeting, earthmovers and construction equipment were clearly visible at the bare, recently plowed plot. No crews were working at the time, but rumors of a new grocery store at the long-vacant property were swirling.

"I heard the same rumor and I've seen the construction, but I'm not sure what's being built over there," Dillon Town Manager Tom Breslin said.

While Frisco's development plans are still in the works, the future of the existing Natural Grocers location in Dillon appears stable for now. An interview request sent to the Denver corporate office was not returned before press time, and Breslin said the town has not yet received notice the business is relocating or shutting down.

Leadership Circle, the developer that applied on behalf of Natural Grocers, didn't return requests for an interview.

Yet the prospect of a new Natural Grocers — the second in a 5-mile radius — still depends on Frisco's planning commission. Today's presentation gives members a chance to review the plans and ask questions before approving the project. After town staff has double-checked the details, the commission will review a formal construction application at a future meeting. The developers can release estimated groundbreaking and completion dates once the application is approved.

The Frisco Retail plan from 2014 initially called for three separate buildings on the plot where the single grocery store will go. If approved, the plan will look slightly different, with revised parking lots and outdoor walkways.

Levitt says the new proposal is a minor reconfiguration, not a complete overhaul. He and fellow developers made revisions to accommodate Natural Grocers after the company showed interest in the location. The new plans were first submitted to Frisco in early December, along with conceptual drawings from architect Doug Poppe of Vega Architecture in Denver.

"Retail changes to accommodate tenants, so the overall area itself did not change," Levitt said. "The center will have everything it did before. This is just a new configuration."

As the property owner, Levitt doesn't deal directly with tenants like Natural Grocers. He instead uses brokers to connect with interested tenants, and thanks to the high-end alpine feel of his development — exposed beams, heavy timbers, stone accents — he believes the store will fit comfortably into a revived business community with coffee shops and rental stores, not discount tire outlets.

"I really can't speak to what Natural Grocers wants," Levitt said. "What I'm concerned with is bringing quality tenants that will enhance that property. It's the kind of synergy that works well."

Town of Frisco Planning Commission Meeting

When: Thursday, Jan. 8 at 5 p.m.

Where: Frisco Town Hall, 1 Main St. in Frisco

What: Meeting to review the proposal for a 15,000-square-foot Natural Grocers builing on the Frisco Retail property, popularly known as the Christmas tree lot. The meeting is open to the public.