Home Depot looks to sell Silverthorne property
A curious transaction took place in the heart of Silverthorne last September.
Since 2007, The Home Depot has had a stake in an 8.76-acre parcel found off the main Silverthorne exit. It’s one of just two undeveloped commercial plots larger than 8 acres remaining in Silverthorne, and it’s worth roughly $12 million — easily the largest Summit County real estate transaction in 2014. Before then, the company was leasing the property.
When Home Depot quietly bought the parcel outright, the purchase nearly flew under the radar. It should have been big news in a soon-to-be boom time: Commercial land is at a premium across Summit, particularly as the economy once again finds its feet and construction begins in neighboring towns like Frisco, where a new Natural Grocers will likely open in the next few years.
Yet Home Depot’s $12 million land grab seemed odd to say the least. Lowe’s, another home improvement giant, opened a 94,000-square-foot warehouse less than three miles south of the parcel in 2011.
Two years before opening, the Silverthorne Town Council asked the company to revise its 2007 market assessment for home and construction materials, which dropped from $88 million to roughly $64 million.
Now, eight years after the economic highs of 2007 and a few short months after Home Depot made a seemingly stealthy move in a recovering economy, the $12 million conundrum is answered: There will be no Home Depot in Silverthorne — or any Central Rockies community for that matter.
“This is a property that we took out of our store opening pipeline when we shifted our strategy to focus on growing sales through existing stores rather than opening new stores,” said Stephen Holmes, director of corporate communications for Home Depot. “So the decision was based on our own strategy, not moves by anyone else or anything specific to Silverthorne.”
Holmes couldn’t comment on exactly when and why Home Depot’s development strategy was revised, but he noted the company opened just one new retail store in the U.S. last year. The company has no plans to pursue development on the land and is currently in the process of attracting potential buyers.
“We continue to market the property but these large parcels often take time to sell,” Holmes said. He went on to explain that Home Depot tends to buy prospective properties, not lease them, and the September purchase was in line with standard business practices.
Since Holmes does not oversee the property, he could not answer why Home Depot broke with the norm and leased the property initially. But he hinted that the property is now likely easier to sell.
“Our typical approach is to own instead of lease, so that was just part of our normal process,” Holmes said. “Interestingly, it’s also easier to dispose of owned property than transfer a lease. But again, selling a property of that size does take time.”
THE COMMERCIAL CRUNCH
Like curious locals, Silverthorne town manager Ryan Hyland was also intrigued by the purchase. In April 2009, around the same time Lowe’s submitted its revised market study and building proposals, Home Depot was in the midst of a similar process. Hyland said the company filed a sketch site plan in April 2009, then opted to put an end to early planning and development. By 2011, the town council deemed the proposal inactive.
“I think there are a lot of folks who are new to the county since the Home Depot was originally proposed, so it might have come as a surprise to see they buy the parcel outright,” Hyland said.
The town also hasn’t heard from interested buyers, but Hyland believes it will be one of Summit’s last hot properties, at least for large-scale commercial development.
“With the dynamic of a lease no longer being on that property, I imagine it will pop up on developer radars,” Hyland said. “It’s a prime retail space with great visibility from the highway, and it’s one of the last large commercial properties in the county.”
The other large commercial property remaining in Silverthorne is an 11-acre plot at Highway 9 and Ruby Ranch Road. In 2013, the town’s urban renewal authority bought the parcel for $3.15 million to connect the Smith Ranch residential and commercial zones.
“We’d love to see a grocery store on this site, but we’ve not seen that come to fruition yet,” Hyland said. “It’s a prime parcel and we are willing to be patient until the right project comes about. It’s possible that it may take a few years.”
And while a Silverthorne Home Depot never came to be, Hyland is encouraged by the recent success of other large Summit developments like Whole Foods, the soon-to-be Natural Grocers and, of course, Lowe’s.
“The Whole Foods development was one of those last vacant, large commercial parcels in the county,” Hyland said. “For Home Depot and Lowe’s, both were just pursuing development at the same time. Most of the developments that have come through Silverthorne have been successful in coming to fruition.”
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