If Lowe’s were to close | SummitDaily.com

If Lowe’s were to close

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News
Oyun Tsedev Pudge Brothers Pizza.The tenants in a poor, rundown strip mall adjacent to what was once a King Soopers and is now an empty big box will be working. Hyoung Chang / The Denver Post

Opponents of the incoming Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse question whether the new store will one day give way to another, larger, vacant space visible from Interstate 70 as travelers pass Silverthorne.

The store is under construction and is estimated to be complete in the first part of 2012. It’s a 111,000 square-foot structure with 94,000 square feet of retail space and a parking lot large enough to accommodate the traffic market researchers calculate will come. It replaces the former 23,700 square-foot car dealership, which sat vacant for several years before being bought and torn down to make way for the store.

The concern about vacancy comes with some standing, as news report after news report tells of big-box stores upsizing or closing to competition or oversaturation, including stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Some data shows vacant retail space amounts to hundreds of thousands of square footage across the country.

On Sunday, the Denver Post ran a story that was as close to home as an article can get about the blight of empty stores.

“Nobody likes an empty big-box store,” reporter Electa Draper wrote. “Yet they multiply as weak retailers liquidate and others downsize into smaller square footages. Even the strong – such as Walmart and Target – move to greener pastures defined by traffic counts, population densities, demographics, visibility, access and parking.”

But some argue the common practice of upsizing and vacating stores in metropolitan areas won’t be characteristic of installments in mountain towns like Silverthorne. There’s just not enough room to upsize, they say.

Unless, of course, the store fails. Yet whether or not local businesses or building associations agree, the company’s market reports seem to guarantee Lowe’s a share of the remaining $64 million in home improvement materials spending throughout Lake, Summit and Eagle counties. At approximately $30 million per store, company officials believe they and Avon’s Home Depot can coexist.

According to a 2002 report, “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” by PricewaterhouseCoopers, many of these stores battle amongst themselves in “submarket by submarket survival contests” – which could be descriptive of the Silverthorne enterprise.

Silverthorne community development director Mark Leidal added another incentive to stay: Lowe’s $2 million up-front, interest-free loan on adjacent road improvements. The company is footing the bill and the town will pay it back over a seven- to eight-year period through sales tax breaks.

“If they left, (it) wouldn’t get paid back,” Leidal said.

But when City Market left Summit Place Shopping Center to relocate in Dillon in the mid ’90s, Silverthorne was faced with a vacant building for a time. City Market still owns the retail space but now leases it to Office Max. It’s another common practice with companies who can afford it – retain ownership of former retail structures to keep competition out.

Leidal said there’s no contingency plan for Lowe’s if it chooses to leave. He also noted that any future developments – or lack thereof – are up to Lowe’s as a private entity.

“Owners and stores can do what they choose to, whether their business is successful or not,” he said.

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