Officials from Trinity/RED Development, the developers of the proposed Eagle River Station project said this week that they hope to break ground by next fall on the new Interstate 70 interchange east of town that will service the project.
Jeff McMahon, managing partner with RED Development LLC of Kansas City, Mo., was in town this week to meet with town staff to discuss engineering and other planning specifics regarding the ERS plan. He noted that Martin and Martin Engineering of Denver, which also has an office in Edwards, has been hired to work on the interchange.
"We still have about a year's worth of engineering work with the different jurisdictions," said McMahon. "The interchange remains our critical path. We can't open the retail until the interchange is complete, so we want to get it started."
McMahon noted that the ERS development agreement with the town requires construction begin on the project within three years. "We fully expect we will be in the ground with the interchange by the fall," said McMahon. "We are going to be in the ground long before our development agreement requires."
Eagle River Station is a commercial/residential project proposed by Trinity RED Development headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. The 88-acre site is located south of Interstate 70 and north of U.S. Highway 6 on the east end of Eagle. The ERS proposal will include 582,000 square feet of commercial space and 250 rental units in its first phase, along with the new east Eagle I-70 interchange and improvements to U.S. Highway 6 and Chambers Ave. A second phase of the development calls for up to 150,000 square feet of additional commercial space and another 300 rental units. Last May Eagle voters approved the plan during a special referendum, a flip-flop from a 2010 vote when voters rejected the plan.
"We were hoping they would get started by the summer of 2013, but the fall of 2013 is still good," said Eagle Town Board member Scott Turnipseed. He noted the center construction is slated to take approximately 12 months, so Eagle River Station could be open as early as 2014.
That depends, however, on finding stores that want to locate in Eagle.
This week, RED Development is selling ERS at the International Council of Shopping Centers "Deal Making Conference" in Chicago.
"Our leasing team is there and the project is being represented," said McMahon.
While he is not yet ready to make tenant announcements, McMahon said ERS is generating buzz among national retailers. And, he noted, the national economic climate has markedly improved this year. However, he noted that the marketplace has changed and there is much more interest in discount and value retailers.
"People are out there spending money, but they are very conscious about what they are spending it on," McMahon said. "But it's much better times. There is a lot more positive talk about there in the retail community than there was three to four years ago so the timing of ERS is starting to work out pretty well."
Turnipseed said he is seeing genuine excitement regarding ERS.
"People I have talked to really think having ERS get started is going to jump-start Eagle. It's going to put some vitality and excitement back in town," said Turnipseed.
He added that, paired with the Eby Creek Road construction and Eagle County's proposed assisted living/skilled nursing care facility, Eagle is poised for an economic rebound.
"I can't help but think this all will get things started again for Eagle," said Turnipseed.
The passage of time has also benefited the residential component of ERS, according to McMahon. All of the ERS residential units will be rentals.
"We are seeing a lot of interest in the residential, that just shows out the market changes," McMahon said. "Quality rental residential is hard to find in the valley right now."
McMahon said the initial 250 rental units will be located over ERS commercial space.
McMahon also offered an update about the Outlets at Legends in Sparks - a Nevada project that was often cited during the ERS campaign. RED, the developer of the shopping center, went through a "strategic default" of its $141 million construction for the Sparks project loan last January and negotiated a refinancing deal in early June. RED officials say the deal allowed for more than $30 million in investments, including development of more than 300,000 square feet of new retail space. Six projects across the shopping center are now in various stages of construction, including a T.J. Maxx, Old Navy, IMAX theater and a Walmart. More than 50 businesses are part of the 148-acre shopping center.
"The refinance is done and we are fully funded for the second phase," said McMahon.
McMahon said that RED has weathered the national recession with a strong portfolio. RED Development manages 37 retail, commercial and mixed-used properties in 12 states and the company's operation includes focus on development, management and acquisition.
"The portfolio is doing well, year to date our project revenues are up 4 percent to 12 percent," said McMahon.
With that said, McMahon noted the ERS project remains a high profile deal for RED Development.
"It's very important to us because we own that land. We absolutely remain focused on the project," he said.