Town of Avon to be more ‘walkable’ soon
February 16, 2014
AVON — Walking between Loaded Joe's and Fiesta Jalisco right now is a bit like emptying a bathtub with an eyedropper — you can do it, but why would you want to?
Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate, a company owned by the Hoffmann family of Chicago — who also own property in Bachelor Gulch — recently finalized the purchase of the Chapel Square commercial property. The deal puts much of the commercial property in that part of town in the control of one company.
The roughly 150,000 square feet of commercial space in Chapel Square gives Hoffmann Commercial ownership of more than 225,000 square feet of commercial space in Avon, all of which is bordered by the Eagle River on the south, East Beaver Creek Boulevard on the north and Avon Road on the west.
When the family announced its first purchases last summer, David Hoffmann said the deals would bring new vibrancy to an older part of town. The family's company immediately went to work on exterior renovations. Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate President John White said the end of the 2013 construction season saw improvements from paint to roof repairs to pavement patching.
The company has already seen results. White said the Benchmark building — where Loaded Joe's is — was about 70 percent leased last summer. It's almost 100 percent leased now, as is the Christie Sports building.
"There's been a lot of pent-up demand," White said, adding that sales are up in the area, too.
The idea is that demand will build as the property owners keep making improvements in the area. Those improvements will probably come pretty quickly, too.
The plan for this year includes a landscaping project, along with work to create a more walkable area in that part of town. White said several bronze statues will dot a path through the area, encouraging people to park and then walk around a bit.
After the "revitalization" stage of the plan, White said the company plans more improvements. Although planning isn't yet complete, there's been talk of adding a movie theater and, perhaps, a bowling alley. White said exterior projects could include a skating rink that could be used for summer markets. Town officials expect an initial development plan sometime soon.
All of this is very good news to town officials, who for years have been talking about ways to improve the older part of town. That's going to require changes to the way people move around in the area, something the property owners and town officials will have to work on.
The end result is supposed to be a win for everyone. Property owners will have a vibrant area where people want to shop. That, in turn, will make the property attractive to prospective tenants, who, in theory, will be willing to pay higher lease rates to be in a popular place. More sales also adds up to more sales tax, which helps pay for everything from cops to summer concerts.
There's also the prospect of the renovated area drawing people from the west side of Avon Road, whether it's from concerts at Nottingham Park or those staying in hotels, most of which are on the west side of the street. That lodging base will be expanded by the end of next year, when Wyndham opens a time-share condo complex.
That leads to the next question, though. Will there ever be an easy way for pedestrians to get across Avon Road? The Hoffmanns have talked about forging a deal with the Union Pacific Railroad to use the existing railroad bridge across Avon Road as a pedestrian walkway.
But Avon Mayor Rich Carroll says the existing pedestrian crossings near the Avon Road roundabouts may feel a bit less perilous as more people use them.
"We're trying to make sure pedestrians and bikes are on at least an equal footing with cars," Carroll said. "We all recognize we need to have a town that's walkable."
That's going to take some time, Carroll said. For now, though, he sees the Hoffmanns' plans as ideas well begun and is optimistic about the town's future.
And, Carroll said, he's looking forward to this council and those in the future working with the company.
"They've been a great addition to the town," he said.