This spring Gladdie Funke is busy making plans for this summer’s Eagle Farmer’s Market, preparing for a trip to Costa Rica and enjoying her time on the community’s bike trails.
What she is not busy doing — in marked contrast to spring of 2012 — is preparing for on an Eagle River Station referendum.
A little more than one year ago, Eagle voters reversed their decision from the previous year and approved the ERS commercial/residential development proposed by RED Development of Kansas City, Mo., on the east end of town. During the past 12 months, the atmosphere around the community has softened, even if people’s core beliefs about the ERS project haven’t.
“I don’t know what to think about ERS — when it is going to start and who is going to be the anchor store,” said Funke, who was an outspoken opponent of the development plan.
“If ERS is going to go in, I would like to see it bring something unique,” she said. She believes stores such as Trader Joe’s, REI or Cabela’s would be preferable to the Target anchor that has previously been identified as a possible anchor. She admits she is still a bit skeptical and suspicious of the development plan and her concerns persist about what will happen to Eagle’s existing retail base. Funke noted she was talking to a Broadway business owner last week, who said if ERS does come to town, she will be forced to close shop.
“I just don’t think we want to fold up downtown because ERS is approved,” said Funke. “I am concerned that people will just go to ERS and not come downtown. But until it happens, we just won’t know.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Jim Ash was a vocal ERS proponent last spring. He remains enthused about the proposal.
“Clearly I am in favor of the project. I am, just like everyone else, interested in hearing progress reports about the engineering work and leasing information,” said Ash.
Ash said he didn’t expect ERS to rise out of the ground immediately following the referendum last year. “This is a major project and there are lots of variables involved in a project like this,” he said.
What has ERS done?
One year after the ERS approval, there isn’t a whole lot of tangible evidence of a development in progress. There are some survey stakes along U.S. Highway 6 and some conceptual planning memos at the town of Eagle offices.
“It’s been a year since we received the yes-vote for Eagle River Station,” said Jeff McMahon of RED Development. “We remain grateful to the community for that vote and we won’t disappoint. It seems like just yesterday that the vote took place. We’re working very hard on many important items that need to be done in order to tee up a project of this magnitude.”
During the past 12 months, RED Development has joined the Eagle Chamber of Commerce as an executive member and last fall, nominal tracts of land — 10 percent of one-third of an acre each — of Eagle River Station property were conveyed to three area residents so the development could form its metropolitan district board of directors. With the conveyance, Roxie Deane, Terrill Knight and Chris Williams were qualified to join ERS property owners Vince and Cinda Riggio on the ERS metro board in a action described as “without exception” the common practice when forming a new metro district board of directors.
“Over the past year we’ve continued to lease the project and we’ve had some great responses from potential tenants,” said McMahon. “Our immediate focus is getting the larger-format stores signed up, which is a key to the timing and financing of the project.”
McMahon noted that in two weeks, ERS representatives will be traveling to Las Vegas for the annual International Council of Shopping Centers conference.
“This convention will be important for ERS. We have many meetings scheduled and we hope to continue to increase the projects exposure.”
McMahon added that during the past year, RED Development has been working on leasing, cost estimating, surveying and utility studies for the off-site improvements.
“This is the type of work that needs to be done in order to further analyze the magnitude and cost of the public improvements required for the project. We understand our obligations as it relates to schedule to deliver the project. We are on track to meet those hurdle dates,” said McMahon. “It’s unlikely you’ll see any construction activity starting on site in this calendar year due to the length of the design process. You can look for some activity in 2014.”
The clock is ticking
When it was approved last spring, the ERS plan was given a three-year deadline to begin work. A third of that time has elapsed and Eagle Town Engineer Tom Gosiorowski and Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell say they have launched engineering and infrastructure discussions with ERS. In particular, Powell said he has been working though water rights issues with RED.
“The town of Eagle and RED have continued water rights negotiations and discussion and evaluations have included water rights split between non-potable irrigation and municipal water use, methods to deliver non-potable water to the ERS site, and timing of water rights dedication to the town,” said Powell.
A key component of the ERS plan is a new Interstate 70 interchange estimated to cost around $16 million. According to Gosiorowski, at this point the discussions regarding the interchange are between RED and the Colorado Department of Transportation. McMahon noted that the highway interchange must be completed prior to the grand opening of the project and that part of the plan remains a priority for RED.
As for other off-site improvements, Gosiorowski said that his work with RED to date has largely centered around sewer line design. Sewer lines to the site run through the existing Eagle Commercial Park and must be up sized to meet the needs of the new development. “Working in an area that is already developed is more difficult than working in a hay field,” said Gosiorowski.
While there hasn’t yet been a flurry of engineering designs submitted for ERS, Gosiorowski said he isn’t yet concerned by the quiet.
“We gave them three years of vesting at the approval time. They are not yet at a point that is time critical on that schedule,” he said.
However he noted that the specifications of the vesting schedule are specific — in three years ERS needs to have started construction on actual buildings within the development.
“They can’t just put up a monument sign that says ‘Coming Soon — Eagle River Station,’” said Gosiorowski. “When they start, they have to start on something meaningful.”
Gosiorwoski believes that RED Development needs to submit detailed engineering plans by this fall if the company wants to meet the ERS vesting scheduled.
“If they haven’t started by late this fall, I am going to be concerned. Like other residents in the community, I really want them to get started so we can start seeing the sales tax benefits.”
Ultimately, jobs and sales tax are the core issues for ERS, and area residents are avidly waiting for both to materialize.
“We still believe when ERS gets started it will bring jobs and ultimately increased sales tax revenues to benefit the town,” said Ash.
Funke said ERS may materialize or it may not, but she is excited that the town is moving on with other efforts.
“I feel very positive about the town of Eagle — about what we have and what we do here. The Eagle Outside Festival last weekend was very successful, for example,” said Funke. “I feel we are in a really desirable time. Eagle has a lot to offer and hopefully ERS will compliment that.”
“They can’t just put up a monument sign that says ‘Coming Soon — Eagle River Station. When they start, they have to start on something meaningful.”
Tom Goslorowski, Eagle Town Engineer