Another big box for Gypsum? |

Another big box for Gypsum?

Space for two big-box stores, smaller shops and homes are part of a project proposed near the airport.

GYPSUM ” Commercial development in Gypsum seems to be a feast-or-famine sort of deal.

Right at the moment, it’s a feast.

Last week, the Gypsum Town Council inked a revenue-sharing agreement that paved the way for big box retailer Costco to come into the Airport Gateway Commercial Park. The estimated $80 million a year in sales the store will bring is big news for a town long starved for retail revenues.

But Costco is just the beginning.

Early next month, the town will start reviewing a proposed commercial and residential development just west of the airport that will make the 159,000-square-foot Costco project look small.

The Tower Center commercial development would be located in what is now the Lehman gravel pit, a 130-acre parcel located on the south side of Highway 6, between the Eagle County Airport and the Highway, and bordered by Jules Drive on the west.

The development company, Washington, D.C.-based Next Realty, proposes 300,000 square feet of “big box”-style commercial space ” enough for two large stores.

The project includes another 100,000 square feet of smaller commercial development, such as restaurants, convenience stores, and smaller stores. The developer is also proposing to place 330 housing units on the property, which totals 121 acres.

“I think it’s our time. We’ve been waiting and hoping,” said Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver. He said the town started planning for this scale of commercial development a dozen years ago.

Carver acknowledged there’s been some disappointments over the years. There were frequent rumors of a big-box project landing in the town, and negotiations that fell through time and time again.

“We kept waiting and kept working on it … now, I think we’re finally going to get it,” added Carver.

Gypsum resident Vicki Esposito says she never imagined that type of big box commercial development would happen locally.

“I feel very sad for the small businesses. But on the other hand, everybody is always out there trying to save a buck … so, if you can get that opportunity in your own neighborhood, that’s great,” said Esposito.

“I’m certainly happy to drive down the street rather than go to Denver,” she adds, noting that the sales tax revenue will be good for the local economy.

The developer of Tower Center ” named for the nearby flight control tower at the Eagle County Airport ” has been doing similar projects for the past 25 years, according to spokesman Richard Kabat.

“We’ve developed 7 million square feet of this kind of project,” he said. According to Kabat, Next Development and its investors had been looking at a project in the Gypsum area long before the news about Costco broke.

“We recognize that the valley up there is a far distance from retail services. It is our estimation that retailers, such as large, general merchandise, home improvement, and others, would find an attractive market in Gypsum,” Kabat said.

Currently, the developers are in discussions with several retailers; but there are no commitments to date. Kabat said his company constantly talks with retailers about what markets they would like to be in; and with real estate brokers with available property. The company works at matching up land opportunities with unmet market demand of consumers.

He compares this type of commercial development to a puzzle, with a big box retailer as the first piece.

“There’s a whole tier of retailers that comes once you get the major anchors in place … like-kind of tenants serve like-kind of consumers,” he notes.

The anticipated tenants listed in the development application include large general merchandisers, a large home improvement store; then smaller tenants, such as a convenience store, pharmacy, and a bank. Plans also allow space for a 120-room hotel and an office and professional building.

Plans for the project estimates the Tower Center, when developed, would post $141 million in annual retail sales; which would mean $5.6 million in sales tax revenues for the town. A portion of the sales taxes collected would be subject to the revenue-sharing agreement between Gypsum and Eagle.

Some 47 aces of the project would be dedicated to housing. The plans call for 330 units, including 140 single-family units, and 190 multi-family units.

The housing component of the project will be handled by Meritage, a Roaring Fork Valley-based developer. Kabat said the goal is to create some “attainable” housing.

The project will start wending its way through the town’s public review process in early April. The first step will be the annexation of the adjacent, 31-acre parcel (the Elam gravel pit), and review of the sketch plan.

The annexation proposal will go the Town Board for a first reading next Tuesday, March 28. The Gypsum Planning Commission will start looking at the project on April 5.

Carver said traffic is one of the town’s big concerns.

“We’re doing our best to make sure that all of that is in order,” he said.

Carver said the town will continue to lobby for an Interstate 70 interchange that would serve the airport. That interchange was in the planning process for years. Last year, the Colorado Department of Transportation advised the towns of Eagle and Gypsum and Eagle County that the interchange was no longer a funding priority for the state.

“I think we’ve been treated badly by the state. I guarantee you that, as a town, we will take every avenue we can to get this interchange,” Carver said.

Eagle Mayor Jon Stavney said new development in Gypsum is already adding to Eagle’s traffic congestion at the Interstate 70 interchange, and on Highway 6.

“Regional retail in Gypsum will do very little to help pay for the multi-million dollar solutions,” he said. He voiced some doubts about the future of the Airport Interchange.

Eagle resident Susan Narduzzi said Eagle’s situation reminds her of the town she left in New York, which had a growing population, but little commercial base. Residents spent their money at out-of-town businesses.

“My tax money was not going to my little community,” she said. The end result was a substantial increase in property taxes.

“My husband and I both feel this is deja vu ” we see the growth taking place, but the tax money is not coming to Eagle,” Narduzzi observes.” “… with all of that development going on in Eagle Ranch, how are we going to take care of the roads?”

“I’m thrilled that Costco is coming. I will not stop doing my grocery shopping at City Market; and I will not stop going to the pharmacy in Eagle for special things,” she said. “Instead of me driving two hours to get to Grand Junction and giving them my tax money, at least some of that tax money will be coming back to us.”

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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