Eagle alternatives to Target?
EAGLE, Colorado ” Build a conference center. Develop downtown Eagle, Colorado more. Host some concerts. Maybe even allow a Whole Foods.
Any of those alternatives would bring needed revenue to Eagle ” and be better than the Target store that is being planned for a pasture east of town, say opponents of the Target-anchored shopping center known as Eagle River Station.
The $346 million complex would include 552,000 square feet of stores, 581 homes and a 150-room hotel on 88 acres. It would also include a new Interstate 70 interchange. The project is now being reviewed by the Eagle Board of Trustees.
Proponents, as well as town officials, say the project would bring important tax revenue that will allow for repairs on major roads such as Highway 6 and Eby Creek Road.
Opponents say the project is too big and harms the small-town character that residents prize.
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“There are so many things that are alternatives,” said Jan Rosenthal-Townsend, a leader of Citizens for the Future of Eagle, a group that opposes Eagle River Station. She said her group wants to see something “unique and different” for Eagle.
Rosenthal-Townsend suggested a smaller center of up to 40 acres or a stand-alone store such as a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Cabela’s.
Another idea, she said, is a conference center or performing arts complex that would focus on “lifestyle issues, substance abuse or workshops for troubled teens and adults.” An organic farm might work on that land, too, she said.
Rosenthal-Townsend even suggests “quality of life insurance fee” of $250 per resident per year.
“Think about it,” Rosenthal-Townsend said in an e-mail. “$250 times 5,000 people equals $1.25 million! Probably more than ERS would generate from the (public improvement fee)!” she wrote, referring to Eagle River Station by its acronym.
The public improvement fee is expected to generate $2.5 million per year, the developer, Trinity RED Eagle Development, says.
Other ideas include a kayak park or more riverfront access for fishing, Rosenthal-Townsend said.
Special events that bring shoppers to town and are another focus for Citizens for the Future of Eagle. Eagle businesses are already working to organize a month-long bike festival for May.
Joe Frasco, owner of Lights on Broadway, a downtown Eagle business, cited a 2007 town survey that showed residents wanted to retain the Western small-town character of Eagle.
“They wanted to see higher density and infill downtown, coupled with events that provided income,” he said. “If that doesn’t work, we can re-evaluate at that point.”
He said the town’s trustees should follow that lead. Once a project like Eagle River Station is built, there’s no going back, he said.
Others say that those alternatives pale in comparison to what Eagle River Station could bring the town.
The developer says the town of Eagle would get about $2.5 million in sales tax revenue until the bonds are paid off, which will take as long as 25 years. After that, the town would get $8 million to $8.5 million in sales tax per year. Opponents say those projections are too optimistic.
The town has seen revenue for its capital fund shrink as construction has slowed in recent months. The revenue for the capital fund has diminished from $3.75 million in 2007 to $721,000 budgeted for 2009.
Jon Stavney, a county commissioner and a former Eagle mayor, said the Eagle River Station project is, to use a baseball analogy, a home run in terms of the revenue it could bring the town, while the alternatives are singles.
“I don’t think they have a really good Plan B,” Stavney said. “I think Plan B is to reduce services and hunker down for a number of years and hope for help from other jurisdictions, like the county and state.”
People are going to shop at so-called “regional retailers” such as Target and Costco, no matter if it’s in Eagle or another place that already has them, such as Avon or Glenwood Springs, Stavney said.
And there’s not enough physical space for a “regional retailer” like Target or Costco in downtown Eagle, Stavney said. Downtown is more appropriate for small, neighborhood shops, Stavney said.
Rosenthal-Townsend says Target was a bad choice to anchor the proposed shopping center because it’s “as generic as all get-out.” She also noted that there’s already a Target in Glenwood Springs.
If Eagle River Station isn’t approved, the town will simply have to be more choosy about which projects it approves, said Ed Woodland, mayor of Eagle.
“The difference between Eagle River Station and no Eagle River Station is that some projects won’t be done, and that’s OK,” Woodland said. “And others that need to be done might have to be done over a longer period of time. … I think there will be a greater degree of prioritization.”
The town has already offered incentives to encourage downtown redevelopment, including waiving water fees, building permit fees, offering density bonuses and relieving parking requirements.
Opponents of Eagle River Station have cited revenue-sharing agreements with Gypsum as another alternative. The town of Eagle now has a revenue-sharing agreement with Gypsum for the already-completed Costco development and the proposed Eagle River Station development.
Woodland said revenue sharing might be difficult moving forward if Eagle doesn’t have an incentive to offer Gypsum or any other town that might be a partner.
“I would like to see some permanent cost-sharing model, but at the heart of the revenue sharing is that Eagle has got to have some revenue to share,” Woodland said.
Woodland and his fellow trustees will next take up the Eagle River Station proposal April 22.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or email@example.com.