Eagle River Station is back
May 11, 2011
EAGLE, Colorado – Sixteen months ago, Eagle voters turned down the controversial Eagle River Station project. This week, Trinity RED Development submitted a retooled project plan to the town.
The development is still a project from Kansas City, Mo.-based RED Development, and it still envisions a commercial-residential project on the 88-acre property located south of Interstate 70 and north of U.S. Highway 6 on the eastern Eagle boundary. The plan also still features more than 500,000 square feet of commercial space in a reconfigured layout. What it does not contain is a for-sale housing component, at least for now.
Where the original plan proposed 581 for-sale housing units, Eagle River Station now has a large piece of ground labeled for future development.
According to Jeff McMahon, managing partner for RED Development, the changes in the Eagle River Station plan reflect citizen comments made during both the project’s original lengthy public review and during focus group sessions held last fall.
“We didn’t just all of the sudden flip a switch and decide it’s time to try it again,” said Jeff McMahon, managing partner for RED Development. “We had to stop and take a fresh look and see if it’s a project that still works.”
“What did we learn from the first time around? It was a close vote, but we are under no misunderstanding that the townspeople spoke,” McMahon said. “We are still very positive about the project. We just need to get it right and get the town what it needs.”
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That issue will begin new debate in Eagle in the coming months, as town officials and project proponents and opponents re-engage the debate over Eagle River Station. As those conversations begin, here is a breakdown of the proposal for what is included, what has been dropped, what has changed and what remains the same when it comes to Eagle River Station.
Eagle River Station is a mixed-use planned unit development that includes the following:
• 582,000 square feet of commercial space.
• Up to 550 rental units. The first 250 would be over retail space in the main section; the remaining up to 300 are in the section reserved for future use, and may or may not be over retail space, or may be build in stand alone buildings.
• Two development phases are anticipated – the first phase would include retail and 250 rental units. The second phase would include “retail, rental, institutional and entertainment development to be developed as the market demands,” according to RED Development.
• Housing – The largest change is the elimination of a for-sale housing development as part of the plan. According to McMahon, the current application includes a place-holder on the western portion of the property that reserves space for residential development in the future. “This is a big parcel and the market doesn’t support more housing at present,” he said. “We need to grow into that property.”
• Retail – The former plan for a “Main Street-like” component has been changed to feature less small scale residential and more large format stores. According to McMahon, the redesign reflects changes in the national economy. “The market now supports less small shop leasing and more value-type tenants,” McMahon said.
• Target – Target is still interested in building a 130,000-square-foot store at Eagle River Station, according to McMahon. However, he noted the new plan includes a second space of equal size and two other large-format store options.
“I think the customers would like to see something in addition to Target. They don’t necessarily see it as the high water mark.”
McMahon added that Eagle River Station plans to announce potential tenants earlier in the process than it did during the original application.
• Hotel – The 150-room boutique hotel at the site has been jettisoned. McMahon said there was little interest from hotel operators to develop that property and the developer ultimately decided there were sufficient hotel rooms already in the town of Eagle.
• Road improvements – The developer still plans construction of a new Interstate 70 interchange as well as improvements along U.S. Highway 6. What’s new is a proposal to realign and expand Chambers Avenue through the property as a four-lane boulevard.
• Parking – The original ERS plan laid out a large, contiguous parking field. The new plan breaks up the parking into three main zones. “That was probably one of the more prominent comments we got from the focus group, to break up the parking field,” said McMahon.
• Project orientation – In the new layout, more buildings are oriented toward the I-70 entry. “We think the project is a lot more attractive,” said McMahon.
• Setbacks – The original application sought a variance for narrower setbacks along I-70. The new application meets the town’s setback requirements.
• Finances – ERS will propose a revenue sharing plan to finance its public improvements package, but the details of that plan have not yet been finalized. It will likely follow the general parameters of the previous proposal, which called for creation of a metropolitan district to issue bonds for the infrastructure.
• Communications – McMahon said RED plans to take a more aggressive role in communicating about ERS with the revised application. “If we really want to get the word out, we can’t just attend the public hearings,” he said. He pointed to last fall’s focus group meetings as an example of what the company envisions.
As they prepare themselves for a new ERS review, McMahon said the principals at RED Development hope the approval process will be more streamlined this time around. The guidelines that were established during the first set of public hearings – for issues such as lighting, wildlife mitigation, drainage and other more technical issues – have carried through to the new plan, according to McMahon.
As for the notion of building a large format retail development as the nation just begins to pull out of the worst economic period in recent history, McMahon said timing is actually ripe.
“In some sense, there is no better time than now,” he said. “Ultimately, if we start the project now, we can’t start moving dirt until 2012 at the earliest, to open in 2014.”
He also maintained that timing is better for RED Development as a company. “There are a lot of developers who have not made it through the last couple of years and we are happy to say we are not one of them,” said McMahon. “We are very proud of what we have accomplished as a company over the past two years. We are actually stronger now than we were two years ago.”