Frisco Main Street makeover
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
FRISCO ” A Denver-area developer recently purchased the Frisco Mall and adjacent commercial building with plans to significantly remodel the properties.
Mike Hilbert purchased Main Street lots 3-4 (home of Columbine Gallery and Cornflower Boutique) on June 4 for $1.4 million and closed on the Frisco Mall property the following day for a Frisco Main Street record $3.16 million.
The properties are located between Fourth and Fifth Avenues ” the commerical “core” of Main Street. The buildings’ mining-era-themed exteriors are starting to look dated, which means big renovations are afoot.
“I felt something had to be done. Frisco deserves to have a showpiece at that location,” Hilbert said, a part-time Frisco resident of five years.
Hilbert’s plans are still in their infancy, and he has yet to file final plans with the town, so architectural renderings are not yet available, but he will begin facade upgrades, including color changes, painting and accessorizing after he is finished consulting with architects and designers. He intends to abandon the mining theme and give his Main Street properties a makeover.
“I’m trying to execute on the town’s desire to have an ecclectic mix on Main Street. I’m excited to show the town (what I can build),” Hilbert said, adding, “I’m interested in a long-term commitment to Frisco.”
Adding condos a ‘possibility’
Mixed-use development is a growing trend in Frisco. High-end condos built on top of commercial space gives developers two revenue streams: residential sales and commercial-space leases.
Plus, it brings more people to Main Street, something the town and business owners like seeing.
This development strategy fits particulalry well in the Main Street core, where space is limited and proximity dining and shopping is a premium.
Current mixed-use developments can be seen in the new construction at Tuscato’s on Main Street and Bears Den Condominiums at Seventh Avenue and Granite Street, as well as recent projects at the buildings housing Farley’s, Samplings and Wilderness Sports on Main Street.
Hilbert is currently “examining the possibility” of adding residential units to the buildings. He envisions building for-sale (as opposed to for-rent), mid-market condos that will list in the $400,000-700,000 price range.
According to Mark Gagen, Frisco’s director of community development, adding residential units to Main Street properties requries that the developer provide one parking space per bedroom on the building parcel, that the residential units not be located on ground level and that the building height doesn’t exceed 40 feet.
Due to the parking constraints, cost projections and general development uncertainty, Hilbert admits that he’s “not sure if we can build residential” at this point.
Tenants feel left out
Business is good on the 400 block of Main Street. So good that the local, independent businesses that occupy the commercial spaces have no plans to vacate and expect their leases to be honored under Hilbert’s ownership.
While all tenants interviewed expressed cautious optimism at the possibility of a much-needed remodel, they did sound concerns over a lack of communication with Hilbert and the prospect of losing their space to higher-paying tenants.
“After trying a number of times to contact Hilbert, I was told by Tom Seabrook (former property owner, current manager) that I was not allowed to contact Hilbert directly ” that all communication had to go through Tom,” Columbine Gallery owner Bill Bickerton said.
Bickerton, who flirted with the prospect of purchasing the building adjacent to the Frisco Mall a few years ago, is concerned about his lease, which is up for a three-year renewal in 2010.
His business has been operating in Summit County for more than 20 years, with the last 4-1/2 spent at his Main Street location. But he’s been unable to discuss the matter with Hilbert.
“Tom Seabrook left a written message on my door in mid-June stating that he would have answers from Hilbert to all my questions on June 20. He did not have any answers,” Bickerton said.
Hilbert is adamant he has no plans to oust tenants. “I am committed to honoring those leases.”
But the communication gap isn’t limited to Bickerton.
Karen Berg, owner of Next Page Bookstore in Frisco Mall, also is uncertain about her company’s future. She’s also had no contact with Hilbert.
“There was a veil of secrecy (about the building’s purchase and the new owner’s plans), but I will choose to be optimistic that good changes will come about,” Berg said.
Only a year since opening its doors, Next Page has thrived on Main Street. Battling it out with online book vendors and big-box shops like Borders, Berg now has three employees and says business is “very good.” She can’t imagine leaving her prime location.
“I spent a whole lot of time and money on this space. My hope and intent is to stay here,” Berg said.
Hilbert has not offered to buy out any leases.
“We’re very interested in working with the current tenant pool. Our number one priority is to create an environment where they can be successful,” Hilbert said.
With any construction still months away, it remains to be seen just how much the 400 block of Main Street will change. Plans are constantly evolving, with architects and designers working to find that showpiece design.
It’s those uncertainties that worry the local business owners.
“I wish they’d talk to us. It’d be nice to be in the know,” Berg said.