Frisco pondering ‘big box’ stores |

Frisco pondering ‘big box’ stores

Julie Sutor

Like so many American towns, Frisco is trying to strike the right balance between home-grown, independent businesses and large, national chains in its local economy.

Last week, the Frisco Planning Commission heard details on a new shopping center proposed for the 15 acres of land behind Safeway and Wal-Mart.

Gary Ellerman of SEM Architects presented several sketches of a two-winged shopping center with more than a dozen lower-income residential rental units.

The 120,000-square-foot proposal includes space for six national retailers, similar in scale to Bed Bath & Beyond.

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“It sounds to me like you’ve got some challenges, but I like the idea of sales tax revenue, because we need that,” said Frisco planning commissioner Ken Howard, after hearing from Ellerman and a handful of citizens at the meeting at Frisco Town Hall. “I’m interested to see what you come up with.”

Many view the proposed development as an opportunity to boost Frisco’s sales tax revenues, which have been hit hard by a sluggish economy and competition from the year-old Target store in Silverthorne. But there are worries that the influx of more national chains will erode Frisco’s unique, small-town character.

“I think it will destroy the quality of our mountain town,” said Pam Murano, a board member of a local homeowners association. “It will destroy our Main Street, and it will destroy our views of the mountains. There’s a lot of concern.”

Ellerman said that he and his partner, Peter Cudlip of Alberta Development, have given great thought to architectural concerns.

“Instead of a lodge and timber look, we’d use more of a mining style,” Ellerman said. “The materials would be primarily wood, stone and metal. We’ll use it in a way that breaks down the scale to something a little more intimate, because these are some big stores.”

Ellerman also said that the potential tenants, who remain unnamed, will not compete against Frisco’s Main Street – the centerpiece of the town’s long-term economic development efforts. “We know these retailers are going to be different than the ones you find on Main Street,” he said.

Planning commissioner Nancy Stone said she liked the proposal’s architectural design features but had reservations about other aspects of the development.

“Does it matter to you if the community doesn’t really want these big-box businesses here?” Stone inquired of Ellerman.

“It obviously matters to us what the community wants,” Ellerman responded. “But a community is made up of many different people with different needs and interests. We need to find a compromise that gets as close as it can to meeting all those interests in a significant, long-term project for this town.”

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