Retail campaigns have personal touch
Vail CO Colorado
EAGLE, Colorado – After sipping wine and chatting with fellow moms, Jen Bradbury sat down in an Eagle, Colorado, living room Tuesday night to watch a presentation on Eagle River Station, a proposed shopping center including a Target store.
Never mind the cheese plate on the coffee table.
This party was about more than socializing.
Paul Witt, a consultant for Eagle River Station’s developers, has been hosting gatherings in his home nearly every night since Eagle’s Town Board decided to let voters have the final say on whether Eagle River Station will become a reality.
For many residents, the choice they will make during the Jan. 5 referendum will be deeply personal – so it’s no wonder the campaigns leading up to it have taken on a homey touch, as well.
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Just as Witt has been opening up his living room to voters, opponents are organizing their own set of community meetings. Citizens’ Group Smart Growth-Not Urban Sprawl has selected a popular neighborhood hangout – The Dusty Boot restaurant in Eagle Ranch – as the setting for a 6 p.m. meeting today.
Part cocktail party and part campaign event, Witt’s gathering on Tuesday gave eight residents face-to-face access to the developers.
“A smaller setting like this leads to better conversation,” Witt said. “It’s a way for the community to interact with the developer on a very personal level.”
Bradbury, an Eagle resident and mother of two young boys, said she invited several of her friends to the gathering.
She said she is not affiliated with Trinity RED Eagle Development but is passionate about the project. Bradbury said Eagle River Station appeals to her because it will add to the town’s diversity of shopping options and provide sales tax revenue for everything from more bike paths to pothole repairs.
Standing in the kitchen, surrounded by fellow residents noshing on appetizers, Bradbury said the living-room meetings make sense in this close-knit town.
“It’s basically what Eagle is: We’re all kind of extended family within the town, especially since a majority of us are transplants from other places,” she said. “I think it’s the best place for people to meet because you just feel comfortable.”
Witt and two representatives from Trinity RED delivered a presentation on the TV and showed residents drawings of the shopping center. Afterward, residents asked questions about the proposed project.
“What happens if it sits empty for a year – does that go to zero?” Eagle Ranch resident Jennifer Buck asked after the developers said the project will generate $2.5 million in sales tax revenue each year.
Developers responded that they would need to have at least 60 percent occupancy to proceed with the project, so the center would not sit empty.
Buck, 47, may be exactly the type of voter campaigners on both sides of the issue are trying to recruit.
She’s undecided on Eagle River Station.
Buck, an architect, said she came to Tuesday’s gathering to learn more about the project. She likes the idea of more restaurants in town, but she questions whether adding a third shopping area in Eagle will spread customers too thin. She’s leaning toward a “yes” vote.
“It’s hard to tell because all developers sound great when they’re giving you their spiel, but I think these guys seem to have thought this through fairly well,” she said.
Witt said he plans to continue hosting gathering with friends and neighbors leading up to the Jan. 5 vote. Meanwhile, opposition group Citizens for the Future of Eagle has created a campaigning arm to spread its message.
Roxie Deane, a member of Eagle’s Board of Trustees, said 3,700 people are registered to vote in Eagle.
Eagle River Station is a retail/residential project proposed on an 88-acre tract at the eastern end of Eagle, south of Interstate 70. Plans include 552,000 square feet of commercial space including a 132,000-square-foot anchor Target store and a “lifestyle center” shopping area. The development proposal also includes a 150-room hotel and 581 residential units along with a new I-70 interchange.
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.