Soon Colorado Springs residents will be able to pick up their next pair of hiking boots and ride a 65-foot Ferris wheel in the same building.
SCHEELS, an employee-owned, all-sports retailer, will open its second Colorado location in Colorado Springs in April 2021, according to a company news release.
The 222,000-square-foot building is going in the Interquest Marketplace near Great Wolf Lodge, Summit Entertainment Center and Hollywood Theater.
Dirk Draper, CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, said the Interquest corridor is one of the Springs areas experiencing high retail growth.
“The greatest interest that I’m aware of would be in three areas: downtown, the Powers corridor and up north near Interquest [Parkway],” he said. “Those are the areas where there seems to be the most retail activity.”
Steve Scheel, CEO of SCHEELS, said in his company’s release that SCHEELS is “thrilled” to bring its 29th location in the United States to the Colorado Springs market.
“We are excited to be part of the Interquest Marketplace and want to thank Mayor [John] Suthers, The [Colorado Springs] City Council, the City of Colorado Springs, Nor’Wood Development [Group] President Chris Jenkins, and the team at Nor’Wood Development for help bringing this project to life,” he said. “We look forward to working with them throughout the building process, as we become a new partner in the Colorado Springs community.”
Besides the Ferris wheel, the new SCHEELS will include other family-friendly attractions, such as a 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and a “wildlife mountain.” It also will have interactive arcade games, sports simulators and a café.
“Similar to the Johnstown location, the new Colorado Springs SCHEELS will be home to entertainment attractions, specialty shops and boutiques with the best brand names under one roof,” the release said. “This includes 75 specialty shops staffed by trained experts who focus on their passions. The one-of-a-kind retail adventure will attract sports enthusiasts, outdoor explorers and shoppers seeking a wide variety of fashion, footwear and home goods.”
In May, Burlington, the discount retailer formerly known as Burlington Coat Factory, indicated it was adding a store at what has become the Powers Boulevard retail corridor. That same month Duluth Trading Company announced plans for a new store at University Village Colorado, northwest of Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road.
Meanwhile, in downtown, the most recent data indicates a 3.9 percent vacancy rate, which is lower than the city’s 5.2 percent, said Sarah Humbargar, vice president of the Downtown Partnership.
“We are always seeing shifts in the downtown market, which is a good thing because there is always something different that you can explore and see,” she said. “In terms of retail and what we refer to as ‘soft goods,’ there are always a couple of new stores every year.”
In the last month, The Men’s Xchange, a social enterprise that sells thrift men’s business and dress clothes, relocated to downtown at 409 N. Tejon St.
“That’s been a good addition,” Humbargar said, adding the Rocky Mountain Soap Shop also recently expanded in a space on North Tejon Street.
“They have more than doubled their square footage and have grown throughout the region, which is exciting,” she said.
During the last year, Humbargar said downtown has seen more restaurants than soft-good retailers open.
“But, we certainly have retailers that are considering downtown, and we are hearing from a lot of our longtime retailers that they are continuing to stay strong,” she said.
A lot of the downtown street level spaces are starting to be occupied by other types of consumer-focused businesses as well, Humbargar said, including Barre Forte, a dynamic fitness studio, also opening on North Tejon Street sometime this fall.
“We have always had a number of service type of uses downtown but a lot of them are turning to be consumer-focused businesses,” she said. “That’s been a really positive thing we have seen lately.”
One of the partnership’s current priorities is making downtown residential-friendly, which means a certain type of retail is needed, Humbargar said.
“There is a different type of retail that people who live downtown are looking for than maybe a visitor from out of town want,” she said. “While we want to serve holistically across lots of different types of people coming downtown. We are really focused on making sure downtown is a place that works well for residents as we start to grow that base. So, one of those types of retail would be that grocery/market type concept.”
For years, Humbargar has been asked, “Why doesn’t downtown have a grocery store?” she said.
“We certainly see that we may have the opportunity to bring something of that type to downtown in the next year to two years where just a few years ago I couldn’t confidently say that,” she said. “Now, we are definitely starting to see some interest there and that’s always been high priority for us.”
Moreover, the partnership believes it’s important downtown has “high-quality” soft-good retailers that are reflective of downtown as a whole, Humbargar said.
“We serve as a creative district so we put a lot of emphasis on bringing in creative types of retail,” she said. “Ladyfingers Letterpress — I think they are such a good example of the type of retail that really fits downtown. They are entrepreneurs and makers and they distribute around the globe, so it has that economic impact as well.”
The stationery store also has a retail component where downtown patrons can go in and shop for greeting cards and other gift items, Humbargar said.
“That’s the type of retailer that is really attractive to tourists and residents as well as having a strong economic impact beyond just the local market,” she said. “Those are the types of retailers we generally try to focus our efforts on but certainly also noticing where there may be gaps in our retail and trying to fill those as well.”
The Colorado Springs retail market performed well during the first half of 2018, according to CBRE’s H1 MarketView report released in September.
Whitney Johnson, an associate with the commercial real estate agency CBRE in Colorado Springs, said the “strong performance” of the local retail market can be attributed to two trends: new construction and restaurants.
“We are seeing exciting new retailers enter the market, attracted to the high-quality new construction projects primarily in the northeast,” she said in the release.
“We are also seeing increased demand for food options, with restaurants playing an integral role in the new development projects.”
Beyond the northeast, the downtown core has seen renewed interest, which Johnson believes is because the construction of the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame and the newly announced Colorado Springs Switchbacks soccer and events stadium and Colorado College Tigers hockey arena.
“Overall, Colorado Springs’ retail market is performing well, with the entire sector benefiting from our city’s population growth and active housing market,” she said.
Draper echoed Johnson: A growing number of rooftops, attractive demographics including disposable income and the city’s most recent accolades for being a desirable place to live are why more national retailers are starting to move into the Springs, he said.
“I hope we continue to see a broad scope of retail here,” he said. “I think that adds to the vibrancy of our economy. It adds to our sales tax base, adds to our property tax base and it gives employment opportunities for folks. There’s a number of reasons the growing retail trend we are seeing right now is good for our community.”
Factors that attract retailers to the Springs include lower property costs, Draper said.
In Q2 2018, Colorado Springs retail space rented for $13.37 per square foot compared to Denver’s $22.20, according to data presented during the 2018 UCCS Economic Forum.
“Another is access in the form of shoppers being able to get to your location,” he said. “We have a lot lower congestion than Denver does. We also have a lower cost of living than the Denver Metro does, which affects [retailers’] cost of operations.”
However, with big retailers moving in, Draper said it’s important local retailers remain competitive in terms of product and pricing.
“I think a thriving community has a mix of those locally owned as well as some national retailers included in the retail ecosystem,” he said. “We are stronger for having both present in Colorado Springs.”
He offered simple advice at the recent UCCS Economic Forum when asked how residents can keep the Springs’ economy strong:
“Shop local and look [at our airport] before you book,” Draper said. “Those are the two biggest things we can do as consumers. And that ‘shop local’ doesn’t only mean the mom and pop shops or locally owned businesses, but rather at all stores that have a presence in our market.”