BY FREDA MIKLIN – STAFF WRITER
On May 14, the economic development group of the South Metro Denver Chamber, chaired by Spencer Way, director of operations at Littleton Adventist Hospital, held a panel discussion on the impact of the pandemic and the future of retail in south metro Denver.
Park Meadows Retail Resort
Whitney Miller, director of operations at Park Meadows Resort Business Improvement District (BID) said that the number of residents in Denver South (according to denver-south.com, a major economic development organization) increased 18 percent between 2011 and 2019 to 283,320 people. Of that total population, 31 percent are between the ages of 35 and 54.
Very soon after the initial shutdown in March 2020 due to the pandemic, the BID began working in partnership with the City of Lone Tree, Tri County Health Department, Douglas County and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to craft the necessary improvements and procedures to obtain a variance so that its retailers could operate in some capacity. By doing so, Park Meadows was able to open three weeks earlier than any other large, enclosed shopping mall in the state. By early July 2020, approximately 80 percent of its tenants had reopened with masking requirements, social distancing, and enhanced sanitation and ventilation. Until January 2021, Park Meadows was the only shopping center in the state that was able to operate a food court. Since they began to reopen in 2020, Park Meadows has added over 75 designated parking spaces in 16 locations around the mall for curbside pick-up. That function will be retained, even with retail and restaurants fully reopening.
Miller named new restaurants and stores coming to Park Meadows in the next few months: Sukiya Ramen, Shake Shack, Sbarro, Popeyes, Warby Parker, Fabletics, and Electra Maccanica.
Sharing that she is often asked if “we are afraid of Amazon,” Miller said, “People will turn to online shopping at times, but brick and mortar retail comprises 80 to 85 percent of our tax dollars. We ask, “Would you buy a wedding dress on Amazon?” and “Would you buy a Tesla on Amazon?”
The BID is funded by a portion of the sales tax generated by the shopping center to promote, maintain, and improve the property on an ongoing basis
Alberta Development, LLC
Scott Hall, principal development partner for retail and residential builder Alberta Development, LLC said that Alberta, headquartered in the Denver Tech Center, has done over 220 development projects, including Southlands in Aurora, Cornerstone at Parker & Jordan Roads, Promenade in Castle Rock, and the Streets of Southglenn in Centennial. He named businesses they have worked with over the years as including Whole Foods, Chick-fil-A, Torchy’s Tacos, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Athletica.
Hall said, “The pandemic created challenges. The winners were grocers like Whole Foods, Kroger, and Trader Joes, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree. Losers included Macy’s which is closing 45 stores, Victoria’s Secret, which is closing 100 stores, Bed Bath, and Beyond, which will close 240 stores, movie theaters, gyms, and entertainment venues. Retailers who created an online presence have done well.”
He said that drive-through restaurants became very profitable during 2020 when sit-down restaurants were closed. Going forward, Hall shared that there were 3,597 new store openings in Q1 of 2021 and sales were up 11 percent over 2020. Hall believes that “shopping centers have reason to be optimistic. Most sales in Q1 of 2021 were in person… Many online retailers are looking at opening brick and mortar stores.”
He believes that, “We will continue to see downward pressure on rent, especially with big box stores. Walmart and Target have smaller concept stores now. Some manufacturers are now opening their own branded stores, like Nike and Patagonia.”
The good news, Hall said, is that, “The population in Colorado is growing, along with new residential. New people will need new stores and restaurants to service them. They might be smaller stores, but there will still be expansion. With golf in January and skiing in July and 300 days of sunshine, who doesn’t love that?” Once we are back at full capacity for sporting events and concerts, people will be ready to spend some of the money they’ve saved. We are optimistic that 2021 will be a great year.” He added, “The U.S. has twice as much retail as any other country. There will probably be some contraction in retail and it will be converted to multi-family residential.” That is currently being proposed at the Streets of Southglenn in Centennial in the space that formerly housed Sears.
Park Meadows’ Miller joined in to agree with Hall, predicting, “I expect the trend of the future to be toward more mixed-use retail going forward, including residential. That’s what we’re seeing.”