Colorado Springs' retail frontier continues to expand northward, but it's no longer just about adding more bricks-and-mortar stores and restaurants.
Sure, consumers will find several new places to shop, eat and drink at Polaris Pointe, InterQuest Marketplace, InterQuest Commons and other high-profile retail centers that are in various stages of development on the Springs' fast-growing, far north side.
But newer retail centers increasingly boast a variety of amenities and uses.
Polaris Pointe is adding more than 50 upscale lofts and a small indoor auditorium for concerts and other events. Nearly 300 apartments are under construction at InterQuest Marketplace. Two hotels will be part of InterQuest Commons. Highlands at Briargate will include a medical office building and assisted living facility. And Victory Ridge - formerly Colorado Crossing - will have apartments, hotels and a sports complex.
"That's just the mix that you want," said Polaris Pointe developer Gary Erickson. "You want as much diversity as you can."
A residential component can be a big part of a successful retail center, Erickson said.
The area around Polaris Pointe has about 6,000 employees who make up a daytime population that retailers and restaurants serve, he said.
But on-site and nearby residences are especially attractive to stores, restaurants, liquor stores, dry cleaners, car washes, banks and other service-oriented businesses that are part of retail centers.
"A rooftop means somebody lives there, and they're going to come and eat at your place consistently," Erickson said. "The retailers want to see rooftops."
A 264-unit apartment complex being built on InterQuest Marketplace's northeast corner, where the first renters will move in this fall, will help create a live-work-play environment, said Steve Sharkey, a vice president with project developer Nor'wood Development Group of Colorado Springs.
Renters will be near InterQuest Marketplace's restaurants, movie theater complex, a bowling alley and entertainment center and a convenience store, Sharkey said. Nor'wood has the same model in place at its First & Main Town Center on the Springs' east side, where the company developed apartments across from another movie theater complex, stores, restaurants, a hotel and a small park.
"To have it so close was part of our thinking," Sharkey said of the InterQuest Marketplace apartments. "An entertainment environment adjacent to the apartments will be quite attractive to both the residents and to the retail that's here. You've got 264 units, so you'll have somewhere around 500 people plus in the apartments, and that's significant."
At the Highlands at Briargate, where construction is beginning after weeks of site preparation work, a medical building with an urgent care center, imaging center and other services will be part of the retail project, said Graeme Keith III of North Carolina-based Keith Corp., which is developing the project.
Not only will more medical options serve the area, but they'll be accessible for patients at Memorial Hospital North and the St. Francis Medical Center a few miles away, Keith said.
Providing the mix of residential, entertainment, lodging and service-sector uses attracts more shoppers, diners, tourists and the like to the shopping centers.
At the same time, a shifting retail landscape means developers might have to look elsewhere to fill up their projects.
Some traditional big-box stores have shelved expansion plans while they wait out the retail industry's uncertain future, said Fred Veitch, Nor'wood's head of retail operations. Macy's, Sears, J.C. Penney's are among retailers that have closed stores as they battle Amazon and other online rivals.
"Most big-box retailers are sitting on the sidelines until they can determine exactly what is their next move," he said.
Even as big boxes reconsider growth plans, smaller stores, restaurants and the like are moving forward. That's why Colorado Springs' north side continues to be a prime location for new retail developments.
A stronger economy is driving the north-side boom, some of which was delayed because of the Great Recession, said Mark Useman, executive managing director of brokerage Colorado Springs Commercial, who markets InterQuest Commons.
But many north-side retail projects also are being developed because of demand, Useman said.
Thousands of rooftops are being built in The Farm, Wolf Ranch and other north-side subdivisions, while hundreds of apartments are under construction or on the drawing board. North-side homeowners and renters - who have some of the region's highest household incomes - will want places to eat and shop.
And big-name employers - such as T. Rowe Price, Progressive Insurance, Bal Seal Engineering, FedEx and USAA - all have major operations on the north side.
"It's not like we're overbuilding," Useman said. "It's meeting the needs of the growth in that area."
Developers aren't building based on the chance that retailers will come along later, he said. About three out of every four storefronts in multi- tenant retail buildings are leased before construction begins; Useman said; stand-alone buildings - commonly called pad sites - aren't constructed until restaurants or other users sign deals.
"Nothing is really speculative," he said.
With development ramping up at several north-side retail projects, here's a snapshot look at the activity:
- Polaris Pointe, southeast of Interstate 25 and North Gate Boulevard. The 200-acre project includes, among others, Bass Pro Shops, Overdrive Raceway, Magnum Shooting Center, Boot Barn, SafeSplash Swim School, The Brass Tap craft beer bar, Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse & Tavern, C.B. & Potts, Mikado Asian Bistro, Kneaders Bakery & Cafe, Wendy's and Chick-fil-A. Erickson, Polaris Pointe's developer, said at least five more restaurants are considering the area.
Erickson hopes to break ground within 60 days on a four-story project of 52 high-end lofts that will rent for about $2,500 a month. While pricey, some luxury apartments in the area fetch more than $2,000 a month, he said.
The two- and three-bedroom units will have garages and elevator access; they'll be built on the southern portion of Polaris Pointe and will back up to 80 acres of open space.
Another addition at Polaris Pointe: Bourbon Brothers' owner plans construction of a 750-seat indoor venue that can host small concerts and other events, Erickson said. The facility is planned next to the Bourbon Brothers restaurant.
A separate Polaris Pointe landowner scrapped plans for a hotel and water park, although Erickson said the site remains a good location for a hotel.
- InterQuest Marketplace, northeast of Interstate 25 and InterQuest Parkway. Current users at the 135-acre project include the Great Wolf Lodge hotel and water park, a Drury Inn and Suites, a 14-screen Regal movie theater complex, The Summit entertainment center, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Colorado Mountain Brewery, a Kum & Go convenience store, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Dickey's Barbecue Pit, Zoup!, Starbucks and Jersey Mike's Subs.
The initial phase of The Overlook at InterQuest, as the retail center's apartment complex will be called, is slated to open in November, said Nor'wood's Sharkey. Rents still are being determined, he said.
Nor'wood's Veitch said the company continues to talk with more retail users, and announcements could come by year's end.
- InterQuest Commons, southwest of InterQuest and Voyager parkways. The 23-acre project is one of the newer north-side retail centers. A 7,800-square-foot, multitenant building has been completed; it will include Jimmy John's, Baskin Robbins and InterQuest Liquors.
A second 7,800-square-foot building, which will include a "gastropub" operated by the owner of Back East Bar and Grill, will be completed in 30 days, Useman said. A Fuzzy's Taco Shop also is under construction.
Two hotels also are planned. Springs-based New Vision Hotels has bought land for a future hotel. An Arizona developer also is targeting a 2018 opening for a four-story, 104-room Spring Hill Suites by Marriott, Useman said.
- Highlands at Briargate, southwest of Briargate Parkway and Chapel Hills Drive. The multiphase project is being built on about 30 to 40 acres that are part of the Focus on the Family campus as part of a joint venture by the ministry and The Keith Corp.
The initial phase of about 30,000 square feet and six buildings will include a combination of restaurants and retailers, including one full-serve restaurant, Keith said. He declined to reveal who's coming, except to say all are nationally known names. Construction on the initial buildings will be completed in November, with a first-quarter opening for the businesses. The project's 40,000-square-foot medical building will be open and operating by October 2018, Keith said.
- Victory Ridge, southeast of InterQuest and Voyager parkways. The 153-acre, partially developed site is home to the never-finished Colorado Crossing mixed-use project, which stood idle for years after its developer went bankrupt. Westside Investment Partners of suburban Denver bought the property in late 2016, rebranded it as Victory Ridge and now is working to complete some of the projects' partially finished buildings.
A movie theater complex, restaurants, hotels and apartments are envisioned on the site, where the Larry Ochs Sports Complex - with ball diamonds, multipurpose fields and concessions - also is planned.