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Foodies unite: Colorado Springs' first food hall planned for downtown

May 16, 2017 Updated: May 17, 2017 at 6:11 am
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Andy Scott and Flannery Scott look over the concert posters outside the downtown Independent Records and Video Tuesday, May 16, 2017, before shopping at the store. The owners of the downtown store are selling the building to a Denver group that plans to transform the 97-year-old building into a food hall on the bottom floor and a bar with a roof-top patio on the second floor. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Downtown Colorado Springs could be getting its first food hall - an increasingly popular urban concept that mixes eateries and businesses in an indoor, market-like setting.

The owners of Independent Records & Video have contracted to sell their building at 123 E. Bijou St. to a Denver group that plans to make over the property, said Lewis Lambert, a co-owner of Independent Records.

The group's plan: Gut and remodel the nearly 7,000-square-foot, 97-year-old building and transform its first floor into a multi-tenant space, while constructing a second floor to accommodate a bar and two outdoor decks, says a proposal submitted to the city's Land Use Review Division.

Representatives of Marble Acquisitions of Denver, listed as the property's future owner, didn't return telephone calls.

But the project apparently would be akin to food halls such as The Source and Avanti Food & Beverage in Denver and Aurora's Stanley Marketplace, said commercial broker Whitney Johnson of the Springs office of national real estate firm CBRE. She's marketing the building for Independent Records.

In such settings, food vendors, coffee shops, florists and other businesses operate under one roof in leased spaces, she said. Food trucks or young chefs looking to take a step up to a more permanent location would be possible tenants, and the space could function almost as a food and beverage incubator, Johnson said.

The project - across from Acacia Park - would provide another amenity for shoppers, employees and growing numbers of downtown loft owners and apartment dwellers, she said.

"They really are spreading like wildfire," Johnson said of food halls. "They're kind of indoor markets. Not only do you have food, but you have vendors as well. It becomes a gathering place. Millennials, they're more inclined to have these experiences, and so these food halls are more like 'experiential' retail, where you can gather and have friends and create memories. That's what all these millennials enjoy."

Laurel Prud'homme, communications director for the Downtown Partnership advocacy group, said the food hall would be another welcome addition to a Bijou block where a smattering of new retailers have opened. The Bijou Lofts - a nine-unit project on a newly built second floor - recently opened in a building next door to Independent Records.

"This is following trends that we're seeing downtown, with the repurposing of older buildings into something that's very new, new to our downtown," Prud'homme said. "It's kind of on trend with what we see in other cities in terms of the concept that they have plans for. We think it will be another asset to Bijou Street, which has seen a lot of growth in the last couple of years."

The building's sale, however, would mean Independent Records would leave downtown after 37 years, though it still has locations on Platte Avenue and elsewhere, Lambert said. In any case, he said, downtown is changing for the better.

"Downtown used to be down in the toilet up until about 10 years ago," Lambert said. "It's slowly but surely becoming revitalized."

But the food hall project isn't a done deal.

The property's sale isn't scheduled to be completed until July 1, Johnson said. It's not unusual for deals to get held up or even fall apart because of financial issues, structural problems with older buildings or other concerns.

At the same time, the developer is seeking a conditional use permit, which is required under downtown zoning for any business that operates as a bar, said Ryan Tefertiller, the city's urban planning manager. City codes define a bar as a business that receives more than half of its revenue from alcohol sales.

The city's Downtown Review Board - which considers some downtown development applications - must approve the conditional use permit, Tefertiller said. That approval would hinge on three criteria: whether the developer's project complies with downtown zoning rules and the city's comprehensive plan and what effect it would have on the surrounding area.

That last condition could be the most debated, Tefertiller said. At a meeting this week, nearby residents and property owners raised questions about the bar's operating hours, the food hall's potential tenant mix and the project's possible impact on Bijou Loft residents next door, among other issues, he said.

Also, if approved, a conditional use permit would be in effect for future building owners and operators, even if they change the format of the business, Tefertiller said.

Those concerns could be mitigated, though, by restrictions placed on the conditional use permit by the Downtown Review Board, such as a limit on hours. Tefertiller said he expects Marble Acquisitions to support reasonable restrictions on its project, and he's scheduled to talk this week with the company.

The Downtown Review Board is expected to consider the conditional use permit at its May 31 or July 5 meeting.

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Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228

Twitter: @richladen

Facebook: Rich Laden

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