King Soopers expects to start construction this fall on its latest Pikes Peak region grocery — a larger format store with general merchandise sales that will anchor the planned 36-acre Falcon Marketplace shopping center in unincorporated Falcon northeast of Colorado Springs.

The 123,000-square-foot King Soopers Marketplace, to be built northwest of Woodmen and Meridian roads, is targeted for a late 2021 opening, King Soopers spokeswoman Jessica Trowbridge said via email.

The store will be King Soopers’ second marketplace store in the Colorado Springs area; the chain, a subsidiary of Cincinnati-based Kroger, opened its first marketplace in August 2017 at Marksheffel Road and Constitution Avenue, on the city’s east edge.

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Marketplace stores — similar to a Walmart Supercenter or a SuperTarget — are nearly twice the size of a typical King Soopers and sell clothing, household goods, dinnerware and small appliances to go with full lines of groceries.

“The store is intended to be a marketplace format, meeting many customers’ needs by providing one-stop shopping and access to the essentials customers are looking for,” Trowbridge said.

King Soopers will employ up to 200 people at the store, she said. El Paso County land records show another Kroger affiliate paid nearly $1.7 million in January to purchase the 10-acre King Soopers site at the shopping center.

The new King Soopers and Falcon Marketplace have been in the works for the last few years.

Project developer Hummel Investments of Dallas has been seeking El Paso County regulatory approvals for access into the site and other improvements; those upgrades now include two roundabouts within the shopping center property and a traffic signal at Meridian and Eastonville roads, according to documents on file with county planners.

Hummel officials didn’t return phone calls. Commercial brokers with Crosbie Real Estate Group in Denver, who are marketing Falcon Marketplace, also didn’t respond to several messages.

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A Crosbie online marketing brochure shows Falcon Marketplace also will have a King Soopers fuel station and a Firestone auto repair store. Other proposed retailers have included Starbucks and a Panda Express restaurant, although they’re not shown on the Crosbie marketing materials.

Site preparation and utility work have been taking place at the shopping center site over the last several weeks, but no construction has begun.

The addition of King Soopers is another testament to Falcon’s rapid growth over the last 30 to 40 years.

Falcon once was little more than a rural area with large ranches and relatively few homes sites. But as Colorado Springs grew to the north and east, developers bought land for residential neighborhoods and attracted residents by offering cheaper home prices and an escape from the city’s noise, traffic and congestion.

Today, Falcon is home to thousands of rooftops in Meridian Ranch, Woodmen Hills and other residential developments. The area around U.S. 24 and Woodmen and Meridian roads has been developed with a Walmart Supercenter, Safeway, Walgreens, McDonald’s and several more fast-food and sit-down restaurants, banks, dry cleaners, automotive supply stores and the like.

But even with so much growth, can Falcon support a third major grocery?

Jim Justus, president of Olive Real Estate Group, a Springs commercial brokerage, questioned if it can. A grocery store trade area extends only so far — possibly a 5-mile radius, he said.

“When you come right down to it, the demographic is only so big,” said Justus, who markets The Shops at Meridian Ranch, a small retail center northeast of Meridian and Stapleton Drive in Falcon that’s home to restaurants and service-oriented businesses serving nearby neighborhoods.

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“There are only so many thousands of people out there,” Justus said. “Whatever the (trade market) radius is, there’s a very limited number of people compared with other markets, other areas of the city.

“When you have Safeway and King Soopers and Walmart, especially somebody who does the grocery volume that Walmart does, somebody’s going to suffer.”

How the trade area is defined, however, will determine whether Falcon can support a third grocery, said Dan Rodriguez, a vice president and retail specialist with the Springs office of national real estate firm CBRE.

On the one hand, there aren’t enough people who live within a five-minute drive of the Walmart, Safeway and King Soopers sites in Falcon to sustain three groceries, Rodriguez said.

Yet, Falcon has become a shopping hub for residents of Calhan, Ramah and other areas of eastern El Paso County and even as far as Limon an hour away, he said.

And some residents of the Banning Lewis Ranch, which makes up the eastern one-third of Colorado Springs, might have a shorter drive to reach Falcon than to head back into town.

“The numbers, the demographics might be a little bit deceptive,” Rodriguez said.

“Within five minutes of those centers, I don’t think there are enough people to support three grocery stores. But when you factor in all the folks that are coming in from further out east, I think they very well could.”

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