A Sears store that opened in Colorado Springs when Dwight Eisenhower was president, and another that helped lead the city’s north side growth over nearly four decades, will close next year as the bankrupt retailer seeks to stave off liquidation.

The Springs locations — at 2050 Southgate Road in the Broadmoor Towne Center and 1650 Briargate Blvd. in the Chapel Hills Mall — are among 80 stores nationwide that will close, Sears announced Friday, in addition to 182 locations whose closings were announced earlier. The Sears at the Pueblo Mall also will close.

The stores will shutter in late March, and liquidation sales will begin in two weeks, the retailer said. Auto centers at the Colorado Springs and Pueblo stores also will close in late January.

“It’s one of those retailers that just didn’t keep up with the times,” said Mark Useman, a retail specialist with brokerage Colorado Springs Commercial.

News of the local closings came on the heels of a bankruptcy filing in October by the iconic Sears, once the nation’s largest department store chain, and the retailer’s attempts to stay alive.

The Sears closings in Colorado Springs are disappointing but hardly surprising, say local commercial brokers. The retailer once was the “go-to place” for tools, appliances and clothes, but it didn’t keep pace with other brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers, said Dan Rodriguez, a broker with the Springs office of national real estate firm CBRE.

“They just haven’t changed enough,” he said. “There’s enough other retailers that do those things and do them well.”

Useman said Sears didn’t change its merchandise brands, for example, to meet changing consumer tastes.

“They had the opportunity to be somebody like Amazon at one time, and they didn’t do it,” he said.

A single-story, 142,000-square-foot Sears store opened at the southwest side Broadmoor Towne Center — then the Southgate Shopping Center — on Feb. 28, 1957, according to a story in the then-Gazette Telegraph. A crowd of 30,000 to 35,000 celebrated the opening of what was then the area’s largest department store. It replaced a downtown store.

The Sears at Chapel Hills Mall, a two-story, 141,000-square-foot space, opened in March 1982, a few months before a ribbon-cutting for the rest of the mall. With Sears as an anchor, Chapel Hills became part of a wave of north side retail centers developed to follow thousands of homes springing up in Briargate and other north side neighborhoods and subdivisions.

Of the retail properties, the Broadmoor Towne Center is in a better position to weather the loss of Sears, said Rodriguez, whose CBRE markets the southern portion of the retail complex. In fact, Home Depot, PetSmart, Bed, Bath and Beyond and other stores there probably did more to draw customer traffic for Sears, he said.

Finding a single user for the Broadmoor Towne Center store could be tough, retail brokers said. Yet the building might get plenty of interest, especially if it’s remodeled to accommodate multiple businesses.

Some retailers with locations in north and northeast Colorado Springs — such as Best Buy, Sprouts and Whole Foods — have yet to open on the southwest side and could be candidates to come if the Sears space becomes available, said John Egan, a broker with NAI Highland in the Springs.

The Chapel Hills Mall is on the north end of the popular North Academy Boulevard retail corridor, yet it’s been hit hard in recent years by closings, and the loss of Sears won’t help.

The Borders Books & Music space has been vacant since that retailer went out of business in 2011; J.C. Penney shuttered a 20-year-old store three years later; and Gordmans closed in May 2017 less than a year after it opened.

Some real estate experts consider malls to be retail dinosaurs. Many shoppers prefer to park close to a store instead of strolling through a mall to reach a retailer. Also, many aging malls that don’t spruce up their common areas and food courts are losing shoppers to newer and trendier retail centers that offer entertainment and other new concepts to go with stores and restaurants.

Although Chapel Hills remains part of a fast-growing part of the Springs with attractive household incomes, it’s competing against newer commercial centers on the north and northeast sides such as InterQuest Marketplace, Polaris Pointe, InterQuest Commons and the Promenade Shops at Briargate.

Securing a single retailer to take over the Sears space isn’t impossible but will be tough, Useman said.

Egan said only so many retailers are available to serve a market. And like the store at Broadmoor Towne Center, the Sears at Chapel Hills might have to become home to multiple tenants — not only retailers, but also nontraditional users such as schools, offices and storage facilities.

“They’re going to have to adapt and modify the building,” Egan said.

“And the building may not be 100 percent retail anymore.”

The chain had a Friday deadline for bids for its remaining stores to avert closing completely. Eddie Lampert, chairman of the chain, made a late-day bid to keep parent company Sears Holdings alive. He was the only potential buyer.

Sears also has been soliciting liquidation bids that would mean shutting hundreds of Sears and Kmart stores — which have the same parent company — and eliminating more than 50,000 jobs. The rules give Sears flexibility to extend the deadline or make other changes that might promote more bids.

Colorado Springs’ last Kmart closed in April.

Dow Jones and Bloomberg news services contributed to this report.

Business writer, Colorado Springs Gazette

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