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12/5/2004

Shopper’s paradise

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — When Patrick Paulin’s company was shopping around for a place to open some T-Mobile stores, they looked up and down the Front Range and ended up opening four locations — two of them in Longmont.

“We did the market tour, we did the market research and we felt Longmont was a good place to start,” said Paulin, who has both a storefront and kiosk in Twin Peaks Mall. His other two locations are in Superior and Lone Tree.

While it’s hard not to notice the retail growth that has come to the Longmont-Boulder-Broomfield area, you may be surprised to learn that the options to shop till you drop in this area stack up in number with anything that’s out there nationally.

The Longmont-Boulder metropolitan statistical area, which includes the Flatiron Crossing shopping area in Broomfield, is third in the nation in what the National Research Bureau calls “gross leasable area” per capita.

According to the NRB’s annual Market Scoreboard report, which covers more than 300 MSAs nationwide, the Longmont-Boulder area offers 28.79 square feet of retail space per person.

This includes only shopping centers, not stand-alone retail stores or areas.

“It’s a planned development that’s owned, leased and marketed as an entity,” said Nancy Veatch, NRB president. “And it has to include at least three stores.”

The Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, for example, doesn’t meet the criteria and is not a part of the survey.

The annual survey compares the population of the MSA with the total square footage available to come up with its GLA per capita.

Nancy Rezac, general manager at Twin Peaks Mall, said she’s not particularly surprised by the findings, especially given that the Flatiron Crossing area is included in our MSA.

“The way I see it is that each one of these centers caters to a specific shopping need,” said Rezac. “So while the market is full of options, I think people need a variety of places to shop, and that’s why all these centers are being developed.”

Four-year-old Flatiron Crossing has 1.44 million square feet of GLA, third in the state behind Park Meadows and Westminster malls.

The Denver MSA has enough large centers that it finished seventh on the Market Scoreboard list.

But Southern markets dominate the top 10: Myrtle Beach, S.C., finished first with slightly more than 43 square feet per person. CBL & Associates, the company that owns Twin Peaks Mall, just opened a new center in Myrtle Beach, Rezac said.

No. 2 on the list was Fort Myers-Cape Coral, Fla., at 35 square feet per capita.

Seven of the top 10 areas in terms of GLA are in Southern states, and four of those are in Florida.

The “Golden Triangle” of biotechnology — Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C. — is ninth on the list.

“That area’s always been strong for growth,” said Rezak, who used to live there. “There’s a lot of colleges and universities there.”

The other northern MSA on the list is the town of Elmira, in upstate New York.

Veatch said the Market Scoreboard, which the NRB sells for $250, is used “primarily by shopping center developers and retailers, people who are using it for site selection people, in the investment community. Also, people who sell services to the shopping centers,” such as roofers and marketers.

The survey isn’t meant to be comprehensive, she said, but it does give those who care a snapshot of how retail is shaping up in markets across the country.

Just because an area — such as this one — is heavily populated with retail doesn’t mean there might not be room for more, she said.

“Let’s see how it compares to markets of similar size, let’s see specifically what retailers are in those markets,” Veatch said, illustrating one way her customers use the data. “Is this a market that we want to stay away from, or is this a market that we want to be in?”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.