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10/2/2003

Ex-FRCC home proving tough to rent

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Convenient location, 30,000 square feet, and it’s classroom ready. Call it a school-ready retail space in search of a tenant.

The former home of Front Range Community College is proving to be a challenge to rent, according to Thomas Mark, managing partner of Horizon Mall Associates, owners of the majority of the property in the Horizon Park Shopping Center at 21st Avenue and Main Street.

The vacancy, wedged between K-Mart and a handful of smaller retailers, has been empty since FRCC moved to its new campus in August.

It contains a large amount of classroom space “and a lot of specialized high-tech wiring — telephone, data communications,” Mark said. “We have a lot of high-tech lab facilities. In there too are specialized nurse’s training areas.”

Mark said the property is listed for rent — for between $6 and $9 a square foot — with Keller Williams Commercial.

“We’ve shown it to several people, but we haven’t gotten somebody to step up,” Mark said.

The space is being advertised as “divisible,” but Mark said he would like someone to take a look at it as a place to conduct classes. So far, no takers, however.

“The preference would be for education,” said Mark. “We would like to exhaust every single possibility before we reconfigure. It’s a crime to tear down a million dollars of improvements.

“If you were to take a vacant building today and try to convert it into classroom space, it would probably cost you a minimum of a million dollars, and that’s a million dollars most people don’t have,” he said. “And these improvements are there, and they’re really done in first-class condition.”

Built in 1976, the shopping center has been owned by Horizon Mall Assoc. since 1991. The exception is the K-Mart property; that company leases its land from another, out-of-state company.

Mark said that Front Range signed the original lease for its space in 1994.

“The city wanted the college, and we and the city and the chamber worked out a deal,” said Mark. “The city put money in, the chamber put money in, and we did. So it was a pretty good partnership.”

Steven Roszell, a broker with Keller Williams Commercial, said the timing of the space being empty has worked against it in terms of leasing the space to a school.

“We’ve put it in front of a couple of for-profit schools,” Roszell said, but given that their school years have just started, no one will seriously consider it before next year.

In the meantime, Roszell said others that have expressed interest in the space have been a “dollar store-type” business, a bingo parlor and a wedding hall.

“The infrastructure that’s in there, it’d be a shame if we had to let it go — tear it all up,” he said. “Anyone that wants to do a school is going to have to do exactly what Tom and (FRCC) have already spent the money to do.”

Roszell and Mark both said there’s no time frame on how long they’ll sit on the property, but given that commercial vacancy rates are already high, having this particular property sit empty for an extended period of time is not an attractive option.

“We’ve started to look at other possibilities,” Mark said. “You have to.”

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