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1/4/2004

Development paths paved in ’03

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Business developers found out in 2003 that you can get there from here.

Three significant road projects were completed this past year, and all three will do two things: Make motorists’ lives easier — although, in a couple of the cases, a bit more expensive — and foster significant business development around their fringes.

The $28 million Ken Pratt extension, connecting Ken Pratt Boulevard with the Diagonal Highway to the west and Colo. Highway 119 to the east, seems like a lazy, scenic drive through the country these days. But soon that will change.

At the east end of the extension, local developer Steve Strong is annexing 38 acres, which will, if approved, house a new Tiny Tim day-care center. Commercial development on the site will include a credit union and possibly a natural-foods grocery store.

“We are talking to some people, but we haven’t gotten a contract yet,” Strong told the Daily Times-Call in late November.

An even more intriguing development will occur on the western edge of the extension, on the north and south sides of the road near Main Street.

Panattoni Development Co. has submitted plans for Harvest Junction, a retail development that quite likely will include some big-box stores.

The Sacramento, Calif.,-based company, with local offices in Englewood, has contracted for 203 acres north of Quail Road and south of the St. Vrain River, between Emory Street and Martin Street.

Plans Panattoni has submitted to the city include a 113,000-square-foot building on the north side of the extension, and a 116,000-square-foot anchor on the south side. Several smaller buildings of various sizes are also in the plans.

Rumors have abounded over the past several weeks about what stores would be coming in, but at this point that’s all they are — rumors.

“We’ve had interest from a number of retailers,” said Jeremy Records, Panattoni’s development manager. “Nothing has been committed at this point.”

Although a 100,000-square-foot building certainly falls into the big box category, Records notes that “the depth of the site is kind of narrow,” making it a design challenge.

Home improvement store Lowe’s, American Furniture Warehouse and King Soopers all are rumored to be coming into the Harvest Junction development, but again, no one in the know is confirming anything.

“The Lowe’s project seems to have some substance to it, but who knows? These people come in all the time,” said Brad Schol, planning director with the city. “That group has been coming in for five years.”

Whoever it is, we’ll likely find out soon just which new retailers are coming into town.

“Right now, it’s hopefully something that we’re pretty close to being able to talk about,” said Records.

Whatever goes in along the Ken Pratt extension, it will be small potatoes compared to what’s going on at the intersection of Interstate 25 and Colo. Highway 7, just north of the E-470 interchange.

The two biggest retail projects in the state were announced this past year — and both of them at that intersection.

First, Jordon Perlmutter & Co. announced the Larkridge project, which would bring 240 acres and 2 million square feet of retail to the southeast corner of the intersection.

So far, only Home Depot has signed a letter-of-intent to locate there, but more signings are expected to be announced soon.

Construction on the project could begin this year, with a partial opening already in 2005.

According to the city of Thornton, which encompasses the property, the population of the area within a 10-mile radius of Larkridge will see up to 15 percent population growth by 2007, going from about 340,000 to 390,000 residents.

Not to be outdone, Denver developer Garrett Baum has announced plans to develop the northwest corner of the intersection — and the plans are even more ambitious than Larkridge: Baum’s plan calls for 280 acres and 3 million square feet of retail space.

By comparison, Park Meadows, in Douglas County, sits on 160 acres, and FlatIron Crossing is 140 acres.

With the $415 million Northwest Parkway, the $1.32 billion E-470 and the Ken Pratt extension all opening this past year, getting around got a whole lot easier in 2003.

Drive these roads now, while you can, so you can tell your grandkids, “Believe it or not, there was a time when there was nothing out here ... ”

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