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4/20/2003

Plan for Crossroads is in place

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — It’s a facelift that is long overdue.

Years of Crossroads Mall inertia finally might be coming to an end with the recent introduction of a plan to give the mall a complete makeover.

Westcor Realty, the development arm of Macerich Corp., has submitted preliminary plans to the city of Boulder to dramatically transform the 68-acre site.

“I think the plan’s off to a good start,” said Brad Power, the executive director of the Boulder Urban Renewal Authority. “We really tried to encourage them to transform the center from a tired old mall into something dynamic.”

Westcor’s “pre-application submittal” calls for most of the existing structure to be torn down, with the exception of Foley’s and the Sears building. In its place, a collection of buildings — large and small — will be divided into three “neighborhoods,” as Westcor calls them.

In what Scholl referred to as “streetscape retail,” Canyon Boulevard and 29th Street will be extended to run through the length of the property, connecting Arapahoe Boulevard to Walnut Street and 28th Street to 30th Street.

The plan also calls for more than 2 acres of open space, and a new 28,000-square-foot “portal” at the corner of 28th Street and Arapahoe Avenue, on the southwest corner of the property.

“It’s a start,” said David Scholl, a senior vice president with Macerich. “That’s all it represents is a start. We use this plan as a starting point to formalize the plan with city officials.”

That process will begin Wednesday, when Scholl and others meet with city representatives.

Westcor’s plan calls for nearly 757,000 square feet of retail space, with the biggest single structure being a 140,000-square-foot, free-standing building at the corner of 30th Street and Arapahoe Avenue.

At the center of the project will be a five-block-long “pedestrian-friendly” area with retail and restaurants, and a 14-plex movie theater on one end and a department store on the other.

There also will be buildings to accommodate “mini-anchor” stores, a grocery store and a bank. Other, larger spaces will be built to accommodate bunches of smaller retailers — those seeking 2,000 to 4,000 square feet.

Scholl wouldn’t say specifically what clients Westcor is trying to lure to the new Crossroads, but he said the plan — combined with Boulder’s demographics — is attracting a lot of interest.

“Large tenants are not an option; they’re a necessary ingredient to our success,” Scholl said. “We’re going to try to be selective about getting the kind of big box that complements the variety of our merchandise mix, rather than be a category-killer and limiting the variety of product.”

In other words, Foley’s and any other department stores that Westcor brings in would not be appreciative if a discount clothing store were to move in.

“A discount customer is there to make sure they get the most value for their dollar. A department store shopper will, too, but the type of shoppers just have a different flow,” said Patrice Duker, a spokeswoman with the International Council of Shopping Centers, a New York-based industry association. “It’s really up to the developer to find what’s missing.”

Duker said redevelopment of malls such as Crossroads, built in the early ’60s, is fairly common across the country — when they’re not being torn down for something completely different.

“We are seeing some older centers reconvert themselves in a variety of ways,” Duker said. “Some are going more big-box; some are going to more of a lifestyle center. (Enclosed malls) are still being built in this country, but they’re being built on a very, very large scale.”

Scholl was one of those involved with the development of Broomfield’s FlatIron Crossing, and he was hired by Macerich when that California company acquired Westcor last year for $1.475 billion.

He said that during his time working on the Broomfield project, he became aware of the difficulty Macerich and the city of Boulder had in coming to an agreement on what to do with the languishing mall. Now that he’s in charge, he hopes to finalize a plan that will please the city, Westcor’s tenants and Boulder shoppers.

“The only thing for sure about this plan is it’s going to change,” Scholl said, adding that both the city and prospective tenants, as well as the residents of Boulder, will have an opportunity to give their input. Power said a variety of city departments, led by planning, would be closely reviewing the proposal.

“My guess is we will spend most of 2003 going through the entitlement process,” Scholl said, adding that if all goes well, the company hopes to begin construction next year and have some tenants open in 2005.

One thing is for certain: The plan is the first positive news involving Crossroads in years. Foley’s is the lone anchor — indeed, one of the few remaining stores — still open at the mall. Sears left in January.

Other plans have come and gone, including ones that would have involved the city financially and would have included affordable housing. This time, though, it’s all Macerich, and Power thinks the days of stagnation may soon be over.

“I think the issues on the site and the complexities of the site are so well known to all the parties, I don’t think anything’s going to come up that we can’t work out,” Power said.

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