Ms. Ricker began her presentation with a summary of the Copper Ridge at Northgate Market Analysis. She covered the economic conditions, regional trends, the City’s fiscal portfolio, competitive threats and overall prospects for this project. Leland Consulting Group’s recommendation was to begin a timeline for the project in 2013, extending over 2 phases of development. The original market analysis done by Jeff Green recommended that the first phase should be the power center and the second phase the regional center/mall. Leland recommends switching the phases and starting with the regional center/mall. The reasoning behind their recommendation is centered on the possibility of tenant competition with another urban renewal project, University Village Colorado and opening without a retail destination draw could give a nearby proposed development a head start in becoming the regional center.
Ms. Ricker also reviewed the site analysis for the project including demographics, access, visibility, traffic volume and aesthetic attributes along with surrounding land uses. She explained that the trade area that their analysis covered extended from northern central Colorado Springs to just outside of Castle Rock, Colorado. She also noted that some of the trade area would be overlap with customers shopping at the Park Meadows development on the southern boundary of Denver.
The next presentation by Leland Consulting Group was for the Copper Ridge at Northgate Urban Renewal Plan. Ms. Ricker explained that the Plan had been written to specify the responsibilities of the Urban Renewal Authority as well as those of the City of Colorado Springs. She noted that there were specific responsibilities of the Authority as set forth in the Colorado State Statutes that were identified in the Plan. She reviewed development objectives that included a retail center and the extension of Powers Boulevard to I-25. The public improvements and facilities section stated that the Authority may cooperate with other entities to install improvements or demolish buildings and combine public and private funding to accomplish the vision of the Plan. The Plan further states that the public investment objectives include a partnership be formed through agreements between the developer(s), City, CSURA, affected taxing entities and a special district.
Extensive discussion ensued among Authority members. The general consensus was to limit the responsibility of CSURA to only the extension of Powers Boulevard. Commissioner Olson boldly expressed his concerns over the consequences of extending Powers and labeling pristine land as blighted through the use of Urban Renewal on undeveloped acreage.
Commissioner Kin stated that he had serious concerns over the true feasibility of the Copper Ridge development. Commissioner Wood-Ellis felt that the community was not able to support two major retail centers so close together (referring to the proposed retail development at Interquest). She asked to hear from Mr. Chris Jenkins from Nor’wood Development and from Kevin Kratt, University Village Colorado developer. Mr. Jenkins expressed his concern over the fact that the extension of Powers Boulevard is a Colorado of Department of Transportation (CDOT) project and that is where the funding should come from. He also questioned why major high-end retailers would place another outlet 40 miles from where they are currently operating in Park Meadows. He stated that his research showed that most of the high-end retailers were hunkered down, reorganizing and attempting to weather the economic storm; they are not looking at expanding their stores at this time.
Mr. Chuck Miller interjected that the Copper Ridge at Northgate Urban Renewal Plan should reflect exactly what the Authority wants City Council to consider.
Mr. Kevin Kratt, Kratt Commercial Properties, stated that he considered Copper Ridge or any other retail development as direct competition for leasing up and retention of retailers to his project, University Village Colorado. He felt that if any of the major retailers in his development were to set up shop in another location sales would be diminished resulting in lower sales tax and tax increment financing (TIF) which is the revenue stream for the payment on the bonds for his development.
Mr. Gary Erickson, Northgate Properties, LLC, stated that even though the Jeff Green Report suggested that Costco or Lowe’s would be a possibility in the Copper Ridge project, he has had no contact with either retailer. He feels that neither are a good fit for his project, especially from a design standpoint. He stated that one of the goals of the Copper Ridge at Northgate development is to create a “shopping experience” not just a retail shopping center. He felt that there really is noo concern over cannibalism of tenants as his project is more focused on a very different clientele than the surrounding retail centers. He further stated that CDOT has no funding to extend Powers Boulevard at this time. He feels the only way to get the project accomplished is to self fund it and then request reimbursement for the cost of connecting Powers Boulevard to Interstate 25 from CDOT at a later time. He clearly reiterated that no TIF will be used towards the retail development. It will only be used to build Powers and that is in agreement with City Council. Mr. Alex Brown, Copper Ridge Finance Consultant, supported the fact that TIF was to be used for Powers only. He stated that other funding sources will be used for the development of the Copper Ridge project.
Ms. Nancy Strong, downtown resident, shared her concerns over sprawl and cannibalism. She feels the City should not be getting involved in a project that would compete with established retailers. She felt this project was not a good use of urban renewal and asked how CSURA could approve the road only and not the entire project area.
Mr. Chuck Murphy, representing the Downtown Partnership, stated that they are unanimously opposed to the Copper Ridge project and feel it is not within the mission of urban renewal. He stated there are many areas of Colorado Springs in decay that need to be redeveloped; not open green field space. He asked CSURA members “What is the best decision for Colorado Spring? What is the right thing to do?”
Mr. Bob Cope and Lisa Bigelow shared that Fred Crowley, UCCS economic analyst, has stated that Colorado Springs needs the stimulation of a large retail high-end development. It was further stated that Copper Ridge is not a good fit for development on Interquest. Both Cope and Bigelow reiterated that the sole purpose of Urban Renewal is to fund the extension of Powers and nothing else. The project area has been annexed into the City and therefore City services must be extended to the area. Mr. Cope stated that without the Powers connection sales tax is estimated to be around $95 million and with the extension the sales tax revenue should be in the range of $141 million. He felt it would be much easier to meet the City service needs with the increased revenue than without. Mr. Cope touched on many of the other concerns of Authority members concerning the project. Ms. Bigelow commented that City staff has already been in talks with many of the taxing entities involved in the project area. School District 20 and El Paso County both support the project development.
Chairperson Benson stated that there were three options for Authority members to consider concerning the Copper Ridge at Northgate Urban Renewal Plan:
1. Modify the Plan and approve it
2. Modify the Plan and defer it
3. Modify the Plan and reject it
Commissioner Kin wanted City Council to know that he feels that the Copper Ridge project is not a proper use of urban renewal. He has not heard enough information that convinces him that the recapture of lost sales tax outside of city limits is viable. He feels that the community should be involved in this issue. He questions whether there is enough corresponding economic benefit to complete the Powers connection to I-25. Commissioner Wood-Ellis stated that she is prepared to vote on the Plan. She is not pleased that the right-of-way (ROW) will be lost in 2018 when the other area developers have dedicated their portion of the ROW. City Staff stated that the other developers have agreements that state that they will donate their portion of the ROW when their project construction begins.
Commissioner Harman wants the Urban Renewal Plan to reflect exactly what the CSURA members want City Council to consider. Commissioner Venezia is in support of the Urban Renewal Plan will cast her vote accordingly.
Chairperson Benson asked Authority members if they can agree that the Plan needs to clearly state that TIF will only be used for the extension of Powers Boulevard.
There being for further discussion Commissioner Kin presented: