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Westminster, CO–Forest City Enterprises plans to break ground in April on the $150 million, 1.3 million-sf lifestyle center called the Orchard at Westminster at interstate 25 and West 144th Avenue. The center, modeled after the company’s recently opened Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., will be anchored by a J.C. Penney’s and a Foley’s. Foley’s is owned by the St. Louis-based May Co. and is the dominant department store in the Denver metro area.

The two department stores will join a previously announced 12-screen AMC movie theater on the 215-acres site. The center is scheduled to open in phases starting in October 2006. Forest City, based in Cleveland, in the metro area also is developing Stapleton, which is three quarters the size of the island of Manhattan and the largest infill development in the country, and the 750,000-sf Saddle Rock Village retail center in southeast Aurora.

The Orchard at Westminster is designed to serve the under-retailed northern corridor. ” I think it is a fantastic project,” Mary Beth Jenkins, a real estate broker and consultant with the Denver-based Laramie Co. tells GSR. “ Forest City is coming up with this after their incredible success at Rancho Cucamonga. That center is just blowing everyone’s socks off. I hesitate to even call these malls, because they’re more of a Main Street, village-center. Department stores need to really think outside of the box, so to speak, and this represents the new wave and evolution of centers. And each time they do one, they learn and improve it.”

She’d get no argument form Brian Jones, president of Los Angeles-based Forest City West. “The Orchard at Westminster is designed to be reminiscent of the Main Streets of small towns in the first half of the 20th century,” Jones says. He notes it eventually will have 60 to 80 retailers for an “underserved and growing market in the northern Denver metro area, the site of the region’s major growth….”The southern portion of the Denver metro area is nearly built out. Demographic studies show that future growth will be north and northeast of the Denver area, along I-25 and I-76, and this prime site is located on a corridor north of downtown Denver that does not have a regional center.”

The recent approval of the intergovernmental agreement to build an interchange at 144th Avenue and I-25, with the City of Thornton and the City of Westminster, paved the way for the final step in the development of The Orchard at Westminster. The schedule for the interchange will coordinate with construction of the lifestyle center.

“The interchange has been a key development in positioning this site for commercial use,” says Brent McFall, Westminster’s city manager. “It was an essential part of the development plan that Westminster and Thornton had jointly proposed beginning back in 2000. That development plan reflected the shared vision for the north I-25 area. Additionally, the cities have a revenue-sharing agreement for projects built within this area, so Thornton and Westminster will both benefit from this new project,”

The Orchard at Westminster also will also include 500 housing units and office space. . relationships with the top-flight retailers who will bring the best to our area.” Peter Calthorpe, a well-known New Urbanism urban planner, has been hired by Forest City West to create the overall master plan. And the Denver-based Mullhern Group, will be the lead planner for the retail portion, joining with design architects Elkus/Manfredi Ltd. of Boston and Field Paoli of San Francisco in creating the commercial and mixed-use design concepts and their execution.

The center will be at the northeast portion of Westminster, in the extreme northwest corner of Adams County, approximately three miles south of Weld County and about 3.5 miles east of Boulder County. These counties comprise the primary trade area and have projected growth rates even higher than that of the greater Denver region, according to statistics provided by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Growth from 2000 to 2020 is estimated at 58% for the three counties combined, with the greatest growth in percentage coming from Weld County. Retail consultant Jenkins tells GlobeSt.com that some people in the area currently are driving all of the way to the Taubman-owned Cherry Creek regional shopping center about three miles southeast of downtown Denver, because they have no place to shop in their area.

“We know that the growth is coming, and we know it will be centered in this area,” says city manager McFall. “Given those demographic trends, and with the addition of a brand new interchange at 144th Avenue and I-25, this is clearly the most desirable site for retail development.” The Orchard at Westminster will generate more than $150 million in sales revenues annually, producing $86.4 million in new retail sales tax, property tax and business license taxes over a 10-year period. These revenues will help pay for the costs of municipal services, such as police, fire and recreational programs, increasingly demanded by the citizens of this fast-growing city. It also will create more than 3,000 new permanent and part-time jobs.

Jenkins says the new center will work well with the nearby Larkridge power center under development by the Denver-based Jordon Perlmutter & Co. “Perlmutter has really carved out a more traditional power center niche,” she says. “There’s room for everybody out there right now. Whether that will change, will depend on who else throws his hat in the ring.”

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