Fort Collins Sears objects to ‘my way or the highway’ approach

FORT COLLINS — The Sears district manager of retail services sought to drum up public support to keep the store at the Foothills Mall, urging residents in a commentary published Monday to speak out on behalf of the threatened retailer.

In a “Soapbox” piece that appeared in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Kelly Meyer wrote that Sears has been successful in Fort Collins for nearly 40 years. Meyer called on residents to contact city council members and voice their concern over potentially losing the store before the council’s Jan. 15 vote on whether to invoke eminent domain on the property.

The Foothills Mall was purchased last summer by a development group composed of Denver-based Alberta Development Partners and Chicago-based Walton Street Capital. The new owners have said that they want to spend $100 million redeveloping the aging mall, incorporating higher-end tenants and other more upscale amenities. The developers have made it clear that Sears does not fit the tenant mix they are seeking and has offered to purchase the building that Sears inhabits.

The amount offered to Sears has not been disclosed, but in her letter, Meyer said that Sears has been “offered a small fraction of what the store is worth to sell.”

Meyer expressed disappointment with the local government for “rushing to use its eminent domain power to shut down a successful store.”

“This move would set a precedent that should give every business and homeowner in Fort Collins pause,” Meyer wrote. “After all, if they can steamroll a national retailer like Sears to aid a private developer, what chance would smaller local businesses or residential areas have in the future if the city slaps a target on their back?”

Meyer said that losing Sears would mean losing more than $1 million per year in property, sales and employee taxes paid to the city. In addition, 100 employees would be out of a job in the event that Sears closes.

“The current ‘my way or the highway’ approach by some in city government, in league with the private developer, serves no positive purpose and is poised to not only do real harm today. Instead, it sets a very scary precedent for an abuse of government power for private gain that will not easily be reversed,” Meyer wrote.

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