King Soopers store opens amid high hopes

0603FORT COLLINS — The new King Soopers Marketplace store in north Fort Collins is celebrating its grand opening week, and hopes are high that the mega-grocery will be a lynchpin in helping lift up the area’s business community.

“I think obviously it’s going to be a service that helps out the people in the area, but it’s also going to spur some more future development in our area and add (tax increment financing) money for the Urban Renewal Area so we can continue to do more improvement and infrastructure there,” said Dean Hoag, owner of Rocky Mountain Battery and president of the North College Business Association.

Under construction for a year, the North College Marketplace had a new Chase Bank and Bullfrog Wine and Spirits already open when the anchor store — the 123,000-square-foot King Soopers Marketplace — opened June 1.

The development also includes two existing businesses — Pobre Poncho’s Mexican Restaurant and North College Motors — and will eventually add more shops, including a Great Clips hair salon.

But the star attraction is the King Soopers supermarket, the second of three Marketplace stores set to open this year. A similar store opened in Greeley in February at 6922 10th Street and another is scheduled to open Dec. 1 in Arvada.

Kelli McGannon, King Soopers/City Market public affairs director, said the three new stores are much bigger than the company’s typical stores and include a wide variety of additional shopping experiences.

“They have all the things you’re used to finding at King Soopers, plus a kitchen supply, bed-and-bath accessories, even furniture that you can use in your home,” she said. “We think our customers will like the expanded variety.”

Competitive environment

McGannon said other features include a “baby world” that offers “everything for the baby,” a Fred Meyers jewelry store, a Starbucks coffee shop, sushi bar, US Bank, pharmacy, deli and a grill in the meat department.

“It really is amazing,” she said. “We think we can offer some easy one-stop shopping.”

McGannon said King Soopers realizes grocery shoppers are increasingly looking for the kind of experience offered by Walmart SuperStores.

“Everybody knows the grocery market in Colorado is very competitive,” she said. “King Soopers has to work hard every day to earn that shopper’s dollar, and one-stop shopping is a way to establish brand loyalty with that consumer.

“Is that good for King Soopers? Of course,” she added. “But it’s really a win-win strategy for everyone.”

McGannon said the store’s opening is providing jobs for 212 people, not counting those who worked to build it. “It’s a great boost for the local economy,” she said. “These are good jobs with good pay and benefits. They offer a fair wage, quality health-care benefits and a possible career.”

McGannon noted that the current average length of service for a King Soopers/City Market employee is 17 years.

The new $40 million King Soopers Marketplace store will also include a walk-in health-care clinic called The Little Clinic, the 14th Colorado location to be opened by a Brentwood, Tenn.-based company. The clinic will have two exam rooms, a private waiting area and an electronic kiosk for patient sign-in.

The Little Clinic is open seven days a week and no appointment is necessary. A list of accepted insurances is available at www.thelittleclinic.com.

The new King Soopers store is the fifth for Fort Collins. “The Fort Collins community has been fantastic for us, so that made it an easy decision to make it the location of our second Marketplace store,” McGannon said.

URA thriving

The North College Marketplace project was developed by Loveland Commercial LLC, headed by partners Eric Holsapple and Don Marostica. The developers were able to secure $8 million in tax-increment financing in 2008 from the newly established North College Urban Renewal Authority.

The URA was created to help move development forward in the blighted area north of downtown Fort Collins. The URA has also helped finance other improvements in the area, including expansions of JAX Mercantile, Valley Steel and Wire, Kaufman and Robinson and a new building for the Rocky Mountain Innosphere.

URA funding is also pledged to help fund Union Place, a proposed 89-unit residential development just west of College Avenue that has infrastructure installed and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2012.

Business Association President Hoag said the additional tax value of the projects will help fund new infrastructure in the North College URA, including new sidewalks, utilities and other amenities.

“The value of (North College Marketplace) and other projects increases the tax base and we’re able to put that money back in to improve the infrastructure up here,” he said.

Hoag said he was pleased to see the project come to completion. “I’m happy to see King Soopers worked through these tough times to make it happen,” he said. “I think once people see what a great project it is, more development is going to happen and it will kick-start a lot of stuff.”

One unknown is what impact the King Soopers Marketplace will have on the Albertson’s grocery just across the street. The Bullfrog liquor store has already moved from next to the Albertson’s to the Marketplace space.

Christine Wilcox, Albertson’s spokeswoman, said the company does not “comment on competition or competitive openings,” but noted that Albertson’s has “no current plans to close any of our locations.”

Hoag said he hopes both stores can co-exist. “There’s always that concern when competition comes in,” he said. “It’s tough, because you want to see development but you don’t want to see existing development hurt.

“I hope they can go on side by side and make it a competitive environment that works for everybody in the area.”

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