Several Carbondale businesses are scrambling to relocate and others are just plain calling it quits following plans for one of the town’s oldest strip malls to be redeveloped.
The proposed new Carbondale Center Place was given preliminary approval Jan. 14 by the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission, and is slated to go before the Board of Trustees for final consideration on Feb. 9.
It would replace the existing 57-year-old Sopris Shopping Center at the corner of Colorado Highway 133 and Colorado Avenue with a mix of 10,000 square feet of ground-level commercial space, 76 residential units and a new 68,000 square-foot self-storage facility where the existing Sopris Self Storage is now located, immediately east of the plaza.
Until earlier this month, nine businesses remained in the shopping center, with a handful of empty storefronts.
Final notices went out Jan. 7 that businesses would need to vacate by the end of February, or earlier. However, businesses were put on initial notice in January 2020 that the longtime owner of the property, Dr. Ron Stein of California, was planning to tear down and rebuild on the site.
“I know that (the tenants) are unhappy, and understand that they wish they could have more time,” said Jessica Kidd, who manages the storage units and helps with shopping center management. “But, they were given notice a year ago that this was happening.”
Since the Jan. 7 notice, one long-standing restaurant, Los Cabos Mexican Grill, has closed for good. Another, El Pollo Rico, indicated to the Sopris Sun newspaper last week that it does not plan to reopen, and will instead focus efforts on the owners’ newest venture, Frida Authentic Mexican Food in Glenwood Springs.
One of only two laundromats in Carbondale that has operated for decades at the location, Sopris Laundry, has also since closed.
Others, including the popular Ragged Mountain Sports used sporting equipment consignment shop, the new JC’s Breakfast and Lunch, Ming’s Cafe, the HighQ marijuana shop and Sopris Crossfit, all face the same dilemma. A representative at CV Phones said last week that they have secured a new space near Alpine Bank in Carbondale.
Others have indicated they must secure a place to relocate by the end of next month, or they’ll need to close for a period of time until they do.
Renee Grossman owns HighQ. She offered during last week’s P&Z meeting that a mere 60-day extension, before the property is scheduled to be razed this spring, is a reasonable request.
“Right now, we have a shortage of commercial space in Carbondale, and then a lot that’s coming on line,” she said. “Several of these businesses are minority or women-owned businesses. If we could just have 60 days to move and not have to lay off any staff … We’re not trying to delay the project. We just want to have some continuity for our business.”
Ming’s Cafe owner Michael Zhang said he, too, could use more time to prepare for a planned move into the new commercial space adjacent to the new City Market store across Highway 133.
Ragged Mountain owner Aisha Weinhold said another issue for businesses is that much of what’s available and coming on line in the way of commercial space is about double the rent per square foot.
She is working to secure a new location, but could also use that extra 60-day extension, if possible.
“We’ve been here for 10 years, and I’ve owned the business for six years,” Weinhold said. “It’s important to me that we find a place that’s not going to be torn down in the next year.”
That ruled out some other older commercial plazas that could also be redeveloped in the near future, she said.
The redevelopment project itself earned a unanimous recommendation for approval from the P&Z Commission, and the consensus in preliminary discussions at the town board level is that it would be an improvement to the highway frontage.
P&Z Chairman Michael Durant acknowledged the tenant concerns, but said the town cannot get involved in private lease contracts and negotiations.
“The Commission is very sympathetic with the tenants, but there’s not a lot the town can do about that,” he said.