Rifle Commons groundbreaking a special moment
Post Independent Staff
The 12 new shovels, stuck into the mushy dirt at Rifle Commons, didn’t stand alone for long at Friday morning’s groundbreaking ceremony.
“We need the mayor,” developer David Glimcher shouted through a brisk breeze as his assistants rounded up dignitaries to formally start construction on the 49-acre shopping center.
“Here’s a little souvenir for you,” David Glimcher Co. employee Adam Rudolph said to Harold Shaeffer and John Savage, handing them plastic hard hats.
Shaeffer and Savage were quickly joined by 10 other ground breakers, including Glimcher and his partner, Larry Ruben, City Council members Alan Lambert, Joe Clugston and Judy Builteman, and Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert.
The cold wind blew through a crowd of more than 50 warmly dressed business people, town officials, chamber members and staff, residents and a few curiosity seekers.
Glimcher concluded his brief remarks by looking past Friday’s groundbreaking to next November, when the 350,000-square-foot shopping center is expected to be up and running.
“The day after Thanksgiving Day, we hope to have a line of cars all the way back to Glenwood Springs,” Glimcher said, waving his arm toward the east.
His comments were greeted by muffled applause from the gloved crowd.
A 156,000-square-foot Wal-Mart super store, which will sell groceries, tires and prescription glasses, will anchor Rifle Commons, located on Airport Road south of Interstate 70.
Wal-Mart broke ground on its store with no fanfare last week. During Thursday’s ceremony, gigantic earthmoving trucks sped back and forth across the 17 acres of flat dirt the store and parking lot will cover. No Wal-Mart representatives attended the ceremony.
“They are pretty choosy about groundbreakings,” developer Ruben said after the ceremony. “They usually come out when stores actually open.”
As the groundbreaking crew disbursed, and the crowd made its way to waiting vehicles and lunch, courtesy of the developers, at Rifle’s Subway Sandwich shop, City Councilwoman Builteman corralled Glimcher and Ruben. Food was on Builteman’s mind, but it wasn’t lunch.
“The people I’ve talked to want an Appleby’s, a Village Inn or a Cracker Barrel,” Builteman told the pair.
“We’re working on it,” Glimcher said with a laugh.
Other than Wal-Mart, Glimcher said the only other confirmed tenant is Sonic Drive-In. Announcements about other tenants will be made very soon, Glimcher said.
Rifle’s City Council quickly approved Rifle Commons last year. “It’s been a good process,” Ruben told the crowd. “The city has been wonderful.”
While Rifle officials look forward to increased sales tax revenues the shopping center is expected to generate, some store owners and managers in Rifle are wary.
Nola’s Ark pet store has operated in a converted, small clapboard house on north Railroad Avenue for the past nine years. At midday Thursday, store manager Sarah Pace was on her hands and knees, vacuuming out tall bird cages in a room that once was a bedroom.
She got to her feet and walked to the store’s front room, past aquariums and cages of hamsters and guinea pigs, and stopped at the counter. Like other Rifle merchants, Pace has been wondering what Wal-Mart’s arrival will mean.
“We hope people will keep coming,” Pace said. “We carry a lot of things Wal-Mart doesn’t have, and our things are better quality. You get what you pay for.”
Rifle Commons expects to attract shoppers from as far away as Meeker and Craig. Many Rifle stores hope those out-of-towners will stop at their places on their way through town.
“We hope so,” Pace said. “That’s the advantage to being on Railroad Avenue.”
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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