New retail developments top story of 2013

1/1/2014

Editor's Note:This is the final in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories for 2013.

Editor's Note:This is the final in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories for 2013.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

It's been a big year for retail development in Garden City.

Menards, a home improvement store and contractor supplier, overcame significant damage due to a vandalism spree in February and opened in late May as the anchor of the first part of a two-phase, $67.2 million retail shopping development being built on Garden City's east side.

North Carolina-based real estate company Collett & Associates began planning more than three years ago on creating more than 400,000 square feet of retail space on more than 60 acres of land north of Schulman Avenue and south of Sam's Club, east of the U.S. Highway 50/83 bypass.

Over the summer, Collett announced seven major tenants for Phase II of the project, the Schulman Crossing shopping center located north of Menards. They include T.J. Maxx, Petco, Cato Fashion, Dick's Sporting Goods, Hobby Lobby, Ross Dress for Less and Ulta Cosmetics.

The retail boom is The Telegram's top news story for 2013, as voted on by The Telegram staff.

Schulman Crossing Phase II alone will add more than 200,000 square feet of retail space. Site work got under way in October. Stores are expected to be open sometime in late summer 2014.

"This is going to be the epicenter and retail vortex for western Kansas," John Collett, president of Collett & Associates, said during a November groundbreaking that recognized both phases of the project. "There's no way for any other city out there to compete with what already was here and what we're putting here. That's a good thing for us and a good thing for your city."

And there's room to grow. Another 30,000 to 35,000 square feet of space are available on the north end of the project for an eighth major tenant, as well as additional property to the west that developers intend to fill up by targeting tenants like Panera Bread or Chipotle Mexican Grill.

In addition to retail stores, Collett previously has told the city it expects to bring in five to 10 restaurants, ranging from fast food to full service.

Mayor Dan Fankhauser said the development will be a big asset to Garden City's shopping opportunities, adding more stores to an already strong retail market that will create even more of a draw to the area.

"This has been a great year. I've been pleased with what's gone on this past year, and I think it will grow. There will be some additional shops probably coming in. When people see the activity here and they see the pull factor that we have, it just brings additional shopping to the area," he said.

While not a part of Schulman Crossing, a $25 million project to build a hotel, water park and Old Chicago restaurant were also announced over the summer and are anticipated to be built in 2014.

"With the hotel and water park there, that's going to draw some people over here, too, and hopefully it will be a destination. That will help," Fankhauser said.

Fankhauser is excited about the impact new stores will have for city sales tax revenues, and the prospect of increasing Garden City's claim to be a regional hub.

"It's one of the goals we all had for the year. I've been promoting Garden City as the regional hub of western Kansas. That's my tagline," he said.

Fankhauser said there are five things that make Garden City a regional center: the regional airport; Lee Richardson Zoo; downtown; St. Catherine Hospital; and retail shopping.

Some of the threads for what eventually became the Schulman Crossing project were spun as early as 2009 as a development team working with an unnamed retailer began looking for viable places to build in Garden City.

City Manager Matt Allen said that initial search for sites evolved into a multi-store concept that finally began to come together in early 2011, when Collett came on board, providing a developer willing to take on a big project.

"This project has had so many variations and concepts to keep it alive, keep it moving forward," Allen said. "It was as small as three stores and as large as 25 or more. The original retailer who sort of drove the whole start of the project isn't even represented in the project as it exists."

Allen said the entire Schulman project is exceeding expectations. When initially looking at the numbers three years ago, the city felt it would be a success if phase II could break ground in year three or four. For it to be on track for opening in year two is a big success.

"I think from our standpoint, while it's not fully developed and it needs to fully develop, after one year heading into year two, we couldn't be more pleased than we are," Allen said.

Allen said another reason Schulman Crossing happened is the strong support of the Garden City Commission all the way through the process beginning years ago. No one on the commission now was on the commission at the beginning, he said.

As commissioners have changed, and leadership has changed, Allen said there has never been any deviation from the mindset of making the city a commercial retail hub.

"Not many communities can boast that level of commitment to a project that takes four years from start to finish," he said. "In addition, having a community that is willing to stay that course and stick to that vision, as well, is the second ingredient."

Allen noted the city's community partners — Finney County, Garden City Community College, USD 457, Finney County Economic Development Corp., Downtown Vision, and the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce — all supported the project.

As stores began to be announced, Allen said, the commitment emanated from those boards and their membership. He said the commitment did not go unnoticed by Collett, who told Allen he was amazed at the positive response toward the project from all sectors of the community.

"When you've got the quality mom and pops in the central district saying it's going to bring more people to town, it will make us stronger, or we look forward to the challenge ... They're just not accustomed to seeing that type of pro-business attitude," Allen said.

In November, Collett said all of the major tenants had visited Garden City and liked what they saw before signing leases.

"There's a lot of vibrancy here, a lot of great things happening," Collett said at the time. "I can't say enough that the reason we're here and the reason we're successful is feeling like we were welcome, wanted and had a lot of support."

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