Oct 272005
Authors: James Baetke

Shops at Centerra Grand Opening Gala Weekend Schedule:

Oct. 28: (Today)

8 a.m.: The first 1,000 guests will receive a signature gift

9 to 10 a.m.: Ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening parade

10 a.m. to noon: Celebrity autograph signings, balloon artists and face painters

11 a.m. to noon: Centerra Shop of the Day and Jeep Grand Cherokee Drive-Away

Oct. 29:

Noon to 7 p.m.: Centerra music festival from featuring Something Underground, Newcomers Home, Future Jazz Project, Wendy Woo & The Woo Crew and Tyler Ward & Steve Melton

Oct. 30:

Centerra princess and poltergeist promenade

2 to 4 p.m.: Trick-or-treating at a host of participating shops for children 10 and younger, while supplies last

The Promenade Shops at Centerra is celebrating a grand opening today, with Loveland city officials anticipating a $1.2 million boost in taxes and Fort Collins officials are bracing for up to a $2 million loss.

The mega-construction site sits on the interchange between U.S. Highway 24 and Interstate 25 and is designed by Tennessee-based Poag & McEwen. Centerra will be home to Northern Colorado's first upscale lifestyle mall, after about a year of construction and months of anticipation by residents.

"Our leasing efforts continue to progress as construction is on schedule and grand opening festivities are being planned for the entire weekend," said Terry McEwen, president of Poag & McEwen.

The Shops at Centerra are part of a larger 3,000-acre development involving a new hospital and other commercial, office and housing property.

Poag & McEwen teamed with McWhinney Enterprises in drawing major retailers, such as Foley's and Dick's Sporting Goods, and well-known restaurants, including Red Robin and P.F. Changs China Bistro.

Poag & McEwen is one of the leading lifestyle center developers in the country, with 13 different developments nationwide.

The lifestyle center is about 70 percent leased, including a 14-screen cineplex, ice skating rink in the winter and an amphitheatre in the summer. McEwen said he expects to see as many as 5 million visitors by fall 2006.

As the bustling holiday season emerges in the coming months, Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchinson estimates Centerra will drain $1.5 million to $3 million in annual sales tax from the city.

"This is an example of a regional success," Hutchinson said.

Despite this success, Hutchinson said the city will see a negative effect, but asserts "innovative planning" is underway to develop projects designed to keep residents here.

The competition Poag & McEwen brought to the state of the economy forced Alabama-based Bayer Properties to publicly announce plans to squelch a 450,000-square-foot lifestyle center along the Harmony Road corridor.

New owners of the Foothills Mall have recently purchased additional property near the main infrastructure of the mall and are possibly in the planning stages of giving the long-standing center a face-lift.

The Centerra effect is seen to directly upshot other municipalities, such as Greeley. City finance officials estimate Greeley could see a loss of up to $1 million in taxes the first year of the opening.

David May, president of the Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Shops at Centerra are not all gloom and doom.

"From a regional perspective, Centerra is great. Remember that Centerra is not just retail but also includes a new hospital, housing and primary employment. The development is driving a great deal of welcome economic activity in Northern Colorado," May said.

Quite familiar with the economy that drives Fort Collins, May said retail leakage is always tricky and it will take the many organizations to remind Fort Collins residents of the local benefits of shopping locally.

"The local government can help by being as responsive and flexible as possible to new retail developments, redevelopments and expansions. Other partners, such as the Downtown Business Association, Foothills Mall and the Chamber, can continue to remind residents of the great shopping choices they have near at hand," he said.

Loveland was a major player in getting the development underway and expects to collect $1.2 million from Centerra in 2006 and $2.6 million by 2008, according to Loveland financial estimates.

Michael Dunn, a resident of Windsor, embraces the lifestyle center: "Shopping just got easier and I can buy merchandise from more up-scale shops."

Meredith Schulte, a Fort Collins resident, worries more about the ripple effect the center will impede on the city and the already suffering budget.

"Centerra is going to suck shoppers out of Fort Collins, thus sucking out needed tax dollars. Fort Collins is going to feel the hit and I only hope [Foothills Mall] doesn't turn into a ghost mall," Schulte said.

As Mayor Hutchinson ponders the possibilities of future Fort Collins developments and praises the regional success the Promenade Shops at Centerra will bring, he admits he will not likely be shopping at Centerra in the near future, but will instead tap into local businesses to buy his holiday gifts.

"I'm not bitter," Hutchinson said.

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