For the week of December 16 thru December 22, 1998  

How much is enough?

Business owners’ opinions differ on retail development

Express Staff Writer

As downtown Ketchum continues to build out, a question arises: How much commercial space can the local economy support?

According to building-permit applications now under file with the city, construction will soon be underway on 268,379 square feet that include at least some retail space. Assuming that the first floors are being set aside for retail sales (not always the case), more than 73,800 square feet of retail space is proposed.

Several of the buildings included in those figures are already under construction. Commercial projects currently under way total 157,877 square feet and include the Colonnade, the Higdon building and Thunder Spring. Those buildings do, however, include residential, office and recreational, as well as retail, space.

Leasing agent Tim Eagan, of Eagan Real Estate, is managing the retail development of the new Colonnade building on the 600 block of Sun Valley Road. Eagan said he feels that if there is a problem with Wood River Valley retail, it is that there is not enough selection.

"The problem with Ketchum is that people tend to be more sophisticated and resultantly have more urban tastes," Eagan said. "A number of local residents are shopping in Twin Falls or somewhere else."

The new Colonnade building will sport 13 retail spaces that will be rented "at the high end of the market," said Eagan.

He said the building’s high-dollar space is already 70-percent rented. Retailers slated to occupy the building include: Christiana Sports, Sure Foot Boot out of Park City, Tully’s Coffee from Seattle and several others who, for the time being, wish to remain anonymous.

Eagan said he expects to have all of the Colonnade’s 13 retail units rented for the building’s projected June opening. Thirteen units will not necessarily mean that there will be 13 tenants, he added. Some of the renters are taking up more than one unit.

But despite Eagan’s success at filling the storefronts of the new Colonnade, figures based on Ketchum’s local option tax show that 47 retail businesses have closed up their doors for good in the fiscal year ending August 1998, according to Kathleen Schwartzenberger of the City Clerk’s office.

Elephant’s Perch owner Bob Rosso contends that Ketchum is headed for trouble if the proposed amounts of retail space are built.

"I have a handle on what it takes to stay alive here," he said. "My concern with the amount of new space being proposed is that there is not the demand for it."

Real-estate costs in Ketchum are enormous, he said, and they drive up the overhead for business owners.

According to the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce’s Relocation and Business Guide to the Wood River Valley, local commercial rents range from $1.75 to $2.50 a square foot per month.

"I’ve got an absolute prime location, and I’ve found that if you are over a dollar or a dollar-fifty a square foot per month overhead, you are in trouble," Rosso said of his Sun Valley Road site. "A retailer who is going to succeed will have done his homework."

Dennis Wilson, owner of Silverado on Main Street, said new stores will need to specialize to survive.

"We’re filling a definite niche," he said of his store that specializes in western apparel.

Wilson also said that maintaining a shopping core is necessary for retail success.

"They need to focus attention on keeping shopping in one area with easy access," he said.

Wilson said he doubts that new retail space will be filled, however.

"There’s always going to be someone who feels that this is the land of opportunity, and it isn’t," he said.

Rosso agreed.

"Those of us who have stayed in business have been very careful. There are times when we are hanging on by our fingernails," he said.

Another retailer, Terry Ring of Silver Creek Outfitters, said there is a demand for more retail in Ketchum.

"The consumer is going to benefit from the additional retail space," he said. "Creating more shopping opportunities for the customers of Ketchum and Sun Valley is important to the community."


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