Natural Grocers Coming to Town

Despite snub from DDA, major chain preparing for Woodland Park store

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

 

Incentive deals or not, and despite a mini-feud with the town’s main development group, the National Grocers health food chain may be coming to Woodland Park after all.

 

Woodland Planning Director Sally Riley informed the Downtown Development Authority at their last meeting that Natural Grocers has applied for a replat of their proposed site, and intends to build in Woodland Park. In addition, they are pursuing the same location as before.

It has been a rocky road for the health food store to finally decide to come to Woodland Park.

Earlier this year, the real estate development representatives of Natural Grocers, Leadership Circle LLC, approached the DDA, and applied for a tax increment financing (tax rebate) reimbursement deal (TIF). The specific deal they sought was the largest tax reimbursement deal anyone in the DDA could recall.

The issue of the TIF agreement became contentious when the stores’ representative, Matt Miles, threatened to pull out of Woodland Park altogether if they were not given the deal. At one hearing during a DDA meeting, City Manager David Buttery, who was in the audience asked, “Did I hear it correctly that without this incentive, that Woodland
Park would not be given this location?”

Miles responded, “That is correct. At any one time, we’ll have a top 100 location list. Woodland rises to the top because Natural Grocers has a giant footprint on the Front Range.”

Over the course of several months, the DDA board met more than four times to discuss the deal, in both regular meetings and executive sessions. The only counter offer considered by the board was a zero tax reimbursement to the chain store.

When all the wrangling over the deal came to a vote, the DDA denied the TIF agreement to the chain store.

After the vote to deny the agreement, DDA board chairperson Merry Jo Larsen spoke to Natural Grocers representative Miles. She said, “I want you to know that that was not anything against Natural Grocers. It is the chairman’s point of view that it is the financial situation that we are in more than anything else. However if Natural Grocers decides to move forward, you have our blessing. I hope it all works out for you.”

Now, half a year later, Natural Grocers has decided Woodland Park is indeed a market they wish to take part in. The proposed 13,000 square foot store will be located on the old Paradise Ranch property at Highway 24 and Paradise Lodge Road.

The spokesman for the chain’s architect touted the environmentally-friendly aspects of the store’s construction and routine operations.

He also said the store would create about 30 new jobs.

The Woodland Park location will save local patrons of Natural Grocers gas and time, as they will no longer have to drive to Colorado Springs to shop at their favorite health food store.