King Soopers in line to get facelift

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Littleton City Council is prepared to give King Soopers $500,000 in incentives to turn the store at Littleton Boulevard and Broadway into the twin of its newly remodeled Englewood location.

“I do believe this could be the beginning of that gateway I keep talking about,” said Councilor Jerry Valdes, who represents that area of the city.

City Manager Michael Penny explained that King Soopers’ corporate representatives considered expanding into the old Walgreens space or even relocating entirely as other cities try to woo them away. But their preferred option is to completely scrape the entire building and build a new one that will result in a store that’s about 22,000 square feet bigger.

“This is an economically distressed area,” noted Penny. “For the most part, we are not seeing dollars reinvested in this area. … It is our hope that this is the first domino to fall.”

On Sept. 17, council unanimously approved a resolution to waive $500,000 in building permits and use taxes for the project, which is expected to start in January and take about a year if King Soopers officials approve it. That means a loss of sales-tax revenue for the city that year, which Penny said averages about $250,000 a year for any grocery store.

The city will split any taxes the store generates above and beyond its average until the $500,000 is paid back or for six years, whichever comes first. The deal is the same one Englewood gave the store at Federal Boulevard and Belleview Avenue.

“If they do nothing, we’re not losing anything in this proposal,” said Penny.

Three citizens spoke against the incentives, including council candidate John Watson.

“I don’t want to be like Englewood,” he said. “I don’t know how we got to be in the business of picking winners and losers, and why we’re doing that without any input from the citizens, I have no idea.”

He added that it would be tough to collect sales taxes in a city that doesn’t tax groceries. But it’s only food that isn’t taxed, and Councilor Phil Cernanec noted that the new Englewood store carries a wider variety of taxable items like cookware and beauty products.

Councilor Jim Taylor said he’s noticed a marked increase in customers at the new Englewood store, where he shops.

“It attracts more people, and you get a wider range of customers, so I think this is probably a good deal,” he said.

The deal seeks to guarantee that King Soopers won’t follow the path of several Safeway stores and Albertson’s out of the city, as it includes a 34-year lease with options to renew every five years for 99 years.

“It’s not unheard of to have a grocery store vacate a premises,” said Councilor Stahlman, in response to citizen comments that King Soopers would likely remodel even without incentives.

The proposed $20 million project includes several infrastructure improvements, including a new parking lot, better access and lighting. It will also allow the store to add 10 percent more employees. It does not include the two outlying buildings, but Penny said owner Regency Centers plans facade improvements.

This is the second time the city has used its recently approved incentive program. The first was a $300,000 package for Breckenridge Brewery. That caused some consternation among councilors after Penny told them about it just five days before they were set to approve the site plan.