Gold Hill Mesa: The quest for a ‘village concept’ hardware store

       If there's one question that's asked most often about Gold Hill Mesa, it's whether a hardware store will go in there.
       Posed this question by the Westside Pioneer recently, Gold Hill developer Robert Willard revealed... Maybe.
       One reason for the ambivalence, he pointed out, is that detailed planning of the 67-acre commercial phase of the 214-acre Westside development has been delayed through this year while the Colorado Department of Transpor-tation (CDOT) irons out its plans for Highway 24.
       In fact, he said, no major stores of any type have yet committed to the residential-commercial project, which he manages for the Gold Hill Mesa Township LLC development group. “We haven't gotten to who's going to be there,” he said. “We haven't even decided on our theme.”
       Willard just knows that it won't be a typical, Powers Boulevard-type center with huge buildings and sprawling parking lots. “I meet a lot with shopping center developers,” he said. “Most are formula, big box, and I don't want any of that. So they're usually short conversations.”
       What he's looking for is smaller stores fitting the “village concept” he envisions for Gold Hill.
       He had once hoped that Lowe's Home Improvement would be flexible enough for that concept. Although Willard speaks highly of its executives' amiability and professionalism, discussions with the national hardware chain ended in 2003 when the company “didn't want to modify their design to fit the neighborhood,” Wil-lard said. “I even told them that if they got down to 80,000 square feet, I could get them in because the general consensus is that most West-side people want a hardware store here, that they're tired of driving so far.”
       But his arguments were not persuasive enough. According to Lowe's marketing studies, the store size at that location needed to be 140,000 square feet. With a “huge, flat” parking lot, the store would have taken up more than 10 percent of the 67 acres, “and I don't get my village concept,” Willard said.
       As a result, “I stuck to my guns,” he said. “I didn't want a suburban mall, and I don't think Westsiders do either.”
       Next to call was Home Depot. That was more encouraging. Based on initial talks with a lower-level company official, Willard gleaned that Home Depot might be willing “to adapt its design to the area's architecture and character.”
       One discussed possiblity was a 40,000-square-foot store, stacked in two stories to minimize the footprint.
       However, talks with Home Depot have gone no further since.
       Willard confessed to being a little glum at learning that Ace Hardware (which had closed its Uintah Street store in June) will relocate off Centennial Boulevard and Garden of the Gods Road. An Ace store - typically smaller than Home Depot or Lowe's - might have been a good fit at Gold Hill Mesa. “It's the kind of store I wanted,” he said.
       He summed up the present hardware-store situation for Gold Hill: “The news is that it's a possiblity. The store would just have to conform to our design requirements.”
       Willard's expectation is that CDOT will provide a clear indication in September of its plans for Highway 24. That will allow his people to start detailed planning for the commercial area. He predicted it will take about a year to develop a definitive commercial layout for the 67 acres.
       And, with any luck, to turn up a “small-box” hardware store.

Westside Pioneer article