City has twice the national average of shopping space, data shows
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)
Boulder’s City Council is on a mission to save small, local shops. A wave of recent closures and redevelopment has inspired a commitment to providing affordable space and attempts to prevent the scraping of business establishments.
But as the city looks to require retail through development agreements and zoning changes, a true analysis of how many stores the community actually needs has yet to be done. A preliminary look at retail square footage by the Daily Camera suggests that Boulder has twice as much shopping space per person than the U.S. as a whole, which itself has double the amount of any other country.
That made sense when the city was the go-to destination for surrounding cities. But while Longmont and Louisville post sales tax gains, Boulder’s growth is sluggish. Retail vacancy rates are still low and rents high, but it’s taking longer to fill empty stores, suggesting that the demand is declining.
“The developers are smarter than city council,” said Jan Kniffen, a national retail expert and consultant. “They’re going to do what’s economically viable.”
A second-quarter market report from Newmark Knight Frank, used by the city to track trends, shows that there are still exceptionally few empty stores throughout town. Save for the southern portion of town — which includes the struggling Base-Mar Shopping Center — vacancy rates are between .32 and 3.6 percent throughout the city. Even south Boulder posted a respectable 5.11 percent vacancy in mid-2018, below the Denver metro area’s 6.1 percent average.
But absorption, the rate at which available spaces are filled, slowed in 2017 for the first time in two years. It continued to decrease through 2018, Newmark found, with nearly all of the absorption occurring downtown.