Longmont And Its Future

In the previous story I talked about the Twin Peaks Mall and its shaky future. In this I’ll widen out the topic to include possible changes we could see in Longmont‘s short and long term future. These are not necessarily things I wish for, just the way I see things progressing based on trends both here and in other cities.

Six years ago, if I told you that just beyond McDonalds and the car dealerships near Hwy 287 and KenPratt Blvd would be a whole new multi-lane boulevard with stores and restaurants galore, where currently empty land sat, you probably wouldn’t have believed it, right? Around the same time if I told you that there would be a Super Walmart on Hwy 287 and Hwy 66, that seems to always have a fairly full parking lot, you probably wouldn’t believe that either.

Well, Harvest Junction and the beginnings of commercial development along Hwy 66 are here, and I expect more of the same, if Longmont wants to thrive and survive. Those two locations sit on two freeway exits from I-25, one a gateway to Boulder, the other a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And both are gateways to Longmont.

The area east of Hover, where the mall and the older Walmart stand, is a different story. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it blighted, but it’s seen better days. I suspect that Walmart will close, especially when the new Super Walmart is built on the east side of town, and the mall will continue to languish. I just hope the same mistake Boulder made isn’t repeated here with a fenced in and boarded up shopping center in a high visibility area.

What to do with that land? I heard and liked the idea of a new theater, that’s a start. How about something more than a movie theater, how about a performing arts or possible concert venue? Make that area the entertainment center of the city, maybe of the region? The loss of shopping won’t be much of a loss with all of the stores right across the street on Hover, and may even lessen some of the competition on some of the businesses on Main Street.

Longmont needs a nice movie theater and is losing money to those cities around us who have wised up and put in state-of-the-art theaters with stadium seating. While I’m not sure Longmont could support something along the lines of the Budweiser or Broomfield Event Centers, I think the citizens could and would support a new performing arts complex. And I think non-citizens would come here for movies, plays, and concerts given the right circumstances.

The Twin Peaks Mall Dilemma

The future of the area in and around what is currently the Twin Peaks Mall has received a lot of attention lately. The Times-Call ran three stories about it in late January, including one about the mall’s new owner, Panattoni Development Company. Since the paper, and now recently this company are getting to be regular visitors to my website, figured I’d chime in on this subject that has always interested me.

I grew up in a city that for a while held the record for largest shopping center in the country in the Guinness Book of Records. This was before the advent of the mega-malls, but one day this shopping center decided to enclose and go the mall route. Then it was like any other mall, nothing special really. Prior to this it was sort of a cross between a traditional mall as we now know it, and an open air setup sort of like Centerra in Loveland. What I liked best about it was you knew where each store was and could enter through one door off of the parking lot or through a door in the courtyard on the other side, if you were walking from store to store.

As the mall progressed, all of the outside signage began to disappear, except for the anchor stores. There were less and less exits and entrances. Unless you were a regular, or studied the mall directory map, you wandered around probably more than you had planned just to find what you were looking for. I assume this was no mistake on the part of the mall designers. Put the more popular attractions, like theaters or food courts, in locations that take the longest to get to, and shops along the way got all that foot traffic. It’s a scheme that worked for a while, say 25-30 years, but it’s time has passed in many cases.

The problem is this: many stores, shops, and kiosks that survive, barely, in a mall just can’t cut it outside of a mall. Their entire business model is based on an outdated and obsolete idea (a mall) that in so many cases is being bulldozed and replaced with what apparently people want more. I feel for these entrepreneurs and I have no doubt that they are struggling and worry about the future. It is very likely that if this mall is replaced by something else, some of these businesses will not relocate, they’ll just cease to exist.

Hard to blame anyone for this, it’s just evolution, survival of the fittest, consequences due to freedom of choice, etc. Malls may have artificially propped up some businesses that really had no long term viability outside of a flea market. I suspect blame will try to be laid at the feet of Internet and “Big Box” Stores, but those wouldn’t thrive if there wasn’t demand by a lot of people. And obviously there is. You can try to force people into shopping on Main Street or an aging mall, even waste city funds on it, but people want what they want. Either accept and adapt to it, or go the way of the dinosaur and sit around and lament it.

Next up, what to do with the mall area and the gateways in and out of Longmont.