Forest City Completes Colorado Retail Center

The 215-acre Orchard Town Center in Westminster, Colo., under construction since the fall of 2005, has opened amid a rather different economic and consumer environment than during its ground breaking.The open-air retail project is one of a number of developments in the Denver area being undertaken by Cleveland-based Forest City, including the massive redevelopment of the former Stapleton International Airport.According to the company’s fourth quarter report, as of the end of January the 983,000-square-foot Orchard Town Center project was 59 percent leased. JC Penney, SuperTarget and Macy’s are anchors, along with a 12-screen AMC movie theater. Other tenants include Aeropostale, Kay Jewelers, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Victoria’s Secret.The property is at I-25 and 144th Avenue in the northwest suburbs of Denver. All together, the development cost about $164.1 million, according to Forest City.The grand opening of the project comes at a time of uncertainty, both for the real estate market and the local economy. The Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. notes that metro Denver’s unemployment rate was unchanged between January and February, but the region’s year-to-date unemployment rate of 4.7 percent was up from 4.3 percent for the same period in 2007.Job growth, along key indicator for the retail market, has also been tepid lately. The Metro Denver EDC says that slower job growth over the past several months has caused higher numbers of unemployment insurance claims. The count of metro Denver claims declined between January and February, but the year-to-date average rose 13.3 percent over the same months of 2007.