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First food hall planned for downtown Colorado Springs

Trendy concept would replace popular record store

First food hall planned for Colorado...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A shopping, dining and entertainment concept that became popular in Europe and spread across the U.S. is being proposed for downtown Colorado Springs.

The concept, called a food hall or marketplace, would include a bar, several restaurants and a variety of small retail shops.

According to the proposal being considered by the city's Downtown Review Board, the Independent Records store on Bijou Street would be sold to a Denver developer who would add a second floor to the building.

Whitney Johnson, a real estate broker for CBRE, the firm handling the sale, said the developer would put a restaurant and two patios on the upper floor and the other businesses on the ground floor.

"It's a concept that started in Europe and became popular here," Johnson said.  "Denver has several, and you can also find them in larger cities and on major college campuses."

"There hasn't been one in Colorado Springs yet, but there's a demand for it from millenials, from people who work downtown and from the increase in people living downtown," she said.

A unique aspect of a food hall is customers are allowed to carry around their bar drinks while browsing the shops, Johnson said, which requires the city's approval of a conditional use permit.

Some opponents of the concept worry about the potential negative impact on nearby businesses and on a nine-unit loft apartment complex two doors down from the proposed food hall location.

There's also the potential closing of the popular record store, a downtown fixture for nearly 40 years, and the renovation of the building erected in 1920.

"There aren't too many record stores left," said Paul Schlattmann, an occasional customer.  "It's a dying art.  This store is in a convenient place.  I don't think selling it is a great idea.  Twenty years from now, we'll have many food halls but not many record stores."

But a college student and a downtown merchant both support the concept.

"I'd go there.  My friends and I are looking for a fun place to hang out, student Samantha Mai said.

"It's a perfect place for a local chef to get started and try out menus," Julie Naye, owner of a boutique next door the the proposed location, said.  "There's less overhead and chefs can reach a lot of customers."

The Downtown Review Board meets at the end of the month to decide on a permit for the food hall, and the sale is expected to be finalized in July.

Johnson said the closest thing Colorado Springs has to a food hall is at the Ivywild School and Lincoln Center, two former schools that have been converted into restaurants, shops and other businesses.

The food hall concept is reminiscent of a similar concept that didn't work -- Curbside Cuisine, a gathering of food trucks in a vacant gas station lot downtown.  The effort ended after three years, with only two trucks remaining.

"It was a good concept, but you had to go find them," Johnson said.  "It was really something you had to want to do."

Mai agrees.

"I liked hanging out there," she said.  "But it wasn't marketed or advertised well."

Next week the Colorado Springs City Council will consider whether to allow food trucks and other vendors to operate in metered parking spaces.

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