Wednesday, April 13, 2011

URA returns to Starbucks as tenant

Visitor center improvements to cost URA $109,000


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

Despite two new proposals on the table, Starbucks is still first choice for Ketchum's Urban Renewal Agency in renting half of the visitor center's ground floor.

The URA voted Tuesday to start negotiating lease terms with Starbucks' franchise owners, the Cairde Group. Reaching that decision was a heated process marked by an hour of raised voices, outbursts, a slammed door and frustrated onlookers leaving the room.

Ketchum business owners filled the room Tuesday after having argued for weeks that the building, owned by the property-tax-funded Ketchum URA, should be used for something of community relevance and not a business. Two groups submitted proposals to that effect, one suggesting an indoor carousel, game room and center for children offering popcorn and cotton candy. The URA only allowed the proposal applicants to speak.

"We're not taking public comment," said URA Vice Chair Mark Eshman several times to raised hands and loud voices trying to be heard. As a result, one person walked out and slammed the door, bringing the meeting to a brief halt.

The Ketchum Business Group, a newly formed group consisting of about a dozen proprietors, proposed turning the entire ground floor into a hangout spot/visitor center, bringing in comfortable armchairs and offering complimentary coffee and tea. Restaurants would advertise free delivery to the building.

"This is a great vision," Eshman said, but pointed out that it wouldn't bring in revenue, i.e. rent.

Several URA board members suggested that a 10-year lease will be entered into within two weeks. Board members Eshman, Baird Gourlay, Larry Helzel and Randy Hall said time is of the essence.

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"Seasons are short here," Eshman said. "That's why timing is important."

Gourlay argued that if the URA waits too long, Starbucks may leave Ketchum.

"Some people may want Starbucks to leave," he said. "But I don't."

Board members Trish Wilson, Nina Jonas and Curtis Kemp stated their concern for feeling pressure to act quickly and not cautiously.

"I think we've put the cart before the horse and are moving too fast," Wilson said, adding that the chamber has not yet planned its layout for the other half of the building—the visitor center. And the primary goal of putting in a Starbucks is to stimulate traffic to the visitor center.

Wilson told everyone to "calm down," and said people have told her they support Starbucks in the visitor center but won't speak up. She said they told her that's because they're afraid that if they go to a Ketchum restaurant their food will "be spit in."

Nonetheless, the meeting remained charged, especially after someone applauded the suggestion of Starbucks leaving Ketchum.

"When I hear things like that, it disgusts me," Eshman said.

The Express contacted Starbucks to ascertain if the current corporate store at Main Street and Sun Valley Road would be deserted even if the new franchise isn't opened in the visitor center.

"We don't have any announcements regarding the status of the Main Street store," said spokeswoman Stacey Krum.

A for-lease sign is in front of the building.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com

Visitor center improvements

On Tuesday, the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency accepted a low bid of $109,000 for improvements to the visitor center building at Sun Valley Road and East Avenue in preparation for a tenant. That doesn't mean it has agreed to pay contractor Kearns, McGinnis & Vandenberg to do the work, which mainly entails installing three furnaces. The URA will wait to hire the company until it decides on a tenant and reaches a lease agreement. That's because the improvements may change depending on the tenant.




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