Wheat Ridge looks for retailer to fill spot of closed Lucky’s Grocery

More than three years after it closed its doors, Lucky’s Market remains a hulking empty box at a prominent corner in Wheat Ridge that has seen its share of drama and delayed promises over the past decade.

“We would love to get it occupied tomorrow,” said Steve Art, economic development manager for Wheat Ridge. “We’ve been close on a couple of users but nothing has come to fruition at this point.”

In fact, Art said, the developer of The Corners at Wheat Ridge has spoken with no fewer than 11 grocery companies about taking over the empty 35,000-square-foot Lucky’s space at the southwest corner of West 38th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard.

“It’s an off-size store,” he said. “It’s too small to be an anchor grocery store (like King Soopers). And it’s too big to be a niche store, like a Trader Joe’s-type store.”

Boulder-based Lucky’s opened at The Corners in the summer of 2018 to much fanfare, only to see its fortunes crash fewer than two years later when grocery giant Kroger announced it was selling the ownership stake it had taken in the upstart grocer.

Kroger is the parent company of King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado.

In January 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic struck, Lucky’s announced it was closing 32 of its 39 stores nationwide, including its store in Wheat Ridge. Bob Turner, development partner at Quadrant Properties, on Tuesday teased that the long vacancy at Lucky’s could soon break but provided no details.

“We expect to have some positive leasing news to announce in the next couple of months,” he said by email. “Happy to discuss in more detail as we get closer to securing our tenant.”

Quadrant started redeveloping the 14-acre corner parcel several years ago, turning what was once a Ford dealership — followed by years as an abandoned former car lot — into a mixed-use project that now boasts a collection of restaurants and a dental clinic, along with a 350-unit apartment complex called The Edison.

The site has come a long way since Walmart announced it was pulling out as the anchor tenant of The Corners nearly seven years ago. But the shuttered Lucky’s is a reminder of the ongoing trouble at one of Wheat Ridge’s most visible retail hubs.

“It’s been that way since I moved in,” Analisa Castillo, a two-year resident at The Edison, said Tuesday. “Nothing has really changed.”

She said the empty building, which she sees every day upon emerging from her apartment, gives a “false sense that it would have been a nice perk.”

Jessica Zimonic, walking her cat and three-legged dog along a sidewalk on the south side of Lucky’s, said she was hoping for a chain that debuted in Colorado nearly a decade ago.

“We crossed our fingers it would be a Trader Joe’s,” she said.

But Zimonic said she’s not sure a grocery store is what is ultimately needed for the area. A King Soopers, a Sprouts and a Safeway are just a short drive away, she said. She would rather see a trampoline park, a ninja gym or a pickleball center open in the cavernous space.

Art, Wheat Ridge’s economic development manager, said whatever comes to the Lucky’s building would need to be a tax generator, given the millions the city’s urban redevelopment authority has invested in The Corners project. One cent of the 3 1/2 cents Wheat Ridge collects in sales tax at the site goes back to Quadrant — up to $6.2 million — as part of a tax increment financing agreement it inked with the developer years ago.

The other hindrance to attracting a tenant, Art said, is the expansion of Wadsworth Boulevard between Interstate 70 and West 35th Avenue, which has turned that stretch of the heavily traveled arterial into a sea of orange barrels and heavy machinery.

“It’s had an effect on businesses on Wadsworth,” he said. “It’s a small inconvenience but it is major construction.”

The Wadsworth overhaul, which began in late 2021, is scheduled to wrap up at the end of 2024.

The pandemic has also played a big role in keeping things, especially in the retail sector, unstable, Art said. Now that the pandemic is fading into the past, he said, he expects the logjam at The Corners to ease as well.

“This is a little hiccup in the development — eventually this will be backfilled,” he said.

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