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Urban Flight

Rents are rising on South Broadway.

Is Belmar the solution?

"Knowing that, what we do is borrow the strength of those national retailers because we need them, because that's who dominates the U.S. retail world today," Gougeon says. "But we consciously make the decision that we're going to forgo some income and make a commitment to having a mix out there."

From the project's earliest stages, Continuum designed many smaller retail spaces with the expressed purpose of getting local independent shops into that mix. Continuum then formed a "wish list" of the types of shops they wanted. "We literally brainstorm, ŒOh, there's this really great garden store on Broadway,' or ŒThere's this great shop in Boulder,' or ŒThere's a great chef, or great whatever,'" says Eliza Prall, Continuum's director of marketing and community building. Then the company actively seeks out those "desirable locals" and gives them a leg up when it comes to adjustments on rent and lengths of lease, and in creating a strategic plan. That effort has netted Belmar The Oven pizzeria, the Press coffee shop, the girly, hip Ricochet gift shop and Bike Works, which deals in tricked-out cruisers and low-rider bikes. To bring art to the area, Continuum created Block 7, a row of 500- to 1,000-square-foot studios and galleries on Saulsbury Street that rent for $350 to $400 a month. Plus, there is the ambitious contemporary art program, Lab at Belmar. The organization's planned 15,000-square-foot building consists of an exhibition space, offices, a library and semi-private rooms for lectures and classes.

"Every place that's great and authentic was once new and inauthentic," Gougeon says. "So I don't think we have to apologize that Belmar is new or starts at that same place. The real question is will it be any good in fifty or 100 years?"

"South Broadway was desirable because these little, funky places weren't facing rents in a typical retail area," Prall adds. "But [rent hikes] are bound to happen as they become more successful. That structure isn't set up for a long-term plan for them. What happens is it becomes less and less individual and funky -- unless it's planned for."

Russell Enloe looked at Belmar as an option to relocate his business, but in the end, he chose to stay in SoBo and make rent by subletting part of his space to other merchants. Even if he had been able to get a good deal at Belmar, he needed to make sales work immediately, and the fresh-faced development seemed to be "a couple years out before it starts really kicking," he says. "And I don't have the kind of backing to last that long. Not like some chain stores would."

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