The building that previously housed Kmart stands empty on Third Street this week. New businesses such as HomeBase USA, Ulta and Ross could soon fill the vacant spaces in the shopping area. Abby Vander Graaff/Boomerang
LARAMIE – A string of empty storefronts along Third Street in Laramie will soon house three new stores after Laramie City Council approved an agreement with retailers and a property owner last week.
Ross, HomeBase USA and Ulta Beauty have agreed to open in the 87,000 square feet of vacant space in Gateway Plaza upon the completion of improvements to the shopping center’s parking lot, landscaping and building facade.
The deal is the result of years of collaboration with WY Plaza, L.C., the owner of the building.
The city also worked with The Retail Coach, a market research firm, to develop a plan to encourage shoppers to make purchases in Laramie rather than shopping online or in the neighboring cities of Cheyenne and Fort Collins, Colorado.
“This is an investment in development so future retailers see that the city of Laramie is open, you are willing, you are ready,” said Caroline Harrelson, a representative from The Retail Coach. “Retail begets retail, money begets money, and more retail will follow.”
Residents have been asking the city to get involved in bringing new retailers to the area since 2012, according to city documents.
The Retail Coach estimates that a total of $64 million in sales is “leaking” out of Laramie and into other communities each year, according to city documents. The top markets for dollars leaving Laramie are home goods and clothing, according to this data.
The latest agreement with the businesses and WY Plaza will include an incentive payment made from the city of Laramie to the businesses based on net sales tax revenues during the next 10 years.
As a result of the deal, the city will have $2.61 in sales tax returned on every dollar it spends, in addition to property tax and capital investment money, City Manager Janine Jordan said.
“Of all the deals I’ve seen in Wyoming about economic development, I’m liking this deal more than others because of the terms laid out in this,” council member Fred Schmechel said.
He explained that there are few deals in the state that create as many jobs and create a return on investment in as little time.
City councilors hope the addition of the new stores will not only bring in tax revenue, but will encourage other business owners to set up shop in Laramie. This also could bring more development and visual updates to the north corridor of 3rd Street.
“You’re in a college community, and you’re in a community where there is Amazon,” Harrelson said. “We can go online and order everything to be on our doorstep, or we can buy things in our community locally.”
Encouraging retailers to enter the local market is one of the ways the city can ensure the tax money and economic benefits of retail stay close to home, she said.
The stores also are meant to provide needed services for residents that could make their shopping experiences simpler.
“I think we’ve all heard from our constituents (that) these are things they want,” council member Brian Harrington said. “In my opinion, this is the definition of win-win.”