North Longmont Hopes Retailers Opening in Long-vacant Space Helps Homelessness Issues
North Longmont residents and business owners are hopeful the openings of Big Lots this month and Arc Thrift Store early next in the long-vacant former Kmart building will shrink issues stemming from homelessness in the area.
Even though some residents in the neighborhood just south of the revived retail space at 2151 Main St. were hoping a different, brand-name retailer or non-retail tenant would move in, all are happy to see at least any sign of new life for the dormant shopping center.
Big Lots’ opening required the closure of the discount retailer’s store in south Longmont at U.S. 287 and Ken Pratt Boulevard, store team manager Robert Esposito said.
“I’m surprised it took so long for something new” at the former Kmart space, said Cory Jakobsen, who has lived nearby the building since the mid-2000s.
Kmart left it in 2010, and it has lacked a permanent tenant since.
Although Jakobsen said the new tenants ideally would have brought a new recreation business to the neighborhood, such as an indoor climbing or soccer facility as another option to the Planet Fitness workout center next to Big Lots, he expects the new stores to lessen the number of homeless people congregating in the parking lot.
Other residents in the neighborhood occasionally found people sleeping in or just outside their backyards in recent years.
Following 53 calls for police service to the address from March 2016 through March 2017 — during which a fatal overdose occurred inside a car parked at the Kmart lot — Longmont police upped their proactive foot patrols and cruises through the parking lot.
It was frequented by people camping overnight in vehicles. From March 2017 to March 2018, officers were dispatched to the address 155 times, including 20 traffic stops and 36 pedestrian contacts or extra patrols, which Deputy Chief Jeff Satur described as “self-initiated activity with the officers paying a little more attention in that area.”
“One of our officers worked very closely with a business owner to get them to remove some of those campers and different vehicles that had been parked and abandoned,” Satur said.
There were fewer trespassing complaints at the address in 2018, Satur said, and the calls for service totaled 116 from March last year to this year, which included eight traffic stops. Satur noted other commercial properties in the city account for larger call volumes.
“From a location standpoint, we weren’t concerned,” Esposito, the Big Lots manager, said of moving to a long-empty storefront. ”... Any time there is a vacant building, it can bring in the homeless crowd. We’re not here to manage that, but run a business.”
He added the store is pivoting in its inventory and focus — there are dozens more furniture items now offered in Big Lots at prices its sales employees say outdo American Furniture Warehouse for the same quality.
“The store we had on the south side of town, we were looked at as a food store with some home accessories,” Esposito said. “This is a completely different kind of store.”
There is a plan to fill the four smaller spaces in the former Kmart building between the Arc and Big Lots entrances, he said, agreeing with some residents of the neighborhood that a new non-franchise dining option is needed in the area.
“It looks great up there,” Satur said. “They did a great job rebuilding it. It looks nice, and that’s always going to have a positive impact on the neighborhood.”
City leaders are looking at the storefront’s filling as a solid indicator for the local business climate.
“Any time a building that has sat vacant for many years is refurbished and occupied, it’s a sign of economic growth,” Assistant City Manager Shawn Lewis stated through a Longmont spokesman.
“Long-vacant buildings can contribute to blight in a neighborhood, so not only does reuse of these building(s) provide expanded retail and service offerings in the neighborhood, it also helps revitalize nearby residential and commercial areas.”
Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter.com/samlounz .