Recent construction activity preparing for a new Michaels store at Blackmore Marketplace might feel like deja vu to some.
The east side shopping center was one of the most active areas during its development at the start of this decade.
When anchor store Kohl’s opened in 2011 with much fanfare, it marked the first of several new retailers into the Casper market.
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While a success, there have been setbacks. Shoe Carnival, Gap and Dress Barn are some of the high profile early Blackmore tenants that recently went dark.
To developer Karen Blumenstein, that’s all just part of life in retail.
Blumenstein’s Denver-based development firm Flower & Stone and business partner Kroenke Group quietly purchased the shopping center in 2016 from the McMurry family, who originally developed the areas under their Forward Development LLC.
The purchase included the roughly 140,000 square feet of retail space and operating assets of Blackmore Marketplace, 24 acres of surrounding undeveloped land, and the small shopping strips in front of Studio City.
Other parcels were included in the area, such as Buffalo Wild Wings and the land behind Marshalls.
“Casper is the type of community we like to invest in,” said Blumenstein, who owns properties in small to mid-sized communities around Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
“This is very much the kind of market we like to be in,” she said, listing such community assets as education and medical facilities, and Casper’s steady growth.
“We aren’t looking for fast growth, we like stable and organic growth of the community,” she said.
“We almost never sell an asset, so when we come into a community with a big asset like this, we know we’ll be here for 20, 30, 40 years.”
Blumenstein says she tries to attract retailers that fit the community and will stay long term.
As the co-owner and developer, Blumenstein says she will be making the leasing decisions. Mentioning the legacy of the McMurry family in Casper, she doesn’t take the job lightly.
The new Michaels store is the first major change since the sale. It combines two empty spots left by Gap and Shoe Carnival into one space.
Texas-based Michaels has over 1,250 stores specializing in hobby, arts and crafts and decor items, according to Wikipedia. Its only other store in Wyoming is in Cheyenne.
Blumenstein’s company is currently having the space prepared before handing it over to Michaels to finish, she said. There is no firm opening date, but it should be completed by this summer.
A few stores down from the new Michaels, the former Dress Barn space being split and has one new active lease and one in the negotiation stages, said Blumenstein.
While struggling legacy retailers such as Sears and Macy’s have left Casper’s market, Blumenstein sees other retailers who have growth potential.
She says the difference are retailers who have managed to combine their physical and online stores into a symbiotic relationship. Customers who need to return an item bought online can go to the physical store. While there they often buy other things, she says.
Blumenstein calls the land around Blackmore Marketplace “phase II” and says her company’s relationships with other retailers could mean more of them entering the Casper market in the future.
“We are actively, actively talking to (retailers) all the time,” said Blumenstein.