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Kohl's Store Opens

KERRY HULLER | Star-Tribune

An employee works in the shoe department of the Kohl’s store in Casper on Saturday morning. The new store at the Blackmore Marketplace will officially open Wednesday.

When it opens this week, Kohl's department store will become Blackmore Marketplace's first and only tenant.

It won't remain that way for long.

Blackmore representatives say they're talking with eight retailers about locating in the eastside Casper shopping center. By next year, between 50,000 and 100,000 square feet of commercial space should be under construction, according to Randy Hall, a Casper real estate broker who's been working to bring companies to Blackmore.

Hall said he couldn't identify the retailers because the deals are not yet complete. He described them as nationally known companies that would likely open in Casper by next summer or fall.

"I wish I could give you the names now," he said. "We are excited to get the word out once we finish up the negotiations with all of these guys."

In the next few weeks, developers are also planning to break ground on a multitenant retail space inside the shopping center, which sits at the corner of Blackmore Road and East Second Street. Two others will be built across the street, between Olive Garden and a Red Lobster that's expected to open next month.

A half dozen retailers and restaurants are already interested in the projects, Hall said.

The Casper City Council approved Blackmore Marketplace last fall. But developers began talking with Kohl's about a Casper store in 2005.

That effort will culminate Wednesday with the opening of a 55,000-square-foot Kohl's at Blackmore. It will be the second store in Wyoming for the Wisconsin-based retailer. The company already operates a Cheyenne store.

"Kohl's has been very deliberate in its growth strategy, and we are careful to select locations that are adjacent to or near cities and towns we are familiar with through current store locations," company spokeswoman Ale Owens wrote in an email. "We also consider locations where it makes the most business sense."

The task of courting national retailers typically falls on individual development groups. Kohl's decision to come to Casper encouraged other retailers to consider the city, Hall said.

"Once we got Kohl's done, a lot of these guys were lining up to start talking about leasing space," he said.

For national retailers, Casper offers a captured market. As the regional hub for central Wyoming, the city draws shoppers from smaller cities such as Riverton, Douglas and Buffalo. But unlike Cheyenne, it's less likely to lose customers to larger cities such as Denver.

"Casper itself really doesn't have leakage," Hall said.

The recession hasn't had much of an impact on finding businesses for Blackmore, according to Hall. Casper has weathered the down economy better than most, making it an attractive option for national companies.

Hall sees signs that suggest the retail market is improving. Each May, he attends a shopping center convention in Las Vegas. The 2010 event, he says, was like a funeral. When he returned this year, retailers were considerably more optimistic.

"I think we'll start seeing a lot of growth," he said.

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Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

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