Fast-growing Colorado Springs community buys lower floor of former Macy’s building | Subscriber Only Content

A fast-growing Colorado Springs community founded less than two years ago has purchased the lower level of the former Macy’s building at The Citadel mall, where it plans to expand its service and help revitalize a large box room that mostly vacant since 2009.

Zeal Church, a nondenominational Christian church, this month paid $3.5 million for 97,000 square feet, or about half, of the building northeast of Platte Avenue and Chelton Road, El Paso County land records show.

The Church acquired the property from ICA Properties, a Texas group that bought the Macy’s building in 2010, a year after the store closed amid a wave of nationwide retail closures sparked by the Great Recession. The building’s ownership was separate from the rest of the mall.

The other half of the Macy’s building was purchased in 2019 for $3.1 million by charter school Coperni 3, which operates on the top floor of the building.

When Zeal Church was launched in September 2020, it operated out of Vista Ridge High School on the northeast side of Colorado Springs, said Sarah Steffensen, the church’s operations manager.

The enthusiasm grew so quickly that four weeks later he moved to the Creekside Event Center, a wedding venue near Powers and Palmer Park Boulevards, she said.

But Zeal, which Steffensen describes as a multi-ethnic church led by Pastor Brandon Cormier and his wife Octavia, also grew beyond Creekside. The church regularly has 1,500 to 1,600 visitors for its Sunday services, she said.

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Eifer leaders were looking for a new location in the central part of town that would be large enough to accommodate the growth of the church, Steffensen said.

The church was looking at the former Babies R Us building, which is also part of The Citadel mall, but it was bought by a different buyer, she said.

The nearby Macy’s property offered a similar central location and enough space for the church to conduct income-generating activities and volunteer programs that would benefit the community, Steffensen said.

“We would be affiliated with the mall, so we would have this beautiful relationship with The Citadel mall, to improve all the things there and really take a place that was empty and breathe new life into it,” she said.

Zeal is planning a three-phase, $3 million renovation of its portion of the Macy’s building, Steffensen said.

A first phase, expected to begin in four to six weeks, includes the creation of two auditoriums totaling 37,000 square meters for Sunday services, youth activities and a children’s area, she said. New paint, signage and a cafe would also be part of this initial phase, which the church hopes to complete by next Easter.

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A second phase will see the addition of offices and meeting spaces that could be rented by the public and community groups for board meetings, training and other purposes, Steffensen said.

A bookstore, counseling services, educational services, and food and clothing resources are other possible uses of the building, she said. A timetable for the second phase has not yet been determined, she said.

A final phase could include on-site broadcast and podcast facilities, Steffensen said.

Zeal will also continue to lease portions of its portion of the building to Springs-based USA Boxing and USA Shooting, two Olympic-themed amateur sports groups that have used the property for training, Steffensen said.

To help buy Macy’s, Zeal received a $2.3 million loan from CDF Capital, a California-based nearly 70-year-old group that lends to churches, land records show. Steffensen said the church is also completing a second $3 million loan from CDF.

“We are very excited to join the Citadel family and be a part of this community,” she said.

The conversion of Macy’s property into a space for a charter school and now a church is another sign of the changing landscape for retailers and regional shopping centers.

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Changing consumer buying habits and competition from Amazon and other online retailers have forced many retailers to reconsider their operations and physical space needs. Many shops have closed over the years and then been demolished or repurposed.

In Colorado Springs, financially troubled Sears closed both of its stores in 2019. One in Broadmoor Towne Center on the south side has been converted for multiple uses. The other, on Northside Chapel Hills Mall, has been demolished and a suburban-style apartment complex is being built in its place.

The area’s last Kmart on North Nevada Avenue closed in 2018 and was converted into a fitness center and movie theater complex.

Bryan Rodriguez, a Colorado Springs real estate agent who represented ICA Properties in the sale of Macy’s, predicted that Zeal Church will help bring life to The Citadel mall, its shops and restaurants, and the surrounding area by adding more every day brings more than 1,000 people to the area.

“If you really define what ‘mall’ means, it really just means connecting people in one infrastructure,” Rodriguez said. “So if you have another anchor coming in here, it means there are people who are there weekly, daily, en masse.

“They’re creating a really, really vibrant asset at the west end of the mall, which has been vacant for probably a decade,” he said. “And that’s going to be an example for other parts of the mall to figure out how to use that vacant space.” … It just puts more people in one place, which is what the mall is for.”

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