IKEA's sign of something huge

Posted

Jane Reuter

IKEA’s bright blue interstate sign stands 92 feet high and occupies 575 square feet of space, but in the eyes of Centennial, it is soft, green and wallet sized.

“I believe that sign is green for the south metro area and the state of Colorado,” Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon said. “It’s not going to be just our citizens coming to IKEA. They draw from a regional perspective. People driving in from Wyoming, Kansas, they’re absolutely going to be driving across to Park Meadows and staying in the hotels.”

Sales generated at the 415,000-square-foot store, slated to open this fall, will bring at least $2 million in tax revenue to the city, Noon estimates. A cost-sharing agreement requires Centennial to split up to $18 million in sales tax with IKEA, reimbursing the company for infrastructure improvements. But that will still leave Centennial with heavy pockets.

A specific opening date has not been set for the new store, which is under construction on 13.5 acres along the western side of Interstate 25, north of the Park Meadows area.

Centennial officials and excited IKEA fans aside, not everyone is delighted about the new sign.

“The sign will identify their location to shoppers in Wyoming, New Mexico and Kansas,” Lone Tree Mayor Jim Gunning quipped in the city’s Timberlines newsletter, mailed quarterly to Lone Tree residents. “Just semi-kidding, of course. The sign will be seen only by people living in the very western part of Kansas.”

Gunning acknowledged concerns about the sign during a separate phone interview.

“I realize a lot of people are concerned with the way it looks, but it’s really Centennial’s business,” he said. “I think we have to respect their right to operate within their city boundaries as they respect our right.”

An anonymously created Facebook page has even been devoted to reducing the sign’s size “for the safety and beauty of our community.” So far, the page has eight followers.

“If I had a company or a house there, I would not be happy,” said Ronda Wenger of Littleton, adding she suspects nearby businesses might have “sign envy. I just hope Centennial doesn’t bend the rules and allow more.”

That’s unlikely, says Noon. Centennial’s ordinances outline specific guidelines for giant retailers like IKEA, giving them exemptions that include a sign to correspond with their size. They also allow super-sized box stores a taller building and smaller setbacks than the city’s more diminutive retailers. The special rules are restricted to retailers building 225,000-square-foot or larger stores, and the sign exemption granted only to stores that front the interstate.

Noon admits without reservation that the ordinance, approved years before IKEA came knocking, had a definite intent. It was, she said, “specifically designed to attract and give a destination retailers some comfort to know they could come to our city and get through the process.”

But since Centennial has few lots that can accommodate stores of that size, the chances of adding another towering sign are slim to none.

“The opportunities are very limited,” Noon said. “In fact, the way I understand it, unless someone tore down a building, this was the only vacant site that met that criteria.”

Even a neighboring furniture retailer like Wow!, whose comparatively wee sign sits in the shadow of IKEA’s, won’t be allowed to bump up its interstate advertisement.

A Wow! representative could not be reached for comment, but Noon said the store’s owners were well aware they’d soon have a big neighbor.

“They decided to take over that space once they knew IKEA was coming,” she said. “They knew what their sign codes were.”

IKEA is unfazed by disparaging remarks directed at its building and sign size and color. The size of its Centennial store sign, which measures 50 feet across and more than 11-feet deep, is typical for IKEA. So is criticism.

“Certainly the sign, just as the building, is a very unique structure,” spokesman Joseph Roth said.

The sign is carefully designed to alert shoppers to Ikea’s location, giving them time to exit the interstate and find the store.

“We do have experience in attracting large crowds,” Roth said.

Despite its size, the Centennial store’s location isn’t perfect, making the sign even more important.

“You actually can’t see the building from that far away,” Roth said.

The barbs IKEA anticipated when the sign took its skyline space are easily shrugged off in light of Colorado’s historical thirst for IKEA, Roth said.

Because of that demand, “We’ve been visiting the market off and on for more than seven or eight years,” he said. “We have close to 80,000 customers in the state without a store. It’s very humbling but flattering.”

Big blue building and coordinating sign aside, Lone Tree welcomes IKEA. Like Noon, Gunning agrees shoppers will spill over city lines and distribute dollars across the area, giving a significant boost to Lone Tree’s businesses and bottom line. Lone Tree has even launched a study to determine what street improvements it may need to make to accommodate the influx of IKEA traffic.

Roth suspects there are more IKEA fans than detractors in the Denver area.

“We typically have customers camping out 48 hours in advance of a store opening and can have anywhere from several hundred to several thousands of people in line by the time the doors open,” he said.

Littleton resident Shannon Simmons is among Ikea’s cheerleaders. She’s sampled its restaurant menu and benefited from its free, supervised, in-store childcare.

“I’m so in love with IKEA, I don’t care what they do,” she said.

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