Spring Prairie Commons Expanding with REI, Two Restaurants

Outdoor retailer among several new businesses joining commercial subdivision in north Kalispell

By Dillon Tabish
REI. Courtesy Flower and Stone, Ltd.

The commercial district on the north side of Kalispell is growing with the latest slate of forthcoming tenants, including outdoor retailer REI and a pair of restaurants.

Karen Blumenstein, president of Flower and Stone, Ltd., has submitted plans to the city of Kalispell for a new mini anchor building that is slated to house Recreational Equipment, Inc., or REI, along U.S. Highway 93. The national outdoor recreation retailer will occupy a 20,000-square-foot building situated between Hobby Lobby and Home Goods. The store is poised to break ground in spring and open by fall 2018. REI also operates stores in Missoula and Bozeman.

The addition of REI will help fill in Spring Prairie Commons, the large commercial subdivision next to Kidsports Complex, alongside several other new businesses that will also be new to the market.

Panera Bread, a national bakery-café restaurant chain, will set up shop inside a 5,100-square-foot building near the southern entrance of the center. The Ryan Restaurant Group, which operates the local Famous Dave’s and both local Applebee’s, secured franchise rights for Panera and it will be the first in Montana.

Next door, a 7,200-square-foot building will be constructed and divided into three new businesses: MOD Pizza, a fast casual pizza restaurant chain, Kay Jewelers and T-Mobile. The three businesses are expected to open by fall 2018.

Harbor Freight, a tool and equipment retailer, is also in development in the subdivision alongside existing businesses Hobby Lobby, Home Goods, Krispy Kreme, Mattress Firm, Costa Vida Fresh Mexican Grill and Marriott Springhill Suites.

Flower & Stone, Ltd. is the developer behind Spring Prairie Commons and also developed the nearby commercial center where Cabela’s and other businesses are situated, including the forthcoming Kobe Steakhouse. Blumenstein and her partners, The Kroenke Group, own both centers on the north end of Kalispell and lease the school trust land on a long-term basis from the state of Montana.

The Kroenke Group, a Missouri-based real estate firm that owns more than 100 shopping centers across the U.S., is behind a large portion of the north-side development, including Costco, Lowe’s, Target, Home Depot, T.J. Maxx and Natural Grocers.

With the arrival of REI and others, barely a handful of available lots remain up for grabs in the 28-acre Spring Prairie Commons, including two large anchor sites that border Kidsports Complex. Two smaller open lots with ample parking could suit restaurants, and Blumenstein said she is focused on putting the right businesses in the center.

“I’ve been patiently working with a number of sit-down, full-service restaurants, none of which are ready to come to market,” she said.

Blumenstein acknowledged one of the biggest challenges associated with bringing new restaurants to Kalispell remains the high cost of acquiring alcohol licenses, which in recent years have surpassed $500,000.

“The cost for liquor licenses is somewhat prohibitive,” she said.

“And because of the seasonal nature of the traffic in Kalispell, it’s harder on a full-service restaurant because they really need to see 12 months of continuous sales. It helps that Kalispell has some very high months that help offset some low months, but it’s challenging to convince the sit-down restaurants.”

Nevertheless, Blumenstein said Kalispell remains a strong regional market because of the valley’s growing communities and diversified employment base. The strong presence of Canadian consumers only helps bolster the viability for businesses.

“We like to see strong economies with good employment and a variety of businesses and strong education and health care sectors,” she said. “That’s what helps supplement the tourist market. We see this as a regional market.”

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