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Aurora marijuana-themed mall fills vacancies, draws customers

Posted: 7:09 PM, Nov 16, 2016
Updated: 2016-11-17 01:13:29-05

AURORA, Colo. -- At first glance, the buildings on the corner of South Chambers Road and East Mexico Drive in Aurora look like any other strip mall.

But look past the nail salon and the tattoo parlor, and you may notice a trend: A dispensary, a head shop, a grow store.

"What we decided to do was have a shopping center that was focused primarily on the marijuana industry," said Corey Wagner, an executive vice president with the property management and investment company Western Centers. "We see this as a unique real estate play. It's the only one like this."

Once a run-down strip mall, investors gave it a $1 million facelift and a new name: The Aurora Hemp Marketplace.
 
And it has worked: The occupancy in the center has gone from only 60 percent to almost 95 percent, and business owners report a steady stream of customers, stopping in multiple stores.

"It's fantastic. It's a one-stop-shop for anybody that comes here," said Michael Scialfo, the general manager at the dispensary Rocky Road Aurora. 

For many dispensaries it has been hard to find landlords who will rent to the pot industry, which is why he said it is so important for them to be good neighbors.

"We have people out there picking up trash multiple times a day. We send employees out on that — we just want to be a good neighborhood store," said Scialfo.

On the other side of the parking lot, Grofax Aurora has also seen a dramatic increase in traffic.

"Of course, we're the grow supply shop so we cater to a lot of customers that are exercising their Colorado rights to grow their marijuana," said Tyson Place, the hydroponics store's owner, who credits the cannabis theme with boosting business. "We all offer a little different facet that kind of has its cohesiveness in it that works well."

In fact, several business owners said they have become a shopping destination like never before.

"People from out of state, really, it opens their eyes. They say 'Oh my gosh, this is a dream come true," said Place.

The center still has two vacancies, and it's looking for other pot-related businesses to come in.

"We're hoping for something like a hemp clothing store or a Cheba Hut sub shop," said Wagner, who recommends the model to other investment companies. "At this point, I think it could be something setting a trend going forward. We’re seeing more states legalizing marijuana, and I think there’s going to be more landlords that are willing to embrace the industry."

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