Main Street Journal

On the River: Re-looping the Loop


Crescent Center
The following is an excerpt from our October issue. Subscribe now.

By: J. Ward Moorehouse

These days, the changes along the I-240 Poplar Loop are a study in constant change. Driving down Poplar one week might yield an open dirt field with slow moving machinery. The following week, that same piece of land is a bank with an Opening Soon sign blowing in the wind.

This past spring, Belz Enterprises was finally able to convert the prize piece of land just west of the I-240 Loop, luring a restaurant, a bank, and even a Starbucks onto an odd shaped tight fit piece of land. They even found room for an electronic billboard which has remained consistently occupied.

Now the attention of developers has shifted from the west side of the Loop to the east.

Gone are the Ridgeway Trace Apartments, once a fixture along the I-240 Loop. Sprawling buildings that looked more suited for the 1970s. Almost overnight, Ridgeway Trace was gutted and bulldozed, making way for construction this fall on a brand new commercial development.

The Ridgeway Trace Shopping Center, a series of free standing and joined commercial buildings, will begin to rise just west of the dark glassed and slightly curved Crescent Building over the next year. The plan is to take an area long known for high dollar business and add a high profile commercial element. It is a marriage long overdue.

The commercial complex, already leasing, aims for completion by fall of next year, or as retailers call it, the precipice of the Christmas Season.

Ridgeway Trace already has two anchor stores on board – Target and Best Buy. They also have a growing list of secondary stores, or Junior Anchors – Barnes & Noble, the Cheesecake Factory, Smoothie King, and Maggiano’s, an Italian restaurant. The aim is to not only cater to the steady daytime traffic, but to also create an elevated flow of nighttime traffic with retailers and restaurants open late into the night.

Filling the commercial space seems to be gravy, with new tenants already being added monthly. Poplar, along the I-240 Loop, generates over 60,000 vehicles per day. Over 70,000 people live within a three-mile radius of the land where the Ridgeway Trace Shopping Center is being built.

As development along the Loop continues to grow, traffic becomes a major obstacle to achieving success. With 1,700 parking spaces and an estimated five to ten thousand extra vehicles thrown out onto Poplar Avenue every day, one has to hope that the problems that have plagued the Walnut Grove exit just one mile north (read: congestion and gridlock) are unable to find root in the Poplar Loop.