Reworked, redesigned, ready to go

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Construction of the redesigned Cooper Tower is scheduled to begin next spring.

After more than three years of planning, scores of pro forma analysis and two different architects, a new landmark appears poised to join the city’s downtown fraternity of signature structures.
With planning commission and City Council final approval expected during the first quarter 2008 — and pending a few exterior architectural tweaks, the Cooper Tower hotel and mixed-use complex project is scheduled to begin demolition, residential pre-sales and site excavation next spring on North Nevada Avenue, between Pikes Peak Avenue and Kiowa Street.
Ray O’Sullivan, president of Realty Development Services and a partner in Cooper Holdings LLC, appeared before the Planning Commission this week to ask for final approval of the project.
City land review and development planner Steve Tuck said that with revisions to an upper-level cantilevered design feature, his department is prepared to recommend approval. The final step will be receiving approval from City Council during its first meeting in January.

The process to reach this point hasn’t been easy.
“We must have run 80 different pro formas to make the numbers work,” said Steve Boyette, vice president of Realty Development Services, adding that he has been able to bring costs in at under $100 million.
The biggest challenge, he said, was finding the proper mix of building uses, with the final result being a “stacked” 22-floor commercial, hotel and residential complex.
Included in the high-rise “condotel” will be 37,000 square feet of main level retail, restaurants and kitchen space; three levels of above-grade secured parking; two floors dedicated to meeting space, offices and ballrooms; plus amenities such as a swimming pool, outdoor patios, a spa and fitness center.
Plans also call for 240 hotel guest rooms and up to nine floors of residential living. Boyette said the estimated construction cost for Cooper Tower’s residential units will be about $400 per square foot.
“We are still doing the interior layout, but anticipate having anywhere from 40 to 60 units available for sale,” he said. “I’ve toured Denver condotels similar to what we’re doing — but their upper level spaces have sold for $750 per square foot.”

Colorado Springs’ Tallest Buildings
Building Stories Height
Cooper Tower (proposed) 22 260 ft.
Wells Fargo Bank 15 247 ft.
First Bank 13 207 ft.
Plaza of the Rockies South 13 191 ft.
Colorado Square 14 170 ft.
Antlers Hilton Hotel 13 160 ft.
Alamo Corporate Center 12 160 ft.
Plaza of the Rockies North 8 126 ft.
U.S. Bank 8 100 ft.
City Admin Building 7 100 ft.
Qwest 7 85 ft.
Source: City Planning Department

Boyette acknowledged that the process had been an “evolution.”
The parking structure, for example, was moved from underground to above-grade, and will extend south to land occupied by a small, owner-user building at 15 N. Nevada Ave.
“We also realized, that our market is really focused on two groups: one will be looking for luxury, views and a ‘penthouse’ feel, while the other is probably a local couple, young professional or seasonal buyer looking for a smaller well-appointed unit at a moderate price,” Boyette said.
He predicts condominium spaces will range in size from about 1,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet.
“Who knows? The 22nd floor may be purchased by a single buyer, and we’re prepared to discuss that kind of arrangement,” Boyette said.
He said that at least a dozen prospects have expressed interest in the residential units, and that early contracts will trigger the project’s construction kick-off and financing. A spring 2010 completion date is planned.
Architect Tucker-Sadler of San Diego designed the building, and a hotel management company will be hired to run the day-to-day operations.
Guman and Associates is the project’s land planning and landscape consultant.

Downtown the big winner

Downtown advocates have followed the Cooper Tower’s progress and see the 580,000-square-foot complex as a major economic driver that will bring increased numbers of visitors and locals to spend time and money downtown.
“Studies we’ve commissioned in the past show that downtown can support at least 450 rooms and more meeting space,” said Beth Kosley, executive director for the Downtown Partnership.
And there may be good reason for optimism.
According to Debbie Evercloud, a Yorktown University economics professor and owner of Aspenheart Economics, the construction project could generate as much as $112 million in direct economic stimulus to the local economy.
That figure is based on the purchase of construction materials as well as added consumption by those who are employed to work on the project.
Evercloud’s projections are based on a “regional impact multiplier” used by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
For now, however, Sullivan, Boyette and the other partners in Cooper Holdings are focused on getting construction under way — well aware that a 220-unit downtown Embassy Suites Hotel has been proposed by national hotel developer John Q. Hammons.