$125 million in new projects scheduled to begin this year

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Independence Place is a $30 million, 300-unit apartment complex that will cater to soldiers.

The Colorado Springs multifamily community is about to add three new members, two upscale projects on the north end of town and one unique for-rent housing concept near Fort Carson.
The first out of the ground will likely be Alexan at Briargate, which expects to begin construction this month, said Scott Nguyen, managing director at Trammel Crow Residential.
The luxury apartment complex will feature 322 rental units in the first phase and will be located at 9915 N. Union Blvd., at the southwest corner of Union and Grand Cordera Parkway, near the new Super-Target shopping center.
The two-phase project will kick off with construction of a clubhouse, all amenities and first-phase residential units. Build-out will take 24 months.
Alexan is the first multifamily construction project in Colorado Springs since the Creekside Apartments on South Powers Boulevard were completed by Griffis Blessing during 2003.
Empty-nester baby boomers and younger Echo boomers, ranging in age from the mid-20s to the mid-30s, are Alexan’s target markets.
Trammell Crow Residential and its financial partners are expected to invest $50 million during phase one of the project.
The single-family home sales lull was not one of Nguyen’s initial reasons for investing in an upscale apartment community, “but it certainly doesn’t hurt rental projections,” he said. “The housing situation in Colorado Springs is pretty stable, but we’re hopeful that with the number of military slated to return along with strong corporate growth, a rising tide will lift all boats.”

Tuscan lifestyle

La Bella Vita will feature 278 villa-style rental units near the southwest corner of Briargate Parkway and Powers Boulevard, off Brainard Drive. Construction is expected to begin by April.
The Tuscan-inspired Class A community will have a central piazza with water features, a full-service spa in its own crescent-shaped building that surrounds a swimming pool, concierge service and an Internet café, said developer Dick McKee of McKee Associates Inc. of Denver.
The complex will be directly south of Memorial Hospital North and surrounding medical campuses, a major driver in McKee’s decision to move forward on the $45 million project.
“Our villas will appeal to the kinds of people who might work in the medical industry,” he said. “In Denver we’ve built several communities near busy corridors like Powers Boulevard and have done very well with them.”
The 18-acre site also is just a few minutes away from the new St. Francis Medical Center.
But locating near the medical community was not McKee’s only motivation.
“I really like what La Plata — especially Scott Smith and Gary Reyner — has done at Briargate,” he said. “It’s a terrific community. With all the people who live there, many could have family members who want to live at La Bella Vita. Colorado Springs seems to be a stable, growing city — I’d like to live there myself.”
The U.S. Air Force Academy chapel was built by McKee’s grandfather, Robert E. McKee, a leading figure in the world of general construction during the 1950s and 1960s.
Declining vacancy rates and strong rents to the north ultimately triggered the company’s decision to move forward with the project.
“We view this as the beginning of an up-cycle for Colorado Springs,” McKee said, “and we’ll be introducing entirely new design features to the Class A market.”

Local analysis

The Apartment Insights Fourth Quarter Rent and Vacancy Survey, conducted by Doug Carter of Sperry Van Ness, shows a 9.43 percent vacancy rate — up from 8.5 percent during the previous quarter, but below the rate a year earlier of 10.21 percent.
Carter views both companies’ market entry as a sign that some investors have noticed the lower annual vacancy rate, as well as early indications of upward pressure on rents at high-end properties on the north side of town.
B.J. Hybl, president of Griffis Blessing Property Services Group, which manages about 4,000 multifamily units in Colorado Springs and Denver, shares both developers’ optimism, but remains cautious about predicting an immediate upturn.
“We’ve begun to see some true gains since last year in occupancies and in rent growth,” he said. “The future depends on job growth. Military time frames are very uncertain. We’re cautiously optimistic about what we’re seeing — and there’s plenty of room for new apartments and multifamily if everything comes together. The next five years are hard to predict, but long term, the outlook is fabulous.”

Soldier-friendly concept

Independence Place is a $30 million 300-unit multifamily apartment community developed by Place Properties Inc. of Dallas and Atlanta. The complex will be south of Mesa Ridge Parkway, near the entrance to Fort Carson.
Fountain City Planner Sheila Booth said the developer is in the final stages of the entitlement process, and pending final approvals next month, construction could begin as early as March.
Carter said the property breaks the traditional apartment complex model.
“Their idea is very different,” he said. “(It’s) designed much like a university dormitory, in which each tenant has his or her own bedroom and bath, but shares a living area and kitchen with three or four others.”
Trevor Tollett, development manager for project said the company had already purchased land when the announcement was made that an additional brigade would join Fort Carson.
“That news, along with an expected turnaround in the economy by the time we’re ready for move-ins in 15 to 18 months is good timing,” he said. “We’re geared to single soldiers who are looking for affordable living.”
Rents are designed to be “well below” a typical housing allowance for an E-5 or E-6 soldier, Tollett said.
Similar facilities have proven popular at base realignment and closure-affected posts. The company’s largest complex, with 720 units, is in Killeen, Texas, at Fort Hood. Other Independence Place complexes are completed or in development at Fort Stewart, Fort Campbell, Fort Benning, Fort Sill and Fort Riley.
A general contractor has not been selected. Tollett said he has a “short list which may include an out-of-state construction company” but that “almost all our subcontractors will come from the local area.”
Becky.Hurley@csbj.com