Stormwater basins unlikely amenities

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David Morrison is a landscape architect and vice president of Land Patterns.

David Morrison is a landscape architect and vice president of Land Patterns.

Stormwater detention facilities seldom make the list of “must-see” real estate.

Usually found in or near major residential or commercial developments, they are utilitarian — sometimes downright unattractive — dirt-concrete-and-rock catch-basins designed to store and redistribute storm water or heavy snow melt.

New facilities are incorporated into a larger master plan which is reviewed and approved by city, county or state officials before work begins.

But developers who invest millions of dollars in new projects sometimes want more than a Plain Jane water redistribution facility — especially if it can be transformed into a selling feature, an amenity to attract prospective customers, tenants and homeowners.

That was Nor’Wood Development Group Vice President Fred Vietch’s vision.

Upgrading the three-and-a-half-acre stormwater detention site at the entrance to Interquest Marketplace, just east of Interstate 25, near the new Hollywood Theater and future Renaissance Hotel complex, would cost almost four times as much as a basic version, however.

“We see it as an investment in the whole process,” Vietch said of $430,000 project budget, so far. “Look, we already have a $100 million hotel complex and one of the nicest Hollywood Theaters in the country here. And we’re adding restaurants: Colorado Mountain Brewery has broken ground, and Cheddars, a Dallas-based casual dining restaurant is going to take advantage of its location right next to this great amenity. It will pay off in the long run.”

Nor’Wood has spent at least $300,000 more than what was required, said Kyle Campbell, a civil engineer and division manager for Classic Consulting which oversees site development and works with the city’s stormwater enterprise manager, Ken Sampley.

The company hired Nass Design Associates and Land Pattern Designs, both of Colorado Springs, to integrate an “upscale visual theme” with current and to surrounding retail, as well as to provide design and landscaping services.

The result: An eye-appealing detention pond, rimmed by a quarter-mile trails system linked with other walkways planned for the 120-acre development. A pedestrian-friendly labyrinth and gathering plaza surrounded by street lamps is already in place.

“The whole site will actually have four different detention and stormwater facilities. The first is the largest. It lies at the gateway to the entire commercial development,” Campbell said, adding that while the mandated basin will actually become a small pond from time to time, complete with native plantings, cattails and a concrete retaining wall, officials shy from using the word “pond” to describe the end product.

“People tend to think of fish and boats,” he said. “It’s not a lake. Sometimes the water may be lower than others and if it gets high enough, the three outlet pipes will carry it off-site.”

Ben Bustos and Stewart Wills of Classic Communities handled site excavation and determined the stormwater detention was at the lowest spot on the 80-acre retail, restaurant and entertainment-zoned parcel.

“It doesn’t look like it slopes that much,” Bustos said, pointing to higher ground to the east, along Federal Boulevard and Voyager Drive, “but this basin will be very important when we get a big storm. You see a lot of developers finding creative ways to use these stormwater detention areas nowadays. Some are turning them into recreation fields for soccer or natural open spaces. That way the land can be used unless there’s heavy water run-off. It makes a lot of sense.”

While a Cinderella stormwater basin and trails system might enhance entry to Interquest Marketplace, such imaginative uses of drainage areas are not the norm. More often, the city and state, for example, build spartan water collectors like the channel north of the intersection at 19th and Uintah Street, with its barbed wire enclosure or the naked rock-and-concrete regional facility near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution, Vietch said.

“Just look at the alternative,” he said. “I think what we’re doing will be good for the neighborhood — and for the whole city.”