Developer spends $1.5M to restore streambed

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It’s hard to imagine a developer springing for more than $1 million to clean up homeless camps and debris along his property’s Fountain Creek streambed. Not in this economy.

But that’s what Gold Hill Mesa owner and investor Bob Willard did last year when he partnered with the City of Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise Program and the Colorado Department of Transportation on the Fountain Creek Restoration at Gold Hill Mesa.

This month landscape work on both sides of a 3,300-foot length of the creek should be completed. Mark Wilson, THK Associates Inc.’s project landscape architect, who supervised the channel’s clean-up and reconfiguration, was in town this week to inspect progress.

Changes to the stream, which has flooded along 21st Street and caused bridge damage over the last few years, are obvious. Drivers along Highway 24, used to passing the ugly, deeply eroded hillsides, now see layers of protective thatching lining the area. While a severe gully-washer like last Memorial Day’s rain storm could still undo much of the restoration’s progress, Willard expects to counter further erosion through careful land conservation and new vegetation.

Boulders were brought down from the mountains to create the Fountain Creek streamside improvements.

Boulders were brought down from the mountains to create the Fountain Creek streamside improvements.

It’s been quite a process, but there have already been positive results. Earlier this spring, a member of the landscaping team caught a 14-inch trout in the stream.

The cost to restore, re-channel and re-vegetate was mitigated to some degree by state, local and private collaboration.

By the time all of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment rules and Environmental Protection Agency requirements were met, mandating that all ore tailings remain on site, Willard estimates his investment at about $1.5 million. CDOT and the stormwater fund each contributed several hundred thousand dollars to the $2.2 million effort.

More than 23,000 willow shrubs have been planted along the south bank which belongs to Gold Hill Mesa, and huge boulders from nearby Idaho Springs were trucked in to stabilize both sides of the stream. Gold Hill Mesa also dug up and recycled old concrete from the historic ore-processing mill, broke it up into various sizes, and used some of it on to shore up the stream’s banks as well.

Most importantly, the 3,300-foot re-channeled streambed now meets the state’s 100-year flood plan protection criteria.

“It’s been a long, slow process, but it’s worth every penny. And it probably would have cost three times as much if we’d waited until development was further along,” Willard said.

Hammons: We’re pushing forward on Renaissance

John Q. Hammons says he plans to finish and open the Renaissance Colorado Springs hotel by the first quarter of 2011 — despite the tight credit market and a Marriott news release that said his local 300-room hotel and conference center would be delayed until July 2011.

Financing for the $90 million-plus hotel is not yet in place, he said, but will be finalized this spring. The Springfield, Mo., hotel developer also expects to have construction “under way again within 30 to 60 days.”

Local stakeholders are watching carefully, waiting to see whether the company can meet its deadlines.

Notable this week

As a sign that tenants and buyers are taking advantage of attractive commercial prices and interest rates, Powers Office Park has sold its first full-floor 17,000-square-foot office condominium.

So far the medical/office complex includes three 30,000-square-foot buildings but will eventually include about 300,000 square feet of development.

The property, located near the high-traffic intersection of North Powers and Briargate boulevards, sold for $2.2 million and includes heating underground parking as well as main-level space. The buyer, Black Forest Engineering headed by Steve Galema, was represented by Lonnie Wagner of Sierra Commercial Real Estate.

Mary Frances Cowan and Andy Oyler of Grubb & Ellis Quantum Commercial Group represented the seller, Compass Capital Group of Phoenix. Ted Link of Cascade Commercial Group is the property’s listing broker.

Becky Hurley can be reached at or 719-329-5235.

One Response to Developer spends $1.5M to restore streambed

  1. Good for Willis. The streamside improvements will be good for the community. But it’s too bad he didn’t hire local consultants to help him plan it.

    April 24, 2010 at 9:26 am