Nor’Wood begins work on $30 million Fountain apts.

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Nor’Wood Development Group will break ground on a 240-unit apartment development in Fountain on Monday, Oct. 17.

The $30 million project, called the Mesa Ridge Apartments, will be located about two miles from Fort Carson’s Gate 20 and just down the road from the thriving Markets at Mesa Ridge retail development.

Plans call for 84 one-bedroom units on two floor plans, 132 two-bedroom units on three floor plans and 24 three-bedroom units.

The 3,750-square foot club house will feature a gaming and theater room, business center, social room, chef’s kitchen and fitness center. The community will also have an outdoor pool, covered porches and grills.

The color scheme for the complex will blend three primary colors, according to an information sheet about the project.

“It’s going to read more like a village than apartments,” said Nor’Wood’s Fred Veitch. “It’s a really attractive project. The buildings have a lot of articulated shapes and a lot of vertical and horizontal movement.”

The exterior of the 21 buildings will be constructed in three different styles, said Griffis Blessing Director of Business Development and Marketing Matt Erstling, which will manage the project.

“We’re trying to create more of a community,” Erstling said. “It will feel more like a neighborhood than most of the modern apartment complexes you see.”

Nor’Wood closed on its HUD financing on Thursday, Oct. 6, Veitch said. He expects the club house and first apartment buildings to be finished in about 12 months and ready for new tenants.

“There’s not been any new development in that whole area for years,” Veitch said. “We really expect it to be well-received.”

While these are the first new units in Fountain since 2004, there are two new apartment developments underway to the north. The Peaks at Woodmen is a 230-unit luxury complex at the corner of Woodmen Road and Union Boulevard. The Vistas at Jackson Creek is a 177-unit luxury complex in Monument.

Recent drops in apartment vacancies from sustained rates in the double digits throughout most of the last decade to a healthy 5 to 6 percent have caused slow increases in rent rates that justify new apartment construction, according to industry analysts.

But vacancy rates have been much higher in the Fountain area than they have been in Colorado Springs. The vacancy rate in Fountain for the third quarter of 2011 was 12.7 percent, according to Apartment Insights, a vacancy survey compiled by Doug Carter with Sperry Van Ness.

“That could be just because there isn’t as much inventory in Fountain so any vacancy at all makes a big difference,” Carter said.

Pat Stanforth, a certified property manager with Griffis Blessing, agreed.

“There’s not a lot there and what is there is pretty old,” she said. “People today, they want modern. They want energy efficient. The require more than a front door and carpet. This project is absolutely going to meet that demand.”

The last properties built in that area were the Fountain Ridge and Fountain Ridge South Apartments in 2004. There are only 111 units in that complex, which includes two-bedroom, two-bath and three-bedroom, two-bath apartments and one-, two and three-bedroom townhomes.

More than half of the units there are income restricted affordable housing, said manager Becky Malina. Rents there range from $750 to $860 a month.

“A new development — that will be nice,” Malina said. “I hate turning people away.”

Rental rates at Mesa Ridge, where apartments range from 561 to 1,262 square feet, will start at $600 a month for one-bedroom units and go up to $1,328 for three-bedroom units.

The Mesa Ridge complex is close to arteries that run quickly to the airport and Peterson Air Force Base, Erstling said. While the development is likely to draw a strong military presence, he said Griffis Blessing expects tenants from a variety of backgrounds.

“This is exciting,” Stanforth said. “I’m excited for the town of Fountain. They definitely need new apartments down there.”