Bud Shepard: a modern-day pioneer

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When the news came this week, not many residents of Colorado Springs heard about it or comprehended its meaning. They had no way of knowing how much Omer “Bud” Shepard, who passed away in Arizona at the age of 82, influenced this city’s evolution from a small, sleepy town beside the mountains to a thriving metropolitan center.

Inside the Springs’ homebuilding and development world, though, everyone with any sense of local history is sharing in the loss. They know what Bud Shepard meant to the community.

You can start simply by looking at the list of those who have served as president of what’s now known as the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs since its formation nearly six decades ago.

In the HBA’s fifth year, 1958, Bud Shepard became its president — though he was only 28. He was hardly a newcomer, actually a Springs native who built his own first home on Foote Avenue just barely after escaping his teens, at 20. He worked alongside his younger brother Bruce, who also would rise later to an influential presence.

Back in the late 1960s, Colorado Springs had no way of knowing how its future would look, with only about 125,000 residents and hardly anything to the northeast of Academy Boulevard and Constitution Avenue. But the Springs was exploding in its fastest-growing decade, which produced a 95 percent population increase between 1960 and 1970.

Amidst that boom, Bud and Bruce Shepard embarked on a mission to take the Springs toward new horizons. Their vision as young developers led to the creation of Village Seven, the city’s first modern-day planned community, covering more than 1,100 acres east of Academy and north of Constitution.

Village Seven instantly became the region’s trendy new development — and with good reason. Everything about it made sense, starting with the wide Carefree Circle that took care of traffic flow and provided convenient locations for businesses, swimming and tennis clubs, doctors offices and even a hospital. Carefree’s horseshoe path led to meandering streets and pleasant cul-de-sacs. The original “villages” had greenways behind the homes, allowing pleasant strolls for grownups and safe walks to school for kids.

Today, you can still appreciate how well Village Seven was conceived. The homes might be a little dated — all those tri-levels, bi-levels and four-levels were so hip then — but the trees have matured and those greenways still serve their original purpose. Now, too, Powers Boulevard is just a few minutes away.

Go back to the earliest paperwork for Village Seven in 1968, and you’ll find Bud Shepard’s name everywhere. He and Bruce became models for the kind of responsible, community-minded developers who understood the local market and shaped its expansion. Being natives, they knew their business was about building a city they could be proud of, and being accountable for their work. Their company, Shepard Homes, took its success through decades and other parts of the city.

Bud Shepard never sought recognition for his efforts, but he still earned such career honors as the HBA’s Founders Award and the Pikes Peak Range Riders’ Silver Spur Award. If Colorado Springs ever would have a hall of fame for developers, the Shepards certainly would be charter members.

Their standards, and their community involvement, have set an example for their industry that hasn’t faded with time. And it’s hard to think of a better tribute than that.