It has been nearly two years since the Urban Land Institute called for the creation of 250 to 300 housing units in downtown Colorado Springs, and the city has yet to see such results.
But a handful of local developers are pushing through economic and bureaucratic hurdles in attempts to reach that goal.
The ULI report, published in June 2012, suggested that the development of additional living space in the city’s core would not only create the potential to attract residents, but also business and social opportunity — ultimately economic development and revitalization.
Although the few developers have worked in a rebounding economy — with encouragement from the region’s increasingly saturated multi-family housing market — the journey hasn’t been without setbacks.
Now numbering more than a half-dozen, apartment buildings and condo complexes are in various stages of development throughout downtown and on the Springs’ Westside: Some are being spearheaded by well-known members of the business community and others by those trying to get back into the game.
Perhaps the most certain of the potential settlements is The Gabion, a three-story, 20-unit apartment building rising up on the city’s Westside.
Business partners Eddie Bishop and Charles Cothern (C&A Properties LLC) purchased the long-vacant 1.83-acre lot at 676 W. Monument Ave. for $140,000 in April 2013 and quickly began working with city agencies to realize their vision.
With the help of Ryan Lloyd, principal of Echo Architecture, the team designed and recently started construction on a scenic modern structure. Bishop said the apartments will feature, among other things, panoramic views of both downtown and the Front Range, “extreme energy efficiency” with potential LEED certification and ample bike-friendly features.
Bishop said the apartments will range from around 850 square feet for a one-bedroom unit to roughly 1,150 square feet for a two-bedroom unit.
The first floor will feature four units and 10 garages, and the second and third will house eight units each.
Although Cothern, a project manager at Springs Engineering, said financing such projects is always tricky, the duo is currently working with a $2.4 million budget. They plan to begin preleasing the “competitively priced” units in May to prepare for a fall opening.
“There is so much opportunity in Colorado Springs, and we’re proud to be a part of that,” Bishop said.
Closer to the city’s core there are plans for an apartment complex that, if completed, will create 42 dwellings near downtown’s hot spots.
Although Darsey Nicklasson (co-developer with local businesswoman Kathy Loo) declined to comment on specific plans for the project at 410 S. Nevada Ave., the site’s Facebook page hints at what might be to come.
The Blue Dot Place “is a proposed residential development within blocks of an eclectic mix of well-known local restaurants, coffee shops and other urban amenities,” according to the page. “Combining contemporary design and energy efficiency, Blue Dot Place will offer Colorado Springs urbanites a place to call home.”
The complex is described as a 5,000-square-foot, four-story building that will feature both one- and two-bedroom units, according to the page. Proposed amenities include balconies, storage units, a roof-top deck, secure entry, bike parking and single-stream recycling.
Plans for the development include 10-foot ceilings and all energy-efficient appliances. Although the project was slated for completion this winter, that seems unlikely given the development’s pre-construction status.
Nicklasson, who is working with Loo under BDP Development LLC, said the project is “not 100 percent, but as long as Colorado Springs Utilities and the city work with us, I think we can get it done.”
Nicklasson added that the plans for the complex are to be submitted to the city this week, and if there aren’t too many improvements to be made, the light will turn green.
“Right now, everything is falling nicely into place,” she said.
From the company that brought the Springs Two Eight West (a luxury condominium development overlooking Monument Valley Park) have come plans for two more inner-city residential structures.
But developer Bob Elliott said the process has not been an easy one.
Elliott and his Downtown Development Group, which includes his wife Karen and daughter Jenny, plan to develop a five-unit building at 210 Pueblo Ave. and a 24-unit building at 421 S. Nevada Ave. (formerly Schooner’s Restaurant).
In September the group paid $360,000 for the 37,240-square-foot Nevada property and $30,000 for the 6,801-square-foot Pueblo lot, according to documents from the El Paso County Assessor’s office.
Elliott said the group is in the final stages of planning construction and intends to break ground on the Pueblo Avenue project next month, although the Nevada Avenue development is on hold due to issues with city planning and policy.
“Here we are trying to make the existing city livable again, and we get all of this stuff thrown at us,” he said.
Elliott said that issues related to code requirements are among the most difficult challenges he has faced, and that working to meet standards of the fire department, Colorado Springs Utilities and various other agencies has cost him around 10 percent of the budget.
But despite these complexities, Elliott said he is hopeful his group and others can succeed in bringing about change in the downtown housing market.
“We want to help create multi-family housing downtown,” he said.
Walston Group Real Estate, which has become a mainstay in the residential repurposing of historic Colorado Springs real estate, is continuing to add units to its downtown inventory.
Work began in the fall to transform the historic home of Colbrun Motor Tours at 117-119 E. Bijou St. into luxury condominiums called the Lofts at Bijou. Owner and broker Janelle Walston said two commercial condos are currently available on the 4,500-square-foot building’s ground floor and the company is continuing renovations.
“As far as plans for future developments on the loft side, as part of the condo conversion, we retained the air rights in order to be able to build lofts over the ground floor space at some point in the future,” she said. “Our plan at this time is to build a second level which could mean as many as eight to nine additional living spaces.”
Walston said that the firm hopes to have completed the work sometime in 2015 but that there are no available details related to price or square-footage.
While some developers were eager to discuss their plans to improve the city’s core, others were guarded and careful not to elevate expectations without guarantee.
Local architect/designer Bobby Hill said he is currently working on a four-story, 33-unit condo complex at the southwest corner of Nevada and Vermijo (304-306 S. Nevada Ave.) with property owner/developer Michael Ringler. Ringler declined to comment on the project, which Hill said is going by the name of KRS Lofts. There is currently a small car lot on that property.
Major players in the El Paso County real estate scene also seem to be working at sites on both the east and west ends of downtown Colorado Springs.
Multiple sources have indicated that companies including Nor’Wood Development Group and Griffis/Blessing Inc. will soon bring the area at least one large, multi-family housing development. Although he declined to comment on specific details, Nor’Wood President Chris Jenkins said the company is working toward plans to develop properties in the 600 block of South Cascade Avenue as well as the north end of South Wahsatch Street.
If all goes as planned for these hopeful property developers, more than 150 units could soon become available in and around downtown Colorado Springs — well on the way to answering ULI’s call.