Money, road problems in Indian Hills

       The Indian Hills development, approved for 80 townhome lots, has ceased construction for financial reasons; meanwhile, the Centennial Boulevard extension behind it remains incomplete, and as of this week, was open to traffic from two neighborhood streets in violation of city intent. The paved portion of the Centennial Boulevard extension,
built by Colorado Springs Health Partners, is at  right, while
south of it is a few hundred feet of rough grading and then the unpaved segment going past the Indian Hills Village subdivision to Van Buren Street. South of that, no road has been built.
Westside Pioneer photo
       City planners James Mayerl and Larry Larsen said that City Traffic Engineering will be informed about the access issues from Mesa Valley Road and Van Buren Street. “It's hard to stop people from roughing it,” Mayerl said. “Maybe we can get better barricades.”
       Only 20 townhomes have been built since construction began about two years ago, according to Johnny Revious of Keller Williams Realty (which has been the chief Realtor for the development since May). Of these, only seven have been sold. No construction has occurred since October, he said.
       Revious said a foreclosure action, involving multiple banks, is in progress, and it impacts the developer (Arnold Companies, doing business as Continental Divisions LLC) and builder (Reflections Home Building). He said the individuals involved with these companies were experienced professionals, but ran into monetary problems because the units weren't selling.
       Efforts by the Westside Pioneer to contact people from Arnold and Reflections proved futile. Published phone numbers for each have been disconnected, and the former Arnold Companies office off Lake Avenue was bare.
       Revious cited the lack of progress on the Centennial extension as the main reason for sales problems. The road being open, allowing speedy connections to Fillmore or the Fontanero/ I-25 interchange, would have been a strong selling point and probably would have allowed the developer to start on his planned Phase 2 on the other side of Centennial. In the road's absence, prospective buyers were displeased with winding in and out on neighborhood streets, Revious said. Yet one of the reasons the developer ran into money problems was having to build his segment of Centennial - all but the paving - along about a quarter-mile stretch just west of the project, he pointed out.
       “The city should be ashamed of themselves, letting a subdivision be built there without the road being developed properly,” he said. He added that “I feel bad for all the guys [who were involved in the development].”
       Based on current Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) regional transportation funding priorities, the earliest date Centennial could be built completely is the year 2021. This assumes reauthorization of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA)'s 1-cent sales tax in the year 2014. The original RTA estimate was $11 million for the local share of the project; estimates for 2021, factoring for inflation, roughly double that amount.
       Mayerl holds out hope that a connection can happen sooner than that. With increasing development pressures along Fillmore Street, he suggests that the city look at building a two-lane, “pioneer road” for its part of Centennial. This would allow the road to open in an interim fashion sometime in the next several years.
       But completion also requires cooperation from property owners who would be expected to fund the road where it passes through their lands, as Indian Hills and Colorado Springs Health Partners (off Fillmore Street) have. A small property between those two holdings belongs (at least for now) to Continental Divisions. And, despite talk of potential residential subdivisions south of Van Buren, no proposals have come to the city so far and are not likely to until the housing market rebounds, Mayerl said.
       According to Larsen, one of the requirements in the development plan - honoring a request from the Mesa Springs Community Association - was to keep Centennial Boulevard closed to traffic until it was built all the way from Fillmore to the Fontanero interchange. The idea was to prevent commuter “cut-through” traffic to and from Fillmore speeding through the neighborhood. The current situation - in which Mesa Valley Road has an ineffective blockade at Centennial and Van Buren none at all - allows motorists to access the unpaved Centennial behind Indian Hills, go north through a few hundred feet of partially graded terrain and continue onto the paved Centennial segment that was recently built by Health Partners' contractors from its southern property line up to Fillmore. Access from Fillmore is blocked, for now at least, by a mound of dirt.
       Tire tracks indicate that people are using the Mesa Valley and Van Buren accesses. Two were seen doing so during a roughly half-hour time frame when the Pioneer was on the site. One of them trucked in a dirt bike, evidently for riding pleasure in the expansive open terrain west of Centennial.
       George Gravenstein, president of the Community Association, said he was “flabbergasted” to hear about the developers' problems and the unblocked streets. “I don't think anyone in the neighborhood is aware of this,” he said.
       As for the uncertainty about Centennial's completion, Gravenstein said the neighborhood “has been sitting on pins and needles, wondering when it's going to be done” - although he emphasized that Mesa Springs residents, who had opposed the extension plan, “are not looking forward to it happening.”
       Revious still thinks the subdivision can do well, but concedes it will take some time. He credited the banks for spending money to keep the subdivision looking at least somewhat presentable since taking over. He is hopeful that once the foreclosure goes through, the development will have a new development owner who will be able to get the project moving again.
       In the meantime, he said he feels for the people who bought units in Indian Village, because their property values are probably not as high as they would like. But he asserted that the construction was well done and over time, especially once the road is finished, the values will go back up.

Westside Pioneer article