Gold Hill Mesa: 21st St. work to start Aug. 1

       Several updates on the Gold Hill Mesa development emerged from a press conference June 6.
  • The widening of 21st Street to four lanes between Lower Gold Camp Road and Villa de Mesa Drive is scheduled to begin Aug. 1 and will require two months for completion. Funded by the developers, the road will be expanded to its new 100-foot width almost entirely on the east (Gold Hill) side of the road, with a retaining wall to keep it in place. A new street, named Eclipse Drive, will be brought from the subdivision to line up with Skyview Lane at 21st, plans show.
           The work is Phase 1 of the widening; future work will add two lanes down to Broadway Street once plans are finalized for the planned commercial area southeast of 21st Street and Highway 24, developer Bob Willard said.
  • Contrary to expectations that most of the Gold Hill Mesa home buyers would be “empty-nesters” - in part because of the small yards - 30 percent of the sales so far have been “young families,” Willard said. “That is a surprise.”
           However, he noted, “Our yards may be small, but the ability to move around (through the development's “green” streets) is very large.”
           No one is currently living at the site.
  • Asked a question about the safety of children playing in the dirt - considering that the property is being built over tailings from the former gold mill - Willard pointed out that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave the project a “No Action Determination” ruling last fall for first filing of 167 housing lots. The certification means that no further action is needed to remediate the land under the Voluntary Cleanup (VCUP) agreement between the state Health Department and Gold Hill Mesa.
  • He predicted that the state would similarly bless Filing 2 just east of 21st Street, which is being graded currently and is foreseen to have 73 lots on 16 acres.
  • A total of 817 lots will be developed in the residentially zoned 143 acres of the property. These will result in 900 to 1,000 units, depending on the mix of duplexes and triplexes, Willard said.
  • Additional residential space will be created in the 67-acre commercial area, including possible lofts.
  • Construction could begin on the commercial area in about two years. Willard reiterated past statements that he does not want extremely large stores - nothing larger than 80,000 square feet.
           The subdivision as a whole “will be very walkable,” he said. Other than employment, he elaborated, “people who live on Gold Hill Mesa will not have to leave to get services.” This in itself should result in the subdivision contributing less to traffic counts than city engineers anticipate, he said.
  • Fountain Creek will be made into a park along its entire length through the property (nearly a mile). “Both sides of the creek will be cleaned up,” Willard said. The work is not contingent on future Highway 24-related greenway plans, although he is a member of that committee.
  • Development has begun on the first of two detention ponds south of Fountain Creek that will take in stormwater from the property's two drainage basins. The ponds, which will be dry most of the year, will detain stormwater long enough to settle out the sediment, then release it at its “historic flow rate” into Fountain Creek, Gold Hill construction manager Barry Brinton explained.
           The easterly pond (#2) has been roughed in and is already “acting as an interim erosion control pond,” he said. It does not need to be completed until construction begins in future years on Filings 4 and 5 on the east part of the property. The westerly pond (#1), which will be located near the commercial area, will handle that storm drainage, as well as that which will be piped to it from Filings 1, 2 and 3 on the western part of the property, Brinton explained. “We hope to have it (#1) functional by Aug. 15,” he said.
           The ponds were required as part of the development review process to minimize the washing of old tailings into the creek.
           Believing he cannot wait for the proposed Highway 24 expansion - which is still in the planning process and lacks construction funding - Willard said he is talking with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) about an interim solution for at-grade intersection at 15th Street that would allow limited access and egress for Gold Hill at the highway and keep the current 14th Street outlet. No decisions have been made, but if a stoplight is deemed unworkable, a 15th Street right-in, right- out scenario on the Gold Hill side of the highway could work, he said. CDOT's tentative long-range plan is an overpass at 15th and to eliminate the 14th Street outlet.
           At a ceremony June 1, in front of Gold Hill's Exchange Building, a specially commissioned art piece, titled “Steel Autumn,” by Michael Theisen, was unveiled. The 17- foot-tall tree is made of steel and copper, displaying 3,000 hand sculpted leaves. “We were looking for something to anchor our gathering place (the Exchange),” Willard said at the ceremony. After seeing Theisen's work, Willard asked him to do the piece for the site.
           In his comments, Theisen said the idea for the work stemmed from his childhood in Iowa. “I remember how the leaves would change,” he said. “All I could think about was, 'In a couple of months I'm going to be freezing.' I can enjoy the fall now.”
           A long-time Colorado Springs sign-maker, Theisen said he had wanted to focus on his artistic inclinations, and finally decided to do so about four years ago.
           The work was on display this week, but may be placed in storage for a few months to avoid possible construction-related damage, according to D. Wendal Attig of the Gold Hill development team.

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