Gold Hill Mesa moves forward on residential and commercial fronts
Per-lot escrow account to fund 21st St. widening; negotiations proceed with 1st potential business
Home to 180 families now, Gold Hill Mesa continues to grow, with the recent Filing 2B seeking city approval for 31 new lots/homes.
The 210-acre Westside development's ownership group is also looking further into the future - a deal is taking shape for what would be the first business in Gold Hill's 60-acre commercial area, and the Filing 2B application includes a strategy to escrow money from each sold lot to pay for an eventual 21st Street widening project.
Part of the development's Phase 1, Filing 2B asks city approval for relatively minor amendments to both the overall concept plan and the Phase 1 development plan; and for approval of the final subdivision plat defining the 31 lot types as 17 single-family and 14 townhome on 6.4 acres along Portland Gold Drive and Merrimac Street.
Adjacent to the nearly built-out Filing 2A, 2B is just east of (and downhill from) 21st Street, with Portland Gold curving south and east from Gold Hill Mesa Drive (the main entrance from 21st). Site manager Barry Brinton pointed out that some utilities and street improvements were installed there six years ago, before “we had to put it on hold” after the economic downturn at that time forced John Laing Homes (then the only Gold Hill builder) to go out of business. So he said it feels good to finally return to finish it.
Because the 2B plans don't vary much from earlier lot layouts, the application can be approved by administrative review (not needing Planning Commission or City Council votes), according to Ryan Tefertiller of City Land Use Review.
The project concept plan would allow close to 1,000 homes, but lead developer Bob Willard has previously said the final numbers will probably be well under that.
Anticipating the development causing a need to ex-pand South 21st from two to four lanes, the city demanded years ago that Gold Hill eventually widen 21st for that purpose along its (east) side from about Lower Gold Camp Road to what's now Gold Hill Mesa Drive. However, the economic issues changed matters. According to Willard, the ownership partners decided after 2008 to avoid external debt, which means that the development moves forward in a less extended way, with each sold lot helping pay for the next.
The group proposed a similar kind of “savings account” philosophy to pay for the widening. The “Public Improvement Notes” on the amended development plan state that with each lot sold, the developer must put $5,000 into an escrow fund. The Notes also define a time frame, specifying that when the escrow total reaches $565,000 (which would be 113 lots), “the developer will commence to perform the work.”
Both Willard and City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager agree that 21st Street traffic is not a big problem now, but in case things get worse before all those homes get sold, the Notes add that the developer “may” start sooner than that. But Krager also indicated that the city will try to be flexible, in part because of years of having an established working relationship with Gold Hill Mesa.
“This is a little bit of an experimental program,” Krager said. “Previously, developers have bonded for that kind of work, but in these financially stressful times we've sometimes had difficulty collecting from bond companies. You've got to be creative under these circumstances.”
Because negotiations are ongoing, Willard said he could not reveal the business that's interested in the Gold Hill commercial area or its specific type of operation. However, he did say that the property in question consists of about 3 acres at the southeast corner of Broadway and 21st streets.
If the deal goes through, Willard said the business would buy the property. This would help Gold Hill fund the planning and engineering of the rest of the 60-acre commercial area, which will be concentrated east of 21st Street and south of Highway 24 (and on which he reiterated that he hopes to have a “walkable' layout without “big box” stores and expansive parking lots). He predicted that such a property purchase would “jump-start our commercial area,” and once that occurs, development of the rest “will happen fast, like a snowball.”
Adding to the Broadway/ 21st attraction, he said, is the possibility of a Kum & Go on land currently owned by Pikes Peak National Bank on the northeast corner (see story).
Westside Pioneer article