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Old Bristol School's gymnasium demolished in move toward property redevelopment

       The demolition of the old gymnasium this week was a sign that redevelopment is coming to the site of the original Bristol Elementary School in the 700 block of Walnut Street.

ABOVE: A backhoe and dump truck team up during the demolition of the gymnasium on the original Bristol School site in the 700 block of North Walnut Street. Remaining at this point in the demo were parts of the outer walls. The fence at far right is next to Dale Street. The building at the left is a classroom building that is to be preserved and converted into a house. County records show that both the classroom building and gymnasium were built in 1951. BELOW: A similar view in 2012, with the gym still in place.
Westside Pioneer photos
       Still standing is a roughly 2,300-square-foot classroom building that was next to the gym. It occupies by far the largest of four lots on the half-acre site, as depicted in a preliminary plat recently submitted to the city by property owner/developer Jon Day.
       The other three lots will face onto Walnut Street. A single-family house would be built on each of them. The

classroom building would be transformed into a house, Day said in an interview this week.
       Mike Schultz of City Land Use Review said he is still reviewing the proposal, but does not see any issues serious enough to call for a neighborhood meeting. He commented that a recent, similar, adjacent redevelopment proposal by Kevin Montford had not resulted in neighborhood opposition. The city has informed nearby residents of the new plan, and they have until July 15 to respond.
       Schultz said he can administratively approve Day's proposal, which is named the "Bristol School Subdivision." There are technically four requests: (1) for a four-lot subdivision, (2) for a non-use variance allowing a reduced rear-yard setback and (3 and 4) for “administrative relief” related to the three Walnut-facing lots being slightly undersized for the property's R-2 residential zone.
       The original school property (taking up the block of Walnut between Dale and Monument Street and bounded by the alley to the west) totaled over an acre in all.
       The site is now broken up into parcels of almost equal size - one taking up the north half, the other the south.

A graphic shows the northern half of the original Bristol School block that is being proposed as the Bristol School Subdivision. On Lot 1 there is still a 1951 classroom building that's to be renovated into a house. Lots 2, 3 and 4, along Walnut Street, are on land that was used for playground or parking when the site was still a school. The bottom of the graphic notes the "Resiloft Subdivision" (a separately owned property), which consists of the southern half of the block. The city approved that plan last year.
Courtesy of Jon Day and City Land Use Review; edited for publication
       Day's project is on the block's northern half-acre. On the southern half, City Land Use Review approved the Resiloft Subdivision by Kevin Montford last fall, allowing him to build a single-family house on each of four lots. One of the houses, Montford said at the time, would be his. Construction has not started yet.
       In his project, Day said he wants to keep the classroom building exterior about the same as it looks now, but to fully renovate the interior. For the new houses, he foresees a “progressive, but not overly modern” design. While that may not match the older houses in the neighborhood, it will be compatible with the contemporary design that Montford is planning, Day explained.
       However, he pointed out that he is also open to sale offers on all four lots once he gets the necessary city approvals. So he could not predict, in answer to a question, how soon construction might actually occur.
       The demolished gym had been about 3,430 square feet in size. Based on El Paso County Assessor's Office data, it went up with the classroom building in 1951.
       Day said the gym had been structurally sound and he'd considered keeping it. “I looked at a lot of different options,” he said. “But I had to make some decisions, and I thought the gym side kind of loomed over the whole block. It was great space, but what do you do with it?”
       On the other hand, the classroom building - also structurally sound - has hardwood floors and 12-foot-ceilings that will lend themselves to a loft-style interior, Day pointed out. And the gym's former footprint could be used, at least in part, for a garage.
       The original Bristol Elementary building was built by School District 11 in 1891 and torn down in 1973, records show. That same year, the district moved the school to its current location, two blocks north on Walnut. The Bijou School was the last to use the 700 block site, departing in 2009. The property address, when it was a school, was 730 N. Walnut St.
       District 11 sold the block as a single parcel two years ago. Montford's plat subdivided the property in a way that left the northern half as one large lot. Day bought it that way from Montford in April, using the business name of 730 N. Walnut LLC, assessor's records show.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 7/8/14, updated 7/9/14; Land: Development Proposals)

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