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91-unit Mesa apartment plan nearing construction

       Having received zone change and concept plan approvals from the city this summer, Challenger Homes has submitted a development plan that moves the Fillmore Apartments project a step closer to construction.

This conceptual design for the four-story, 55-foot-high building in the future Fillmore Apartments complex was part of the Challenger Homes submittal, which was approved by the city. A second building will have three stories.
Courtesy of Challenger Homes

       Planned for one to three bedroom units, the 91-unit complex is to be built on 5 acres at the southeast corner of West Fillmore Street and Grand Vista Circle.
       The setting along the Fillmore corridor is in the midst of a several-square-mile area of the Westside that's informally described as “the Mesa.”
       There will be three buildings. The two that are noticeably larger - one of them three stories, the other four - will house the apartment units.
       The development plan can be approved administratively (without a public hearing) and is under review by city staff.
       Described as infill development, the project addresses the city's shortage of rental housing, according to Challenger.
       On the other side of Grand Vista is a similar type of complex - the 252-unit Oasis Apartments that's two to three stories in height.
       Approval of Fillmore Apartments was recommended by city staff and faced no opposition from the Colorado Springs Planning Commission in April (concept plan and zone change) nor from City Council in July (zone-change ordinance).
       However, with the four-story building planned to be 55 feet high, the project proposal has caused some apprehension among Mesa residents who have been fighting to retain the area's traditional, semi-rural feel.
       The site had previously been zoned R. If unchanged, the property could only have been subdivided into about two residential lots per acre and heights of no more than 30 feet. To allow apartments, one option would have been a rezoning to R-5 (which is typically used for multi-family developments).
       That zone has a maximum height of 45 feet, pointed out George Maentz, a long-time Mesa resident who was among two who spoke in opposition at Planning Commission.
       Instead, the zone was changed to the developer's request of planned unit development (PUD). This is a classification that lets the city define limitations - including height - based on aspects unique to a given project. Thus, the Fillmore Apartments PUD was written to allow a building 55 feet in height and an overall density of about 18 units per acre.
       The feeling of Maentz and others is that such numbers violate the city Comprehensive Plan's call for developments to “fit into the character” of areas they're built in.
       At Planning Commission, Bryan Kniep of Challenger explained how the terrain affected his company's decision-making. After a geologic study revealed unstable slopes on the south side of the property, the three buildings had to be clustered on its north side - closer to Fillmore Street than initially planned.
       Further, because the drainage there flows to the north, the 55-footer is being positioned the closest to Fillmore, so as to make it seem less high. In fact, according to Schultz, it “technically won't be any taller than the Oasis units because it will be slightly sunk on the site.”
       The other building with apartment units, which will face toward Grand Vista, will be 45 feet high, plans show.
       Maentz prefaced his comments by saying that he appreciated the developer's outreach to the neighborhood during the planning process. And, in answer to a question from the Planning Commission, Mike Schultz, the city planner assigned to the project, remarked that, even though the development plan requires no public process, Challenger plans to continue working with the neighborhood on design aspects, height, architecture, landscaping and other details.

Westside Pioneer article