When 30-acres on the southeast corner of Jackson Creek Parkway and Baptist Road was proposed as a possible site for Wal-Mart, the public outcry was deafening. Two years later, the same location, now slated for the Monument Ridge mixed-use development, has not only survived scrutiny by the town planners and the Board of Trustees, but commercial leasing and sales discussions are well under way.
So far, owner Swat 14 LLC, a development company formed by Jim Morley, president of the Morley Cos., has met with generally positive response from the Town of Monument, earning approval for the planned development site on Jan.16.
Once a handful of conditions, set out by planner Tom Kassawara, are met covering upgraded signage, increased landscaping and minor traffic, technical and engineering adjustments, town officials expect the project to break ground.
“If all goes well, we actually could begin grading in 30 to 60 days,” Morley said.
“We’ve worked with the owner and architect Jim Nakai to get a design guidelines in place that specs landscaping, building materials to be used, signage and other elements of the center’s architectural look,” said Parry Thomas, president of Thomas and Thomas land planners, noting Monument’s stringent design and architectural criteria.
Other firms involved include LSC Transportation Consultants and ESI, an engineering and surveying company owned by the Morley Cos. A general contractor has not yet been selected for the project.
The property was annexed into Monument and into the Triview Metropolitan District last year.
Monument Mayor Byron Glenn said that the town board has approved two hotel sites, two restaurant pads, as well as sites for a service station, a bank and a small retail center at Monument Ridge. An additional parcel has been approved for residential development.
The project is just one of a dozen or more scheduled to inject more than $100 million of investment into the local economy during the next two to three years.
The parcel, 26 acres with 4.1 acres set aside for right-of-ways, a detention pond and a neighborhood park is divided into 10 commercial lots that include an inline shopping center and seven free-standing pad sites, one office site, and an 8-acre residential lot slated for possible multifamily or additional commercial development, said Craig Anderson of C.B. Richard Ellis, who is handling leasing and sales for the site.
The residential parcel could support construction of 65 to 70 townhomes, Morley said, although alternative uses are still being studied.
“The town could use some mini-storage units which would work there,” he said, “but we’ve also been in discussions with a daycare provider and have had all kinds of inquiries.”
Anderson said several options are being considered.
“Commercial users would generate a better tax base for the community,” he said, “but we’ll look at all possibilities and get input from the area’s residents before everything’s final.”
The high-profile location had been initially approved for up to two limited service national “flagged” hotels on four acres. Once plans are finalized, the first facility could break ground later this year.
Although no specific users have been announced, Monument officials expect a new bank, a McDonald’s and a Walgreen’s to join the hotels on the site.
Town sees benefits
With 30,000 people living in the Tri-Lakes service area, Glenn sees additional commercial growth along Baptist Road at Interstate 25 as generally positive.
“We know a developer does his homework before proposing property uses and that pretty much assures success,” he said. “With the current spike in new business at Home Depot, Wal-Mart, restaurants and shops, the town will gain sales tax revenue to improve its infrastructure.
“We’ve kept architectural standards high for everyone. And another side benefit of growth has been a decrease in traffic congestion and air pollution from all the cars we used to have to drive to go shopping or out to dinner. It makes our town more viable.”
Cathy Green, town manager, views a ground breaking at Monument Ridge as one more step in a strategic move to provide everyday services to a busy commuter community.
“With at least half of our residents commuting to Denver or Colorado Springs to work every day, we are ready for smart growth, including better shopping and professional services” she said. “It’s nice to be able to go out to dinner after a long day, or to buy a birthday present in your own neighborhood.”
Pamela Smith, the town’s treasurer, said that sales tax revenue has been trending up since 2003, when the community saw a 1 percent drop in revenue compared to the prior year.
“From 2003 to 2004, we saw an increase of 12.3 percent, and the following year, sales tax revenue climbed by 40.6 percent,” she said, adding that only Home Depot had opened in Monument Marketplace at that point. “I think we just began to see more businesses, more restaurants open up here over all — and we had a lot more people spending money in Monument with growth in Jackson Creek and surrounding areas.”
From 2005 to 2006, sales tax revenue grew by another 10.9 percent, and budget projections for 2007 call for a 7 percent increase, although Smith said it’s very likely the actual result will be closer to double that figure because of the opening of more stores.
Green sees those dollars as key to enabling the community to improve its infrastructure and to construct a larger municipal administration and police headquarters in the town’s central business district.