Developers plan downtown apartments

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The trend for urban living has encouraged Colorado Springs real estate developer Nor’wood Development Group and apartment owner and commercial property manager Griffis/Blessing Inc. to build 356 new apartments in two projects downtown.

Groundbreaking for both is set for 2016, said Jeff Finn, Nor’wood project design manager, and Gary Winegar, Griffis/Blessing president of investment services.

At 106 S. Wahsatch Ave., the companies plan a 169-apartment building. The second project, at 609 S. Cascade Ave., will offer 187 new apartments.

Both apartment buildings will be jointly developed and owned by Nor’wood and Griffis/Blessing. Griffis/Blessing will manage both complexes. Neither building has a commercial component.

Griffis/Blessing Chairman Steve Engel did not release cost estimates to construct the buildings.

Rents will range from $1,000 to $1,800 a month, Finn said.

“When you look at other thriving downtowns, you see the energy and vibrancy that downtown living brings,” he said. “For so long, our downtown has been a great center of commerce, center of government, center of local, regional shops, but it really hasn’t been a neighborhood. The missing component is urban living.”

The project will bring a mix of people to downtown, the developers said.

“A lot of people who are younger and older like the idea of being close to downtown,” Winegar said. “You see that all over the country. We think Colorado Springs is ready for this. We just feel like it’s the right time.”

These plans have been years in the planning, said Finn, saying discussions started two years ago.

The two groups are in partnership with other organizations for the apartment complexes.

“In particular, Griffis/Blessing and Nor’wood have been working on the soft infrastructure for the downtown renaissance with Downtown Partnership, the Downtown Development Authority, Imagine Downtown and with the master plan efforts. With common interests and common goals, it makes sense to partner,” Finn said.

“This is the first of many. There is more to come.”

The planned apartment complexes are welcome news to the Downtown Partnership, the organization responsible for overseeing development in the city’s core and marketing the area to businesses.

“Adding residential options to downtown is our highest priority,” said Susan Edmondson, executive director of the organization. “It’s essential to a thriving downtown to have people living in it 24/7. We’ve been a bit behind comparable cities in that way.”

The organization wants 500 housing units built or under construction by 2018, she said.

Currently, there are a total of 467 new housing units, either in development or under construction, in or near the downtown core, according to the Downtown Partnership’s website.

A 24-unit apartment building at 421 S. Nevada is under development, across Nevada Avenue from the Blue Dot Place, a newly constructed apartment building which should rent its 33 units this year.

Another building, The Gabion, located at 676 W. Monument St., is a three-story, 20-unit apartment west of downtown. Also west of Interstate 25, at 22 Spruce St., 46 units are planned to finish construction later this year.

And at 210 Pueblo Ave., a five-unit apartment building has been completed, and three units are expected to be finished at 9 S. Weber by later this year, according to the Downtown Partnership’s website.

The new apartments planned by Nor’wood and Griffis/Blessing will add to the downtown inventory.

Winegar said the companies were “pioneering” — and are part of a national trend toward living in the city center. The housing units will be the largest in downtown Colorado Springs.

“For Colorado Springs near downtown, we haven’t had any properties built or planned that have that number of units,” Winegar said. “We’ve taken our time and done the studies. The apartment market here is strong. Interest rates are still low, and the two parties involved believe in downtown.”

The smallest apartments will be studios, between 500  and 600 square feet. The two-bedroom, two-bath units will be more than 1,100 square feet.