Real estate development in northern Colorado Springs — driven primarily by hotspots at Northgate Boulevard and Interquest and Briargate parkways — continues to outstrip both residential and commercial activity throughout the rest of the city, according to city officials.
“We do have some great development happening downtown, but this is just on a very different scale,” said Catherine Carleo, a principal planner for the city of Colorado Springs. “The north definitely has the most [residential] units that will be coming online, and I would say that about commercial [real estate] as well.”
Carleo said that there are currently six multi-family projects comprising more than 1,500 units “approved and ready to go vertical,” and another 1,100 planned multi-family units, in the areas surrounding Interquest, Northgate and Briargate.
“That’s just what’s happening north of Woodmen [Road],” she said. “We’re looking at a fairly small geographic area to potentially bring online, in the next two years, more than 2,500 units.”
For comparison, only 900 multi-family units are in the works for the rest of Colorado Springs combined.
“We’re not going to create a mini-New York at Voyager and Interquest, but I think that every development we have up north still has capability to take on density,” Carleo said. “Housing is a big deal right now and we’re beginning to see a lot more — especially new single-family homes in the north.”
According to data from the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs, there were 207 new single-family home permits pulled in January. Of those, 55 (27 percent) were in the three ZIP codes considered to comprise northern Colorado Springs (80908, 80920 and 80921).
According to that data, the average price for new single-family homes being built in northern Colorado Springs was $494,928 compared to the citywide average of $377,651, and the average size was 3,838 square feet compared to the citywide average of 2,852.
Those numbers promise to remain strong, as county and city legislative bodies continue to approve higher-density development throughout the area.
On Dec. 13, Classic Homes received approval from the Board of County Commissioners to move forward with the next phase of the Flying Horse development just northwest of the city’s border. That decision resulted in the rezoning of 1,400 acres, which is expected to facilitate the construction of 300 new homes.
Also in December, La Plata Communities received approval from the Colorado Springs City Council to rezone the next phase of its Cordera community (located near Briargate Parkway) in order to make way for higher-density development.
“I think we’re starting to see a little more support of the higher density,” Carleo said. “We’re lucky that we still have wonderful places like Black Forest … but I think that we’re starting to see a lot more support for small lots and higher densities.”
Another of La Plata’s subdivisions, called The Farm (located just north of Interquest Parkway), is one such suburban project that is utilizing a pocket of formerly vacant property well within city limits to increase the supply of high-dollar homes in the north.
“Although it might not be infill in its true form, it’s this idea of infilling property that hasn’t been developed,” Carleo said. “We’re beginning to push that envelope of density a little bit more because, although it may be considered suburbs to some, it’s still close to all of the services and lots of options.”
Those options include hotels, restaurants, shopping and a slew of other retail and office operations that tend to follow strong residential growth. Carleo said she thinks such commercial development will continue to inspire people’s decisions to move to the area; especially those employed by area economic drivers such as Children’s Hospital, which is opening near Briargate in 2018.
“When you start talking about residential driving commercial, most of what you’re talking about is retail,” said Bob Cope, economic development manager for the city of Colorado Springs.
“They will follow those new rooftops and those households with the higher incomes in areas with good growth and density.”
That attention to density is a growing concern to government officials and developers, who anticipate an influx of hundreds of thousands of residents in the coming decades. But Carleo said this is an opportune time to be facing such an intimidating challenge.
“We’re experiencing all this growth at the same time that we’re working on our new [comprehensive plan], so we’re able to determine what we can handle as well as what we want to see,” she said.
Cope, who was a commercial real estate broker for decades before going to work for the city, said there are many challenges Colorado Springs faces that will inform how government approaches northern development in the coming decades. The most classic of those challenges include the extension of utilities from the city’s core, the creation and maintenance of additional critical infrastructure, as well as providing access to quality emergency services.
“I’ll be the first to acknowledge that as you’re experiencing a lot of growth in a large geographic area, it presents a lot of challenges,” he said. “But if you look at our population growth over the last 10 to 20 years, we’ve had somewhere around a 2-percent growth rate, which turns out to be very sustainable and moderate growth.”
He qualified that with the fact that the city has seen an increasingly high concentration of that growth in north Colorado Springs.
“We can’t grow to the west because of the mountains; we can’t grow a lot pure north because of the Air Force Academy; and we can’t grow much further south because of Fort Carson,” Cope said. “So the growth is going to be east, southeast and northeast.”
He said that few communities approach the concept of growth in the same way as Colorado Springs, which has an extremely large 195-square-mile footprint that presents a unique set of both burdens and blessings.
“Some cities put in place barriers to growth, but then they begin to experience high housing costs and a low supply,” he said. “That’s something that we need to keep in the backs of our minds and we need to be open to continuing manageable, sustainable growth.”
Although the city has ample room to grow within its borders, as well as comparatively dependable access to natural resources such as fresh drinking water, Cope expressed concern that future growth could eventually drive residential development outside the city and result in decreased sales-tax collection.
“As these retail establishments follow the new rooftops, that will be great while they’re located at Interquest and Northgate and those areas,” he said. “But Northgate is our northern boundary, and as we continue to push residential development out of the city … we’re going to start having sales-tax leakage.
“It’s going to be a budget concern.”