Guests stood in the empty office space at the open house of a vacant manufacturing building and warehouse in Fountain on July 26. They gathered to listen to presentations encouraging businesses to occupy the vast space.

The 362,291-square-foot building located at 702 Bandley Drive, just east of Interstate 25, has been empty since 2007, but involved parties including the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, El Paso County, the city of Fountain and others hope to have at least one occupant in the building soon.

Since 1984, the property has, at some point, been owned and vacated by Data General, Apple and Samina-SCI, and is currently owned by national real estate company Industrial Realty Group, which purchased the site in 2014. Adjacent to the 48.5 acres on which the building sits is 48.62 acres of undeveloped land, also owned by IRG, that is currently for sale.

“We’ve had other businesses, commercial properties that looked into the building — they had some pretty serious looks,” said Fountain Mayor Gabriel Ortega, who attended the open house. “Little things would turn them away, or it just wasn’t the right time.”

That interest motivated IRG to invest in renovations and rebuilding for more than a year, Ortega said.

At least 1,000 jobs

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The building, part of the Southern Colorado Regional Industrial Center (SoCo Ric) on the west side of Fountain, is one of the Fountain Urban Renewal Authority’s projects. The open house provided guests with access to the site, a preview of the upgraded property and presentations by those invested in the building.

The city of Fountain and the industrial center team, which includes Em-Tek, an information technology service provider, are targeting potential tenants from sectors that include agriculture-tech food production, defense, security and aerospace, advanced manufacturing technology, clean tech alternative energy and creative industries. Once the building is occupied, Fountain officials and real estate experts say job growth could lead to further development in the city and along the Interstate 25 corridor immediately south of Colorado Springs.

Robert Hassler, vice president and portfolio asset manager for IRG Realty Advisors, would not name any specific companies or dates of occupation during the open house, but said he hopes to announce in August one new occupant with plans to lease 197,000 square feet of the building.

El Paso County District 4 Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez said he hopes at least 1,000 jobs will be added once the warehouse is filled.

“We want to see what [El Paso County and Fountain] can do together. That’s the key thing — we’ve seen some opportunities for growth. The south sector here is something that we can develop together,” Gonzalez said in his presentation.

Ortega said the new jobs will also be a boost for the area’s military population.

“We have a lot of soldiers whose families live here, and they’re always looking for jobs,” he said. “So to give them something else to look at as a possibility for a job can be really crucial and key for them as well.”

The perfect time

According to Ortega, Fountain’s population doubled over the past 15 years and is estimated to reach 30,000 in 2019. The city’s business base has grown as well, with many more retail and service choices for its residents. That growth played a role in the timing of this marketing focus, he said.

“The commercial side [of Fountain], we didn’t have that before. … If we’re going to be bringing people in to work we also want to provide that other stuff so they can stay here and not have to go away,” Ortega said.

Kimberly Bailey, Fountain’s economic development manager, said filling the property will not only improve the community, but also help the region connect with surrounding cities.

“It’s more than just the city of Fountain. The job creation here will proliferate all the way down to Pueblo as well as Colorado Springs,” she said.

Bailey said a lot of businesses want to put earnings back into operations and expansion, which is why she feels now is the perfect time to invest in the property.

The current business climate, increased services at the Colorado Springs Airport, improved access to Gate 19 on Fort Carson and the possible spillover of companies from Catalyst Campus in Colorado Springs are four contributing factors to the timing for Fountain’s marketing push, she said.

“The [Colorado Springs] Airport itself is becoming a great resource for us,” Bailey said. “Connecting cities, which has been one of the hindrances of the past, is now becoming a great asset for us going forward.”

Hassler said he hopes some of the businesses currently located north of Fountain will migrate or expand south.

“Note the traffic patterns, the congestion in Denver — the cost even for warehousing and manufacturers based up there is significantly higher than here,” Hassler said.

IRG saw purchasing the building as an opportunity, he said.

“We targeted this property because we like the location. … The area south of Denver will grow and ultimately benefit from what’s happening in Denver,” he said.

Bailey agreed.

“It’s kind of a sweet spot right now,” she said.