Park set to spark new growth near airport

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Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series exploring development around the Colorado Springs Airport and its Commercial Aeronautical Zone. Part I was published in the May 18 issue of the Business Journal.

Peak Innovation Park is ready for a burst of progress next year — and construction at the park is expected to spur much-needed development in the city’s Southeast.

Securing a key tenant for the 900-acre master-planned business park, at the entrance to Colorado Springs Airport, should get the ball rolling on development around the airport, spinning off into the Southeast, according to Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC Chief Economic Development Officer Tammy Fields and Garrett Baum, managing partner at Urban Frontier, master developer for Peak Innovation Park.

“Colorado Springs Airport is infill; the views are spectacular; it’s not far from downtown Colorado Springs, from The Broadmoor, from other significant locations in Colorado Springs…” Baum said. “We’ve seen it over and over: You land your first deal and then the floodgates open — and we think we’re close to the first deal.”

Until now, the area around the airport has faced a “chicken and egg” problem, Fields said.

“I think it’s in an area of town where we have not had a lot of amenities,” she said, pointing out that restaurants in the area are few and far between. “Businesses want restaurants — and restaurants don’t want to come unless they have more people to frequent the restaurants. … I think just getting a fairly significant project in there is going to add a lot of momentum and then we’re going to really start seeing some things happening, which I think is also going to be very beneficial to the southeast part of the city. It’s going to be a ripple effect, I think.”

Peak Innovation Park is zoned for multiple uses including office, retail, industrial, entertainment, business, recreation and residential. The park now has a draft master concept plan and marketing materials, and brokers Cushman & Wakefield are working with Urban Frontier to “drive activity” there, Fields said.

“We’re very excited that Urban Frontier is the development partner on that,” Fields said. “They are a group that has experience in developing airport business parks. They were very instrumental in the development of the Interlocken [Business] Park in Jefferson County, so they have experience — they know what they’re doing.”

Tipping point

Baum said he sees similarities between the growth trajectory at Interlocken Business Park and Peak Innovation Park, and believes “we’re very close” to reaching a tipping point into rapid development.

For almost 15 years Interlocken sat idle, he said, “a sort of no-man’s-land” between Boulder and Denver — until 1995 when, in quick succession, the park’s developers landed Sun Microsystems, Level Three and Corporate Express. Suddenly, Interlocken took off.

Baum has talked to brokers about Colorado Springs’ southeast in the past, but “they’ve always gravitated and pulled back to the north,” he said.

“So with what we saw with Interlocken, [Urban Frontier Partner] Bill Branyan and I were very excited about getting involved in Peak Innovation Park and working in the south side of Colorado Springs, because we feel like similar things that have happened at Interlocken are going to start happening at Peak. We’re sensing that now just from the activity.

“You know — you land one, you land two; you land two, you land four. That’s what happened at Interlocken and I’m confident that’s what’s going to happen here at Peak.”

Banning Lewis synergy

Baum expects to see a mix of uses along both sides of Milton Proby Parkway, and a valuable synergy with future housing development at the adjacent Banning Lewis Ranch.

“I think it’s fine when our competitors are doing deals because it’s all activity for Colorado Springs, and it all feeds off itself,” he said. “From a housing standpoint, the opportunity to have more housing for employment is very important. As you well know, it’s a tight housing market in Colorado and we’re struggling to keep up with demand. We’re seeing all these Millennials move to Colorado Springs and … they all need a place to live.

“We’re all going to benefit with each and every deal that happens,” he added.

Greg Phillips, director of aviation for Colorado Springs Airport, expects it’ll take “one good anchor tenant” at the park for everything to take off.

“We start bordering on the south/southeast end of what is Banning Lewis [Ranch] and I think there’s some good synergy there,” he said.

Destination location

The vision is for Peak Innovation Park and the surrounding area to be “more of a destination location,” Fields said, with hotels, restaurants, offices, retail, housing and parklands.

“The more amenities we can get around that area, the more attractive it’s going to be for businesses,” she said. “Because the businesses are wondering, ‘Where are my employees going to eat lunch?’ and those kind of things. Right now they have to travel a bit, so this would bring things more in their backyard.

“And honestly, the area has gorgeous views, so I think it’s a prime location for a lot of this activity.”

The team promoting Peak Innovation Park is not alone in predicting major spinoff development and economic advantages from an airport-anchored site.

The Denver Post reported May 22 on the recently announced retail, housing and industry “aerotropolis” planned for 21,000 acres on the plains near Denver International Airport: “While completion is decades away, the enormousness of the project is sure to gradually tilt the metro area’s economic might eastward, said Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan.”

In the Springs, Fields said the Chamber & EDC is partnering with Cushman & Wakefield on marketing and building awareness about Peak Innovation Park, and is submitting sites within the park for projects they expect to be a good fit.

“From my perspective I’m really excited about it because it gives us an opportunity for some real estate assets that we haven’t really had any good marketing materials for, for a number of years,” she said. “So this is really helpful, to have an actual marketing team out there who has a vision for the park who can really take it forward.”

Baum said everything’s falling into place for the development.

“I like where we’re positioned,” he said. “We have elected officials that are very supportive and in favor of having something happen here — they really want it. … I love our team and that team includes Colorado Springs, and the airport, and the people that work with and for us at Urban Frontier, and I think we’re going to start seeing a lot of activity.

“I think a lot of people that maybe have been very focused on only the north are going to look back and say, ‘Wow, there was an opportunity there to get involved early and we didn’t seize on it.’”