People have discovered the drive from northern El Paso County to Denver isn’t so bad.
A driver can reach The Denver Tech Center from Monument in about 40 minutes, said Terri Hayes, president and CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce.
“A lot of the families that we have in our community have one spouse heading north to Denver and one heading south to Colorado Springs for work,” she said. “We are kind of just the perfect location in between.”
The Tri-Lakes area has experienced continued business and residential growth in recent years, which Hayes credits to its position between the state’s largest cities.
“Our proximity to Interstate 25 and where we sit in regards to Denver and Colorado Springs is a big part of the growth,” she said.
Randy Simonoff, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Action Realty, also has noticed more homebuyers in the Monument area having at least one family member who commutes to Denver.
“Absolutely, there are a lot of people who are buying here and driving up there for work,” he said, adding the cost of homes in the Mile High City is chasing buyers south.
In October, the median price for a home in the Colorado Springs area was $305,000 while it was $488,000 in Denver, according to data from the Colorado Association of Realtors.
Home sales are steady in Monument; however, the market has softened a little in recent months as in much of the state, Simonoff said.
“It was a little bit more of a seller’s market about six months ago, but that playing field has leveled out a little bit now where it’s kind of a mutual and beneficial relationship between buyer and seller,” he said. “Prices have come down maybe a hair and homes are sitting on the market a little bit longer, but it’s still a very promising market here and more affordable when compared to Denver.”
A small seasonal shift in the housing market is typical during this time of year, Simonoff said.
“As we roll into the spring, I expect the market in Monument to be very, very healthy again,” he said.
Residential growth is outpacing commercial development in Monument, Hayes said.
“But, in any community, you really need your residential to grow before additional businesses start coming into the area,” she said. “Whether you are a large or small business, you have to ensure that before you open up in a community there are enough rooftops to support your business.”
Jackson Creek Parkway, where a new senior living center and Les Schwab Tire Center recently opened, is an area in Monument experiencing commercial growth.
A KFC also is being built off the parkway near Baptist Road, next to Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and a Wells Fargo bank.
The addition will fill the shopping center’s last remaining vacant lot.
“There are a lot of people talking and really excited about that coming in,” Hayes said.
Additionally, downtown Monument has two new businesses coming, including a wedding and event center and the expansion of Colorado Springs-based distillery Lee Spirits, Hayes said. Lee Spirits will be moving its manufacturing operations off Hwy. 105 and opening its second tasting room.
Hayes said the Tri-Lakes area — and much of the rest of Colorado — lacks affordable housing.
“We are looking to encourage more attainable housing because we have a lot of younger families who would like to be in this area, but their first house can’t usually be half a million dollars,” she said. “We do have some townhomes and attached homes that are supposed to be breaking ground next year and then a second apartment complex that is being planned for 2019. Both of those will help people just starting out in their careers be able to afford to live up here as they work their way up the property ladder.”
Meanwhile, Hayes said getting residents to shop locally is a challenge for the Tri-Lakes business community and affects the rate of commercial growth.
“I think that goes back to the fact that we are a commuter town,” she said. “I jokingly say a lot of people put their blinders on, leave their garage, go to work and then they still have their blinders on until they get back into their garage.”
The chamber is working to educate residents on why they should shop in El Paso County, Hayes said.
“For starters, where you live is where your school district is that needs that tax revenue,” she said. “I think that people would agree that where you live is very important but sometimes they just don’t realize that spending money locally helps improve their immediate surroundings and services until it’s pointed out to them.”
Moving forward, the chamber’s economic development corporation arm plans to focus on connecting with all of the area’s primary businesses, Hayes said.
“Primary businesses are very important to any community to remain fiscally healthy,” she said. “As an economic development corporation, it’s very important we have great contacts with our primary businesses and for them to know we are here if they need any assistance at all.”
Hayes said that a few years ago there was a business considering moving out of Monument because it didn’t have enough parking.
“Through several different exchanges of land and different things that happened, we were able to get the parking that they needed so that we could retain the business here in Monument,” she said. “We want our primary employers to know we can be here to assist if they need help to grow, or if they have any challenges.”
All in all, when it comes to commercial and residential development, Monument and the Tri-Lakes area are doing well, Hayes said.
“We are growing,” she said. “The downtown Monument area is constantly changing and we have more fun and exciting things on the way.”
Although, Simonoff believes it’s important to remember another reason people move to Monument is its small-town vibe, he said.
“I think there has to be a balance between commercial and residential development,” he said. “Certainly, business growth is good for any smaller town because it helps with the tax burden on residential, but there can be a tipping point where people say there is too much commercial business in town.”
Hayes agreed, adding, “People want to come home to Monument and feel like they are part of a great community without feeling like they are lost in a big city.”