Development is shifting in the South Nevada Urban Renewal Area, with newly empty blocks signaling progress on the much-anticipated Creekwalk shopping center, now expected to open this winter.
Other milestones include a new hotel coming to 1619 S. Tejon St. and a Maverik gas station — and construction is about to start on more residential, apartments and townhomes.
When the URA was established in 2015 four development sub-areas, or “silos,” were established over about 99 acres.
Local developers Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli (Ivywild Development, LLC), Danny Mientka (The Equity Group) and Walt Harder took on major projects at three of the four silos, and there’s no specific developer for the fourth.
Harder has finished development at his site, which now boasts a Natural Grocers, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys and Zoe’s Kitchen, and the other three silos are in varying stages of completion.
The Business Journal spoke with Mientka, Ray O’Sullivan, development manager for Ivywild Development, LLC, and Jariah Walker, executive director of the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, about what’s on the horizon for the URA.
For much of the renewal project so far, Mientka’s portion of the development through his company, The Equity Group, has taken place largely behind the scenes away from South Nevada Avenue.
But with construction set to begin on his marquee project — Creekwalk — the public will soon get its first glimpse of the shopping center designed as an attraction for the renewal area.
“We are completing all of our site development work for Creekwalk, which will be five buildings and roughly 52,000 square feet,” Mientka said. “So that entails removing all of the former existing utilities and then installing the new [utilities] for the development.
“Essentially the month of March will see a bulk of the site development preparation, and then we anticipate starting construction in April of this year … while we proceed contemporaneously with the site development work.”
Creekwalk was initially designed to be a 61,700-square-foot shopping center, including areas north of St. Elmo Avenue. But Mientka said the development team eventually decided to break it into two separate projects.
“We have plans for what we call Creekwalk North,” Mientka said, “which would be additional retail development, essentially between St. Elmo and Ramona Avenue and west of Nevada.”
Assuming construction on Creekwalk begins as planned around April 1, Mientka said the schedule that’s been set would bring the project to completion in November.
“It’ll be built pretty rapidly at 259 days,” Mientka said. “So our goal is to open stores for Christmas. It’s an optimistic goal, but it’s also something we can accomplish if we don’t have extraordinary weather patterns.”
Mientka’s development team has also been transforming Cheyenne Creek from a debris-strewn channel into the area’s primary attraction.
“The whole name of the shopping center, Creekwalk, is all about this creek, and it’s the ability to bring it back to life and make it an amenity for the public and for the shopping center,” Mientka said. “Working along creeks always has seasonal implications and we’re coming into the spring runoff … so we’re rapidly trying to construct a new retaining wall that will become the new east section of the creek reclamation.
“Once we construct that wall, which should happen before the end of March, then we’ll take down the retaining wall that currently channelizes Cheyenne Creek there. But then we’ll have to put the shovel down for a bit while we get through the rainy season. And we’ll use that opportunity to finish the site development around the retail buildings and then go back down in late fall and start planting and installing boulders and that sort of thing.”
Mientka said the creek reclamation work will be done in phases, but that a perimeter fence on the west side of the channel and some boulder placement creating plunges and pools in the creek should be completed this year.
“I would expect to see maybe 50 or 60 percent of the creek being finished before the end of the year,” Mientka said. “And then we’ll take a pause for winter and as spring comes in again, we would plant the balance of the landscaping that’s been designed.”
Mientka’s team is also working on four major public improvement projects, three of which he says should be finished this year.
“Creekwalk is really all about off-site public improvements. That’s what’s unique about our development within the South Nevada urban renewal area,” Mientka said.
The major components include widening East Cheyenne Road between Nevada and Cascade avenues, [adding traffic signals at] the intersection at Roanoke Street and Cheyenne Road, undergrounding transmission electrical lines along the west side of South Nevada Avenue, and performing streetscape work.
“And we made four major promises — essentially streetscape on both sides of Nevada, the electric [work], and the widening of Cheyenne Road,” he said, “and we’ll have three out of the four completed with this project late this year. And so what’s left is to try to get some streetscape placed on the east side of Nevada and that’s just going to take more development.”
The Guadagnolis’ Ivywild Core Development, Inc. has already completed several projects, but some of the most exciting work should take shape in 2020.
They’ve already finished the approximately 7,000-square-foot restaurant building that’s home to Prime25 steak house, the Ramona Retail Center now occupied by Tokyo Joe’s, Smashburger, European Waxing Center and AT&T, and the 19-unit Canyon Creek Townhomes at 42 Cheyenne Blvd.
“The bottom line is we’re done on Nevada Avenue,” O’Sullivan said. “On our side of the project we have about four major projects left.”
One project comprises two 25-unit apartment buildings between Navajo and Brookside streets. Development plans have been submitted for the buildings, designed by Echo Architecture, and the 50 units are expected to be complete by the end of 2021.
There’s also a 35-unit apartment building slated for 131 Mount Washington Drive. The development plan is in progress, with construction set to start this year and stretch into 2021.
For 1719 S. Cascade Ave., Echo Architecture is designing 24 townhomes. The development plan and final plat have been submitted for approval, and development work has started. Much of it is expected to be completed by May with total project completion expected by the end of 2021.
Arguably the most exciting development taking shape this year for Ivywild Core Development, Inc. is a 160-room upscale hotel across the street from Ivywild School.
The project originally called for a 140-room hotel, but O’Sullivan said after hearing from residents at a stakeholder’s meeting a few months ago, developers changed the plans, reducing the hotel’s height.
“From the time they made that presentation to the neighborhood a couple of months ago to now, they redesigned the project in response to the comments that people made there — namely taking out a lot of the height to be compliant with the zone,” O’Sullivan said. “We were going to do a single-loaded project but it required a lot of height. So we pivoted back to a double-loaded hotel.”
Building a double-loaded hotel means there are rooms on both sides of the hallway rather than just one — allowing space for extra rooms.
The hotel will share a parking lot with Prime25, and the project should be underway by spring. After construction begins, developers expect it will take about a year to complete.
Smaller projects are also set to begin in the near future.
Construction has begun on a 7,500-square-foot commercial building at 1515 S. Tejon St., which should be complete by spring.
Ivywild Core Development, Inc. is also set to begin reclamation work on Cheyenne Creek and its surrounding trail, including improvements to the stream bed and banks, a bike and pedestrian trail system, pedestrian bridges, lighting and amenities.
Work on the creek is set to start this summer and should be finished by the end of 2021.
“The residential units really have been going very, very well out there, and a lot of the townhomes that they built have pre-sold before they even came out of the ground,” Walker said of Ivywild’s development. “I think one of the bigger challenges on the south URA is really just water issues in general — making sure that you have the proper stormwater infrastructure in place, et cetera.
“And so that’s slowed down some of these projects. But now they’re all starting to ramp back up and come back online. And the hotel is really going to be one of the big drivers moving forward.”
THE FOURTH SILO
The fourth silo of URA — where the new Maverik Gas Station will be located — is complicated in terms of its development.
According to Walker, the Guadagnolis own the land, but it’s not a part of their urban renewal agreement.
The silo’s revenues are pledged through Mientka’s development agreement, Walker said, because he took on the responsibility of the public improvements projects in the area.
But who is actually developing the silo?
“Really nobody,” Walker said. “For Silo 4, the idea was that there would be some organic development that would occur within it because of all the development they’re doing on the west side of the street.
“The hope is that some more organic development comes in to that east side of the street to help fund more public improvements in the area, but does not necessarily need to be tied to a specific development agreement.
“I think once the hotel goes in or starts being built, and [Mientka’s] project goes in, as well as more residential units … it’s really going to get a lot of attention from outside the state and outside the area. A lot of people are looking at that area to try to do something. So the project is ‘to be continued,’ but we’re very hopeful.”