PS_0813 HotelElegante.HeidiBeedle_1 (1) copy 2.jpg

Under the city’s parkland ordinance, the developers planning 642 attainable housing units at Hotel Eleganté are required to donate 5.78 acres for parkland or pay $670,248 in fees.

A city requirement that developers donate 5.5 acres of parkland might stymie construction of 642 attainable housing units at Hotel Eleganté, according to the project’s developers.

The builders say the city requirement of donating land or coming up with thousands of dollars in fees could sink the Hotel Eleganté project. Colorado Springs’ Parkland Dedication Ordinance requires developers provide 5.5 acres of dedicated parkland per 1,000 residents, or pay fees in lieu of acreage. 

In a July 7 review letter sent to the developers behind the proposed Hotel Eleganté project — local landscape architects NES Inc. and Texas-based SHIR Capital — the city asked for 5.78 acres of land for new parks or $670,248 in fees.

The city’s review letter noted: “The parkland dedication ordinance directs that staff first consider whether an applicant or project has capacity to dedicate parkland based upon both the city’s Level of Service, minimum park standards and the obligation due. In this case, the obligation is significant, with no neighborhood park within a walkable half mile of this site. In accord with the Parkland Dedication Ordinance and to meet our level of service needed for the added units and people using the park system, we are requesting parkland. This land can be from this proposed redevelopment property, or within an approximate half mile of the site. Please respond with how the land obligation listed above (5.78 acres) can be met.”

According to Elan Gordon, a principal with SHIR Capital, these requirements place an additional burden on developers juggling rising construction costs and real estate prices. 

“There have been substantial impact fees totaling nearly $1 million or the requirement to provide parkland,” he said in an email. 

“We did not budget for these items, nor the delays in planning for this extra cost burden. We have done hotel conversions elsewhere and this is the first time we are encountering this type of requirement. This has certainly jeopardized the viability of the project. 

“We are trying to work through things on our end to keep the prospect of providing Colorado Springs affordable housing alive.”

In February, Colorado Springs City Council moved to reduce the amount of parkland required of developers, from 7.5 acres per 1,000 residents to 5.5 — but at the same time, councilors increased the amount of the fees that developers would be required to pay in lieu of parkland, based on real estate appraisal prices. Colorado Springs isn’t the only Front Range city with a park ordinance that requires green space or fees accompany a development. 

“Gateway is the only area of [Denver] where there are requirements for developers to dedicate parkland and/or pay impact fees,” said Yolanda Quesada, the director of communications and marketing for Parks and Recreation for the City and County of Denver in an email to Pam Zubeck, senior reporter with the Indy, the Business Journal’s sister publication. 

Additionally, Aurora, Castle Rock, Fort Collins, Pueblo and Trinidad all have a fee structure for parks, though amounts vary. Aurora requires 3 acres per 1,000 residents, or $178,032 per acre for fees in lieu of land, for parks; while Pueblo charges between $56 to $76 per undeveloped lot or dwelling unit.

Housing in Colorado Springs — and in every urban center along the Front Range — is a growing concern. Soaring property values and construction costs, and a limited supply of available inventory, has put a spotlight on the need for both attainable and affordable housing in the Springs. 

But many developers see regulations like the parkland ordinance as just part of the cost of doing business. Darsey Nicklasson of DHN Development, the Solid Rock Community Development Corp., and Cohen-Esrey, a Kansas-based firm behind the recently approved Lofts at 1609 (a 137-unit, $35 million affordable housing complex) are all moving forward with new projects in the city’s Southeast.

Nicklasson, who recently broke ground on Mosaica, a 223-unit housing development by Hancock Expressway, and also recently announced Kaleidos, a 150-unit project planned for land near Fountain Boulevard and Chelton Road, said setting aside open space is an important aspect of responsible development. 

“I am in favor of our new ordinance,” she said. “Parks are essential to our communities for our health and well-being. We have to pay for new parks and improvements somehow.”

While the loss of Hotel Eleganté’s 642 housing units might seem like a setback for a city where housing demand is outpacing supply, there is no shortage of developers looking to build. 

The Board of El Paso County Commissioners recently approved tax breaks for the Lofts at 1609 development, to be overseen by Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority. Construction is expected to begin in October or November of this year and be complete by May 2023.

Construction on The Village at Solid Rock, a 77-unit affordable housing project for the Pikes Peak Park neighborhood, backed by the Solid Rock Community Development Corp., is scheduled to begin construction in October.

Additionally, The Equity Group has proposed a development of 134 units of market-rate housing. The two-building project would be built on a six acre parcel near the corner of Airport Road and Powers Boulevard. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall and finish in the spring of 2023.

Editor’s Note: Pam Zubeck contributed to reporting in this article.

News Reporter

Heidi Beedle is a former soldier, educator, activist, and animal welfare worker. She received a Bachelor’s in English from UCCS. She has worked as a freelance writer covering LGBTQ issues, nuclear disasters, cattle mutilations, and social movements.