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ARCHIVED  November 1, 1996

Northern Exposure

Some projects promote shift, but what’s realistic?

FORT COLLINS – As fast-paced development continues in southern Fort Collins, the lure of cheaper land and lower lease rates in the northern part of the city could begin to attract some businesses.
Even city council has joined the fray, adopting a plan that says it will encourage commercial growth to the north. Still, theirs might be an uphill battle.
“Staff is working on implements and policies,´ said Frank Bruno of the city manager’s office. “Retail and industrial will be encouraged to the north, and Vine Drive will be considered as a possible interchange.”
Bruno noted that city officials have been saying for some time that they wanted more growth focused in the north.
Now that the sentiment has been put on paper, will it change anything – specifically the pace of growth in either the southern or northern ends of town? Most observers say not.
As for additional retail development, it still takes a certain number of rooftops before the economics of building new retail makes sense to a business.
“The city’s planning process, by virtue of placing a dot on a map, says there’s a logical spot for businesses and services,´ said Linda Hopkins, a resident of the north area and agent with The Group Inc. She also spent 15 years here in city government and planning.
“When I worked for the city, I thought that dot was infallible,” she said. “When I joined the real estate world, I learned it wasn’t.
“At this juncture, there’s neither huge residential development nor demand,” she said.
What demand there is has been filled in large part by Albertson’s and the shopping center at Willox Lane.
“City council, by virtue of drawing a map, will not stop growth in the south or flip it over to the north,” Hopkins said.
Dan Eckles, a commercial broker at Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services Inc., said growth will follow its own pace in the north, regardless of what the government encourages.
If city officials really want to see a shift in growth patterns, he noted, there should be some sort of incentive to build in the north. That could include waiving some fees or relaxing some development requirements, for instance.
“There’s no incentive just because the city puts something on paper,” he said. “They haven’t changed anything unless it directly benefits developers.”
The bottom line is that unless overtures are made to really promote building in the north, it will continue to be just as frustrating for a developer to build there as it is elsewhere in the city, Eckles said.
There are attractions to northern Fort Collins, though, he noted.
“It’s appealing because it’s close to downtown, and land prices are half of what you see along south College,” Eckles said. “Mostly what will drive commercial, though, is added rooftops.”
There appears to be a demand, though, for office space. K Venture Properties of Fort Collins is building a 16,000-square-foot office building at 225 N. Lemay Ave.
Steve Kawulok, part of K Venture Properties and a broker with The Group Inc., said the idea is to provide a nicer product for office space than is available in some of the more industrial areas of north Fort Collins. He’s planning several 1,600-square-foot units with a couple of 3,200-square-foot ones.
“There is a number of small companies looking for space,” he said. “This is geared to provide a higher quality, more upscale office than is currently in the area.”
Yet, lease rates will be lower than in the southern part of the city. Kawulok expects the offices to rent for approximately $7.50 triple net to $9 triple net. Comparable space farther south goes for $11 to $15 triple net.
Nearby, at Lemay Avenue and Lincoln Avenue, there still are plans for a Wal-Mart center. If that goes through, it would only heighten the attraction to office space such as Kawulok’s. Even if it doesn’t materialize, Kawulok believes there will be plenty of takers for quality, yet lower-priced offices.
The city also has long-term plans for several roads in the area that eventually could change the way business is done in north Fort Collins. There’s the intention of an eventual interchange at Vine Drive. And Lemay Avenue could eventually curve eastward. Additionally, Webster Avenue and Duff Drive likely will combine with Lemay Avenue or Vine Drive, connecting the industrial area to other parts of the north.
Along with businesses located within the city limits, there also are many in the north that lie in unincorporated areas of Larimer County.
Mike Buderus, president of the Northeast Fort Collins Business Association and a landowner in the area, said many businesses in the area are pondering the benefits of annexation to Fort Collins vs. remaining in the county.
The association recently issued a request for proposals to study the annexation issue.
“Our view is it’s a very individual choice and a business owner’s decision,” Buderus said.
The study could assist some in making that choice, though.
As a landowner – Buderus and his wife own a farm on Vine Drive – he feels that the city is moving too quickly with its 20-year City Plan that will outline growth for the next two decades. More publicity is needed on specifics of the plan, he said.
Additionally, while the city understandably wants to ensure quality planning and development in the area, Buderus said, it needs to do it without “putting a stranglehold on landowners.”
As Fort Collins eventually pushes farther northward, there likely will be the same issues as have developed with the south, such as buffers with neighbors.
Growth and buffer issues with Wellington already are being discussed.
In fact, within six months, the public should expect to see an intergovernmental agreement between Fort Collins and Wellington on how the communities will approach growth and annexations.
A model IGA has been released to officials of both communities.
“The idea of buffers (in the IGA) is important, but in an ambiguous way,´ said Kevin Burke, town administrator for Wellington. “The idea of separators has been embraced, but not in a specific way.”
Burke said the Wellington town board has identified commercial growth as a priority. Residential growth already has been taking place.
“We’ve been fortunate that in the last six months, all proposals have been infill,” he said.
He anticipates future residential growth in the west and some to the southeast, primarily because of indications from landowners in those areas. However, as far as utilities are concerned, Burke said there’s no doubt it would be easiest for Wellington to grow to the south.
While the future of much of northern Fort Collins’ growth is uncertain at this point, residents and business owners will continue to follow the city’s new policies with a keen eye.
“My hope as a resident up there,´ said The Group’s Hopkins, “is that we will continue to have upgraded and quality development.”
ÿ

Some projects promote shift, but what’s realistic?

FORT COLLINS – As fast-paced development continues in southern Fort Collins, the lure of cheaper land and lower lease rates in the northern part of the city could begin to attract some businesses.
Even city council has joined the fray, adopting a plan that says it will encourage commercial growth to the north. Still, theirs might be an uphill battle.
“Staff is working on implements and policies,´ said Frank Bruno of the city manager’s office. “Retail and industrial will be encouraged to the north, and Vine Drive will be considered as a possible interchange.”

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