[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  November 5, 1999

City considers Campus West overhaul

FORT COLLINS — The best way to experience Fort Collins’ Campus West neighborhood is to take a walk.

On foot, it’s easy to get a sense of the diversity this shopping district offers with outlets for everything from bagels to Birkenstocks, copies to cell-phone service, pet care to skin tanning.

If walking is a good way to get acquainted with Campus West, it is probably also the hardest way to get around in the busy area hugging West Elizabeth Street, just west of the Colorado State University campus.

The intersection of West Elizabeth and Shields Street — recently updated and widened to accommodate turn and bike lanes — teems with vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

Factors such as West Elizabeth’s four-lane status, sidewalks that appear and disappear seemingly at random, and the quarter-mile-long block without crosswalks between Shields and City Park Avenue, add up to a challenging walk.

Still it’s a walk made by hundreds each day as students spill off the CSU campus to eat and shop in Campus West and head home to housing in the neighborhoods flanking West Elizabeth.

Fort Collins planners say that addressing citizen concerns about the pedestrian-hostile environment and the area’s aging hodgepodge look is part of the goal of a planning process that began in July for Campus West.

The Campus West Subarea Plan, called for by City Plan and other prior public planning projects, should be complete by July 2000. The subarea extends roughly from just north of Plum Street to just south of University Avenue, South Shields west to City Park Avenue, including a thumb-shaped area west of City Park and south of West Elizabeth.

Campus West produces the highest volumes of pedestrian and bike traffic of any area in the city, said Greg Byrne, director of community planning and environmental services for the city of Fort Collins.

Campus West property owner Rex Miller, a member of a citizen advisory committee formed as part of the Campus West Subarea planning process, said that Campus West falls at the heart of one of the most densely populated square miles in the city. It also has the distinction of being one of the first commercial areas in Fort Collins to develop away from College Avenue, he said.

Though relatively new compared to the city’s downtown historic district — Campus West developed in the 1960s and ’70s — more than one property owner has long-running ties to the area.

Miller, for example, has plans to redevelop the Campus West Theater his parents built 33 years ago.

If the area is characterized by diverse businesses and abundant traffic, it also reaps descriptions such as “chopped up” and “disjointed.” Planners speak in terms of unrealized potential when talking about Campus West.

“There’s a real interest in trying to stimulate a better business environment in the area along West Elizabeth. It’s really an area that has an excellent market with the university right next door,” Byrne said.

Further, Byrne said, Campus West “has tended to be automobile-oriented in its design and development rather than pedestrian oriented.”

Campus West property owners, including Miller, greet the planning process with nervousness.

Property owners don’t want to be dictated to, he said. They’re concerned about who will bear the costs of redevelopment, and they’re unsure who will ultimately benefit from redevelopment.

Where planners describe potential, owners describe a captive audience of largely students who have limited incomes.

There’s a sense that if it isn’t broken, why fix it, said Campus West property owner Kathy Nicol.

Nicol said that her father-in-law was the original developer in Campus West in the early 1960s and today, Nicol owns extensive holdings in the Campus West district.

For the first time in more than a decade, she has vacancies in two of the 30 units she leases. And those only because she wants diverse tenants, she said.

“From my perspective, I don’t think we’re underutilized,” she said.

Nicol is pragmatic when it comes to redevelopment in Campus West. She sees a need for some “cosmetic improvements.” However, the area fields a large student population that Nicol doubts is concerned about redevelopment. And she’s not convinced that changes will bring others to Campus West.

Although the area is a great neighborhood center, it’s not large enough to become a destination for the whole city, Nicol said.

“Frankly, I don’t think the students care as long as it’s neat and clean. I don’t know if they care if the building looks like it’s from the 1960s or if it looks like something for 2001.”

Although people often point to Fort Collins’ Old Town district when trying to define what they’d like to see in Campus West, Nicol said it’s not the same kind of place. “Old Town is different. Those buildings are 100 years old and two or three stories. They had a lot more raw material to work with,” she said.

Community response will dictate the degree of change that may ultimately take place in Campus West, said Fort Collins planner Clark Mapes.

Regardless of the outcome of the Campus West Subarea Plan, Mapes stressed that it will provide a guide, not a mandate.

The subarea plan will guide redevelopment as it occurs and possibly fuel further redevelopment, Mapes said.

“We hope that it will spark imagination, and it may end up resulting in public improvements that further catalyze other improvements by adding value to the whole area,” he said.

The possibilities for change range from lines painted on parking lots to denote pedestrian walkways to large-scale changes to streets and street edges.

“By next spring, it should be clear whether the community wants to take an approach closer to the minimal change, with improvements patched in, or whether we want to pursue a long-term vision for transformation of the area,” Mapes said.

FORT COLLINS — The best way to experience Fort Collins’ Campus West neighborhood is to take a walk.

On foot, it’s easy to get a sense of the diversity this shopping district offers with outlets for everything from bagels to Birkenstocks, copies to cell-phone service, pet care to skin tanning.

If walking is a good way to get acquainted with Campus West, it is probably also the hardest way to get around in the busy area hugging West Elizabeth Street, just west of the Colorado State University campus.

The intersection of West Elizabeth and Shields Street — recently updated and widened to accommodate…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]