Clint Folsom, mayor of Superior, stands at the site of Downtown Superior, which will feature housing, retail, office and hotel uses. Image by Christopher Wood / Bizwest

Downtown Superior project gains momentum

You can forgive Superior town manager Matt Magley if he isn’t out in the street turning cartwheels over the buildings rising in Downtown Superior, formerly known as the Town Center. You see, it’s been a long time coming.

“There were a lot of meetings and hours and hours of planning prior to any construction,” said Magley, who was sitting in on those meetings as a town staffer long before being named town manager in 2010. “After a while, you get tired of talking about it.”

But all those hours of meetings, discussions with potential developers, discussions with property owner and planning are finally coming to fruition. “It’s nice to see that things are going vertical, Main Street’s going in, and there’s some development along the creeks,” Magley said, “People do seem to be excited that’s something’s finally happening.”

The mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development will feature 1,400 homes, along with 44,600 square feet of commercial and retail space, 373,000 square feet of office space, and 500 hotel rooms. More so, it will give Superior a downtown it has been missing at least since the end of the coal-mining industry, along with parks, plazas and a place where the town really feels like a town, said Superior mayor Clint Folsom.

“I think we would all like to see parts of it happening faster, particularly the parts that current residents will be able to enjoy — the public places and the parks,” Folsom said. “Those are the pieces that were particularly appeasing to all residents in the community, but like everything else, everything takes time.”

And Superior’s time appears to have finally come.

Superior didn’t fare quite as well as other southeastern Boulder County towns when the local coal industry faded well before the hippies found a place called Boulder. By the 1970s, there were only a few homes left east of McCaslin Boulevard,  as well as some mobile alternative dwellings that often caught the ear of Boulder County Sheriff deputies, agreed Folsom, who spent 13 years as a reserve officer on the force.

But the town did still have heart, apparently, as documented when the local wells went bad in the 1980s. Faced with possibly annexing to Louisville, or finding another source of water, the town turned to Richmond Homes, which brought in water from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Of course, that deal wasn’t the easiest part of joining the rest of a quickly developing Boulder County. Essentially, the deal created a kind of bifurcated government, as the town had to go to the water district that Richmond established to actually get much done.

Superior turned a corner when it bought out the district near the turn of the millennium, by which time Superior Marketplace was bringing in much-needed sales-tax revenue. But the town really didn’t have a center, and it often looked at the area on the southwestern corner of U.S. Highway 36 and McCaslin Boulevard as the spot that could be created.

“What really kicked it off was we (the town) went through it with the property owners and got a Planning United Development done in 2012,” Magley said. “That essentially gives developers a use by right (to build), and that is when the developers started to get interested.”

But it also required a lot more talking, as the town itself was deciding what its town center was going to look like, rather than have developers bring in plans. Some residents didn’t want anything to take up the open space, but others wanted the area to be all commercial.

“There was a lot of talk on what should be where and how much of what,” said Folsom, who was on the planning commission prior to his election as mayor a few years back. “Ultimately, we settle on it would be a mixed group of housing and retail, anchored by the Sports Stable (which has multiple ice rinks, indoor fields with other assorted training, such as indoor golf, and restaurants.)”

New homes are obviously a priority for the developers, but Bill Jencks of Ranch Capital, which has the lion’s share of Downtown Superior, said retail and other commercial development is also taking shape.

“This project is really gaining momentum. We’re finishing up the main access to the project via the new roundabout at McCaslin and nearing the completion of Main Street,” said Jencks in a prepared statement. “Downtown Superior will have a lot to offer for residents and visitors with various recreation options at the Sport Stable, chef concept restaurants, unique retail shopping and year round activities.”

That mixed use is probably the most desirable commercial use today, noted Caryn Geiger a resident and a Coldwell Banker residential broker in the town. Geiger, who also runs the town’s Spring Garage Sale, pointed out that with online sales making a huge dent in brick-and-mortar business, a mixed use is more of a sure thing today.

“The fact that it’s going to be anchored with retail and walkable downtown space makes the residential space more appealing as well,” Geiger said. “They’ve had very good response to the floor plans they offered, and obviously there’s a need for more residential offerings in the county.”

“But having a centered space for people to congregate downtown — that’s what we were all envisioning.”

No one is absolutely predicting the end of the buildout, though with homes at a premium now it could be sooner than feared after five years filled with many delays. But make no mistake about it, people such as Magley and Folsom believe they are absolutely leaving something meaningful behind for generations of Superior residents to come.

“It’s one of the biggest developments to happen along the U.S. 36 corridor,” Folsom said. “To be part of the planning and be there for the groundbreaking — absolutely you think that it’s definitely going to be a big part of Superior for many generations.”