Carriage House student housing wins on appeal

A change in city policy has allowed a potential student housing project to move forward, despite objections over plans to tear down a residence deemed historic by some.

A proposal by Chuck Bailey of Longmont-based Catamount Properties was stopped in its tracks in early 2012 when one of the homes standing in the project’s way was determined to be eligible for historic preservation.

The development would consist of five three-story buildings with between 10 and 14 units per building, resulting in more than 100 new beds for CSU students.

At the time, there was no way to appeal a decision of historic preservation eligibility and the planning commission denied the developer’s request. His effort at an appeal before the City Council also failed.

But the city’s rules have since changed, now allowing for appeals concerning historic designation, and in October, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission overturned the original decision, declaring that the home at 1305 S. Shields was not, after all, eligible for historic preservation. That cleared the way for the development, to be called Carriage House Apartments.

The property was once home to William Carlson, who served as president of the University of Wyoming from 1968 to 1979. Carlson also was a graduate of CSU in veterinary medicine and a one-time CSU faculty member.

Carlson lived in the home until he finished his undergraduate work at CSU, which is just across Shields Street from the home. He had relocated to other residences by the time he began his graduate work and started teaching.

Early last year, Bailey argued that because Carlson no longer resided in the house in question at the time he was doing the things that make him “historically significant,” there is no evidence that the house itself should be preserved.

A second look was provided by an independent expert in historic preservation, Robert Autobee from Morgan Angel Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based company with offices in Denver.

Autobee’s report, taking into consideration Carlson’s historical association and the architecture of the home, concluded that 1305 S. Shields St. should not be eligible for preservation, according to Karen McWilliams of the Historic Preservation Commission.

Bailey’s plans call for the home to be torn down. The area is zoned for student housing, according to Bailey, and its location right across the street from CSU makes it a prime location for housing students.

While adding 100 beds would fall far short of solving CSU’s housing problem, every little bit helps, and the community shouldn’t rely solely on CSU to house its swelling ranks of students, Bailey said.

“Private-sector building around campus is the solution to CSU’s housing problem,” Bailey said.

The project is moving forward for now, though it could run into trouble if residents of the surrounding neighborhoods take issue with elements of the development.

Student housing has been a contentious topic in Fort Collins for years, so any pushback from residents would be par for the course.

Perhaps the largest battle in recent memory was over The Grove, a 218-unit student housing project built by Charlotte, N.C.-based Campus Crest. The Grove took more than a year to pass the city’s planning and zoning board, after homeowner associations took issue with land-use code compliance, environmental standards and the involvement of Campus Crest in various litigations.

In the end, Campus Crest amended its plan, and The Grove is currently under construction, as is The Commons, another large student housing project. Together, the two will provide space for more than 1,200 CSU students.

CSU is also working to house its students, adding rooms to existing dormitories, but with the number of students growing by hundreds every year, the current building pace is having difficulty keeping up.

The Carriage House case illustrates the time lag that can occur between a project being proposed and actually being finished.

Bailey began working with the city on the project two years ago, and if and when he gains full approval, it will take another year to reach full build-out, according to Bailey.

There are some city codes in place that are meant to mitigate the concerns that residents have surrounding student housing. For example, one regulation stipulates that no more than two buildings should look identical to each other.

Designs for the buildings that will make up Carriage House vary, according to Bailey. Carriage House will also include more than 60 parking spots to avoid placing additional stress on the already-tight parking situation in and around the CSU campus.

No specific date has been set for the Carriage House project to go before the planning and zoning board, according to Courtney Levingston, the city planner working on the project.

Right now, the project is in the middle of its first round of staff review, Levingston said.

Last year, Catamount Properties completed Pura Vida, a 50-unit student housing complex, on Laurel Street across from CSU.

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, or

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