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Growth along the northern stretch of Interstate 25 until recently has proceeded as haltingly as a semi heading into a weigh station.But now, from new mall developments to a flurry of business-park activity, construction along the corridor from Colorado Highway 7 north to Wellington is about to enter the fast lane.
During the next decade, this 50-mile stretch of Interstate 25 could witness more development than seen in its entire history. A recent examination by The Northern Colorado Business Report of potential building projects along the corridor uncovered 52 separate developments either already under way or planned. And that counts neither the extraordinarily high level of construction activity on east-west thoroughfares that intersect with I-25, nor others waiting to hatch along the interstate itself.
Of the projects and land for sale along the way, Weld County holds 33 to Larimer County’s 19. Development plans range from an aquarium project in Fort Collins to a one million-square-foot mall in Broomfield. Several thousand acres of residential land lie within Erie’s planning area, while one of the area’s fastest-growing industrial parks sits in Weld County just east of Longmont.
“I think it will take 20 to 30 years to build it all out,´ said Stuart MacMillan, vice president of The Everitt Cos. of Fort Collins.
A seasoned Northern Colorado developer, MacMillan is marketing Westgate, a new commercial park in Windsor. It lies at the southeast quadrant of I-25 and Colorado 392.
And though the volume of potential development seems high, it should be noted that some of the commercial land has been for sale for up to 25 years. In contrast, other developments are in areas experiencing some of the highest levels of construction in the region. It seems only natural to assume that eventually, the flurry of building will touch even the longest-marketed properties.
While it’s certain the increase in development will bring economic boons to the counties and communities where located, the specter of almost continuous building along I-25 also raises a slew of questions.
If people have moved to Northern Colorado to escape traffic or congestion, they should note that the Colorado Department of Transportation already is far along in its plans to widen I-25 to six lanes from Colorado 7 to Colorado 119.
And while no new interchanges are scheduled for the 50 miles from Colorado 7 to Wellington -primarily because of a lack of funding – designs are under way for the widening and improvement of overpasses at Harmony Road, Prospect Road and Mulberry Street.
Other issues often raised center around the quality of development that will take place as I-25 is built out. There is no coordinated effort among municipalities such as Erie, Frederick, Mead, Johnstown, or even Loveland and Fort Collins, to ensure the continuity and quality of construction.
Even among the private sector, opinions vary.
“I think there needs to be a Northern Colorado authority to coordinate all this, or people who drive through Colorado will think it looks like hell,” MacMillan said.
Farther south, however, Marvin Dyer, whose real-estate company is marketing and developing several projects near Longmont, says “No way.”
Dyer feels the companies relocating to the 1-25 corridor don’t need another layer of red tape through which to pass. Additionally, he notes that Weld County’s planning department recently completed an update of review guidelines for development in the area.
The department of ransportation is somewhat concerned about setbacks throughout the I-25 corridor, though. Based on the imminent widening of the highway north from Colorado 7, representatives of C-DOT have asked municipal leaders to keep companies from building close to the road.
“We have no authority to mandate building setbacks,´ said John Crier, Region IV planning and environmental manager for C-DOT.
He said that if a company is allowed to build in the right-of-way, then in a year or two the state will end up condemning it to expand the highway.
Even though six lanes now are being planned, Crier said projections already are showing that the northern sections of I-25 need to be eight lanes. And, there’s talk that Frederick and Firestone would like an interchange, but Crier said funding issues demand such a project be privately financed.
A $2 million study just was launched to study traffic on northern I-25, U.S. Highway 287 and U.S. Highway 85. It will consider alternatives such as light rail and regional buses.
Despite transportation issues, development along the corridor varies greatly. The most active pocket now is south of Colorado 66 stretching toward Colorado 52. There, communities such as Frederick, as well as Weld County, embrace commercial and industrial development.
At the northeast corner of 1-25 and Colorado 66, the Valley 66 Business Park has shot up within the last year. Four companies have made the park their home in the past few months. Topper Stevenson of Pinnacle Marketing Group, who markets the property, said three or four others are ready to start construction.
Just south of Valley 66 Business Park sits 35 acres of additional commercial land.
“It’s in the path of growth,´ said Terry Jensen, president of Horton Cavey Realty Co., which has the property listed.
Pinnacle’s Stevenson also markets the Frederick West Business Park, a fast-growing light industrial project. The first phase is almost sold out with five tenants, two more under contract and one lot left to sell. The second phase of 80 acres soon will be opened.
On the other side of the highway, Ernie Rowe’s Indian Peaks Industrial Park also is quickly selling out.
Other new projects abound. Dyer Realty just opened a 145-acre light industrial development called Vista Commercial Center on Colorado 119 about two miles west of the I-25 interchange. It will support one- to three-acre users. Nearby, another 55 acres is winding through the Weld County planning process. It will be sold in one-acre or two-acre lots.
Dyer also markets one of the few properties along I-25 annexed to Mead before citizens there decided that every piece of land coming into the city needs voter approval. At 80 acres, it has drawn the interest of both Fort Collins and Boulder residential developers.
Closer to the Erie exit, more than 200 acres that used to be the Washington Coal Mine now are under contract to a commercial user. That unnamed company hopes to build a 100,000-square-foot distribution facility.
Union Pacific Railroad also is selling more than 3,000 acres of its property, some with I-25 frontage, near Erie. Marketed by Chuck Arnold of Frederick Ross Co., prices range from $1,500 to $5,000 an acre. The land primarily is suited for residential uses, Arnold said.
Farther south at the Colorado 7 interchange, a Denver metro-area city has reached far beyond what people often assume are its boundaries. Much of the land around the intersection has been annexed to Broomfield.
At the northwest corner, a million-square-foot mall is planned, the Great Mall of Colorado. Across the highway at the northeast quadrant, 420 acres recently were sold to Texas investors. The deal is so fresh that their representative, Linda Sasenick, said the buyers have not had time to formulate all their plans for the property.
Steward Mosko, the Fuller and Co. broker who sold the land, said it was on the market for almost two years and finally sold for $2 million, or almost $4,800 an acre.
“If the Great Mall of Colorado is built, they got it for a steal,” Mosko said. “If it’s not built, then they paid market value.”
Although the property from Colorado 66 south to Colorado 7 along I-25 may be the hotbed of current development, there are plenty of plans for activity to the north.
Robert Saffell of Coldwell Banker Saffell in Winter Park owns 141 acres annexed to Johnstown as the Gateway Center. It will host retail, office and industrial tenants.
“The level of interest has been great,” Saffell said. “We’re working with some quality people. About six companies are looking at it now.”
Johnstown has received a petition to annex another 2,000 acres on both sides of the highway south of Colorado 56. That, said Pinnacle’s Stevenson, would be suited for both residential and commercial uses. He is representing the Wilson family in the annexation drive.
There also are ample opportunites for commercial development near Loveland. The city over time has annexed hundreds of acres, all with prime frontage on I-25.
Projects such as Crossroads Business Park, marketed by Dan Stroh of Stroh & Co. Realty and Auctions Inc., and the Rocky Mountain Factory Stores are just examples of what is waiting to happen in the area.
Louis Swift has been marketing 243 acres north of Crossroads Business Park for 25 years. Zoned for industrial use and annexed to Loveland, Swift says activity has been slow.
“I have a philosophy about some real estate,” he said. “If you live long enough, you can make a lot of money.”
Across the highway, Bob Terry seems to be experiencing some better luck. He helps market 120 acres – annexed to Loveland – for Karl Schakel’s Western Cos.
“We get inquiries quite often, usually from users looking for two to five acres,” Terry said.
The owners are more interested in selling at least part of the property to a single large user. The land is developed with utilities and holds the potential of being connected to the Fort Collins/Loveland Municipal Airport.
The Airport Business Park itself is the site of a great deal of activity along the northern stretch of the corridor. Marketed by The Everitt Cos. and Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services Inc., three new projects currently are under way.
“Most companies out there are regionally oriented,´ said Jim Mokler of Realtec.
He noted that approximately half, or 27 lots, of the original 68 acres is remaining.
Tom Livingston of The Everitt Cos. said that in addition to the smaller lots, one 60-acre building site also is available. It has some frontage on I-25 and taxiway access to the airport. Additionally, another 10 acres to 15 acres are going through an approval process that would allow for new small-acre lots having frontage along the highway.
Another business park within Loveland’s city limits also is being newly marketed. Called Ward East Industrial Park, it’s on the east side of I-25 on Crossroads Boulevard across from the Wal-Mart Distribution Center. Ward East is a 47-acre park, with 42 acres remaining. Two freight companies already have buildings there.
“The Wards will build and own the buildings,´ said Jack Tretheway of Prudential Warnock Realty Co.
Farther north are projects such as Westgate at the Windsor interchange. Its first tenant will be a Schrader Country Store gas station. Proposals are almost ready to go out to hotels and restaurants.
At the Harmony Road exit, Ronn Frank of The Group Inc. has been marketing 18.5 acres for several years. At one point, there were discussions about the city of Fort Collins acquiring and preserving the land as part of a gateway. The land remains for sale, though, and is zoned commercial.
“The timing is getting closer all the time,” Frank said, noting that the property is in the path of development.
At the Prospect Road interchange, Realtec’s Mokler is ready to close with a client on 12 acres at the southeast corner. He has another buyer for 37 acres surrounding the Mulberry Inn and listed by Ron Kresl of Miscio & Stroud Inc. at the northeast corner of Mulberry Street and I-25.
North of Mulberry at the northwest corner of Vine Street and I-25, a new developer reportedly is ready to purchase from W.W. Reynolds Cos. the land where the Waterglen mixed-use project was planned.
At the southwest corner, Dan Bernth of Veldman Morgan Commercial has approximately 32 acres of an 88-acre parcel remaining. The land he’s marketing is zoned industrial in Fort Collins.
And while there are not as many projects near Wellington, that area, too, is growing. Independent Bank is nearing completion of its new facility at the northwest corner of the Wellington interchange. Several acres nearby are available. Just to the west, a Mini Mart is planned, as is another gas/convenience store.
Regardless of whether it takes 20 years or 30 years – or even longer – to build out all the I-25 corridor land now being marketed, it’s almost assured that by then an equal amount of new acreage will be for sale in this continuing process.The face of I-25 soon will be forever changed.ÿ