Momentum builds in Fort Collins

Editor’s note: Construction Quest is an ongoing series that focuses on major commercial construction projects in the largest cities and towns in Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. This installment features the city of Fort Collins.

FORT COLLINS – Developers are moving forward with commercial construction projects at a brisk pace in Fort Collins as the economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession.

Major projects include the conspicuous $312 million redevelopment of Foothills Mall along College Avenue in the central part of the city, the $200 million Woodward Technology Center that covers 101 acres to the north and Banner Health’s $86 million medical center to the south.

Clark Mapes, a Fort Collins city planner, said the momentum in commercial construction has been building for several years with the majority of major commercial projects falling under the categories of health care, retail and housing. In the housing segment, there has been increased activity in the form of apartments for the luxury, student and senior-housing markets.

Foothills Mall

Alberta Development Partners finally has begun construction on the beleaguered Foothills Mall revitalization project that has suffered through a series of delays before getting off the drawing board.

The project was given a green light in May 2013 after the city council approved an agreement that included a $53 million public-assistance package in the form of bonds. But Alberta’s efforts to renegotiate some of the particulars of the agreement, including when the bonds would be issued, caused several delays.

In January, the council agreed to Alberta’s request to reduce the overall square footage of the project to 660,000 square feet – 93,000 square feet less than the size of the original mall built in 1973 by Everitt Companies.

In May, the council agreed to issue the bonds once Alberta had leased 155,000 square feet of space, instead of the 240,000 square feet originally agreed upon. The city has yet to issue the bonds, but preliminary construction has begun.

Most of the work being done now is moving earth for infrastructure and some interior work for the entrance to the mall. As redevelopment begins, some shops have closed while others, including anchors Sears and Macy’s, remain open.

The project, which carries an estimated cost of $312 million, consists of preserving a portion of the enclosed mall and stores on the College Avenue perimeter. It includes a 10-screen Cinemark all-digital movie theater and up to 800 multifamily housing units.

Woodward Technology Center

Woodward Inc., a maker of high-tech control systems for the aerospace and energy markets, is embarking on a 10-year project to create the Woodward Technology Center campus on the site of the former Link-N-Greens golf course.

When completed the corporate campus could consist of five buildings housing offices for its headquarters, manufacturing operations, an energy technology center plus administration and support services.

The first to be constructed by M.A. Mortensen Co. will be the Industrial Turbomachinery Systems manufacturing and support buildings. It will house engineering, support staff (sales, marketing, accounting, etc.) and operations teams.

Construction is likely to begin in mid-July on the foundation for the first building. Crews are moving approximately 200,000 cubic yards of dirt from the east side of the property to the west so Woodward can raise its buildings out of the 500-year floodplain.

Jennifer Ray of Woodward said a variety of materials will be used including metal and glass panels as well as stone. The manufacturing sections will be exposed to natural light, and solar panels will help power the building.

The building is scheduled to be ready for employees to move in by mid-2015.

The site includes plans for a commercial space at the corner of Mulberry Road and Lemay Avenue that could be leased to restaurants, shops, banks and possibly a health club.

Platte River Power Authority crews are realigning three-quarters of a mile of transmission lines that run through the center of the property and repositioning them on the east side parallel to Riverside Avenue.

As many as 470 trees established with the original golf course are being removed because they are hazardous, in poor condition, have been deemed invasive species or are impacted by re-grading of the site.

Once the Woodward campus is finished, the site will contain more than 1,000 new trees, and new landscaping will incorporate more native plants and require less water than did the former golf course.

“We hate to lose these trees, but working with Mortenson, we are doing everything we can to preserve as many trees as possible,” said Bruce Hendee, chief sustainability officer for the city.

Thirty-one acres of the golf course will be restored to a natural area. Most of the saved trees are likely to be associated with the Poudre River edge and areas near the Coy/Hoffman Barn and near the northeast corner of the property.

Angie Milewski of Fort Collins-based landscape architects BHA Design Inc., said the barn and two silos and a small brick milk house that date back to the late 1800s will remain on the site because they are part of the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties. Other nonhistoric buildings have been razed.

Banner Health

Construction is in full swing on the Banner Fort Collins Medical Center. The $86 million medical campus, being built on 28 acres at Harmony Road and Lady Moon Drive, will be Phoenix-based Banner Health’s third facility along the Front Range.

The sprawling 384,000-square-foot, two-story medical center is expected to open in April. It will feature a 24-bed hospital, emergency department, lab services, labor and delivery rooms, medical imaging, surgical services and women’s services. The campus will include an outpatient clinic and medical office building.

The project has two phases. The first includes the 163,000-square-foot hospital, medical office health center and central utility plant. The second phase includes adding 157,900 square feet to the hospital area, a 22,800-foot medical office health center and a two-story 40,000-square-foot medical office building at the southwest corner of the site.

“We have planned this hospital with a 40-year timeline, but we expect to be here much longer than that,” said Rick Sutton, Banner Health’s chief executive for the Northern Colorado service area.

Banner has an exclusive agreement with Kaiser Permanente to provide hospitalization services for its patients in Northern Colorado.

JE Dunn Construction is the general contractor on the project and design was created by Boulder Associates Architects.

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