Possible Woodward HQ site in floodplain

FORT COLLINS — The prospect of massive flooding and power transmission lines — both stand in the way of Woodward’s still-tentative plans for a new corporate campus at the Link-N-Greens golf course.

Addressing these issues could potentially add millions of dollars to the cost of preparing the land for Woodward’s new HQ.

The $1.9-billion (revenue) energy control systems company is in talks with the city and the Platte River Power Authority to make the changes necessary should it decide to move forward with the site along the Poudre River.

Specifically, Woodward is working with the city to prepare paperwork that would be submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a floodplain revision. It also is working with the Platte River Power Authority to relocate a north-south transmission line that runs across the property.

And while Woodward hasn’t officially committed to the site, it has submitted an overall development plan and a conceptual review site plan to the city for the 101.5-acre parcel. The site is on the southwest corner of East Lincoln Street and South Lemay Avenue. According to the plan, Woodward is considering four buildings including manufacturing and office space on nearly 70 acres. The rest of the land would remain open.

Real estate developer Allen Ginsborg and Woodward are expected to submit a project development plan to the city in mid-January. The city’s design team is engaged in weekly meetings with Woodward, according to Jason Holland, the city planner assigned to the project.

“We’re working with them as much as possible,” Holland said.

Right now, the site is home to a privately owned golf course, and a portion of the potential development is within the 100-year floodplain of the Poudre River. Other portions are within a 500-year floodplain, meaning any buildings face the potential of devastating floods.

To address the problem, the land would have to be re-graded.

Woodward has been working with the city to develop a plan that meets FEMA’s approval.

It’s a complicated, time-consuming process, according to Marsha Hilmes-Robinson, floodplain administrator for the city and a member of the development review team working on the Woodward project.

Getting through all of the government’s approvals can take as long as six months, she said.

The city, she said, will review Woodward’s submittal before it goes to FEMA to make sure that it adheres to city codes.

It’ll be up to Woodward to decide how it chooses to re-grade the area, Hilmes-Robinson said.

Woodward could not be reached for comment, and Ginsborg declined to comment.

In the meantime, Woodward is also investigating the feasibility of relocating a transmission line that stretches across the property, according Holland.

The goal is to make the entrance to the property more aesthetically appealing, Holland said.

The transmission line actually includes two different voltages, one with 230,000 volts that PRPA COO Jason Frisbie equated to a “highway,” and a smaller line carrying 115,000 volts that Frisbie said was more like a “county road” line.

Moving a line in the middle of a city is always complicated business, Frisbie said, and is an undertaking involving the power authority, the city and the development applicant, meaning the company.

PRPA has technical experts that can look at overheard and underground alternatives, Frisbie said.

The most time-consuming part of the process is deciding where to relocate a line, as well as obtaining permits and easements, he said. From start to finish, the process for relocating a line overhead is between one and two years at the most, while burying a line underground takes more time.

It also costs a lot more to bury a line. Estimates for relocating a transmission line depend on a number of factors that are specific to a new location, Frisbie said. Typically, existing landscape is examined to determine good alternatives for the line that don’t impact scenery or endanger residents.

“Average, rough” numbers for relocation are $1 million per mile for an overhead relocation and closer to $5 million per mile for an underground relocation.

In this case, going underground could entail boring under a major roadway, which would require a more complicated process than simply laying down underground cable in a field, Frisbie said.

Moving a line like this is rare, Frisbie said, but not unprecedented.

Some alternatives for other locations for the line have been discussed, but Frisbie declined to share those.

In addition to flooding and power line issues, Woodward will have to deal with typical infrastructure questions such as service lines, as well as some improvements to road frontages along Lemay and Lincoln, Holland said.

Woodward’s new HQ would be twice the size of its current facility on Drake. Should it decide to move forward, Woodward’s Fort Collins workforce could grow from about 700 to between 1,300 and 1,400 by 2025.

Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR

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