Riverbend: A new gateway to Timnath?

To get to downtown Timnath might someday mean heading south of Harmony Road, not north.

At least that’s the vision Loveland developer Craig Harrison has created for his proposed Riverbend Urban Village.

Not a lot of the residents and business owners in Timnath have heard about the plan, but that’s about to change.

Harrison, president of Harrison Resource Corp., will soon begin to actively market his $100 million plan, and if all goes as he hopes, he will have helped create a vibrant commercial center where today very little exists.

As envisioned, his Riverbend will be built on a 70-acre site on the southeast corner of Harmony and County Road 5.

If he can pull it off, Riverbend will be the largest commercial development in Northern Colorado since the completion of the 3,000-acre Centerra project.

The town and the Poudre Fire Authority have already committed to build a town hall, police station and fire station on the site, though Riverbend would be much more than a collection of municipal buildings.

Harrison wants the project to be the new gateway to Timnath, a “turn of the century agriculture” epicenter of commerce and culture with two restaurants, a corporate park, a bank, a performing arts center and possibly a gourmet grocery store.

The amount of coordination and plate-twirling required to make this project more than a municipal cul-de-sac is, to say the least, staggering, but Harrison might just be able to pull it off. His company has done $625 million in business in the last 30 years, and Harrison has deep experience in commercial development and land-use in Northern Colorado.

“This has been my home for 33 years, so unlike other projects I’m doing like the Niobrara Energy Park (in Carr), this is in my living room,” he said of Riverbend. “It’s got a whole different level of thought behind it.”

That living room could have some nice views.

Riverbend would go up along 900 feet of the Poudre River. Also, the Poudre River Trail extension will pass through it in two to three years. Harrison’s cattle ranch, Harrison Land & Cattle Co., is south of the project.

“I think this is going to have a great impact on the community as far as creating jobs and retail establishments and drawing people to Timnath,´ said Timnath Town Planner TJ Dlubac. “We’re hoping that with the economy the way it is, that this movement will create a snowball effect and bring more development.”

The first phase of the project, on the northeast corner of the property, would include the fire station, police station, Timnath town hall and seven additional sites. Infrastructure improvements will start around June 15 and should be complete by the end of 2012, with construction on the fire station beginning sometime next year. The police station and town hall are several years off, at the soonest.

In Harrison’s view, the construction of the fire station will help encourage restaurateurs and other businesses to move in long before work begins on the town hall or police station.

West of phase one, phase two includes about 10 sites and two 3,000- to 6,000-square-foot riverfront spaces for what Harrison hopes would be high-end restaurants similar in style and cuisine to Jay’s or the Rio.

The next phase would include a five-acre corporate campus with six lots and a regional arts and performing center west of the river. Harrison’s wife, who is active in the arts, inspired the idea for a performing arts center. Harrison, however, admits it might be difficult to find a solid funding source for such as center.

Perhaps more realistically, Harrison sees phase three as a “senior campus,” a residential development for those 55 and older.

In any case, Poudre Fire Authority Chief Tom DeMint said the site’s proximity is perfect for the estimated $4 million PFA Station 8.

“We’re going to be sandwiched between the police station and city hall and we have really good access to I-25,” DeMint said. “With the business development and restaurants, we can’t say we don’t like that because it will help with funding.”

While DeMint’s sentiments are favorable, others are more reserved about Riverbend. Some said they’ve never heard of or know very little about Riverbend. Some feel the town has been left in the dark, others are holding their tongues until they actually see work begin and others still are cautiously optimistic that the development will boost the town’s economy.

Timnath has grown from 225 to more than 500 residents within the last three years and some say it could grow to 30,000 residents within the next 25 years. Harrison wasn’t planning on opening up the Riverbend project until 2014 but said talks with the town helped change his mind.

“When we sat down and met with the town about that site, I told them I wasn’t ready to open this project just yet,” he said. “But I said ‘Hey, if we could somehow put in a bigger municipal component there, then I think we’d have enough to break it open.'”

Harrison also was encouraged by the approved widening of Harmony Road, which will coincide with the relocation of County Road 3F and Country Road 5, which will be moved to the east. That will create a new intersection giving access to the Riverbend project.

“I think the downtown area of Timnath will eventually turn into some boutique-type commercial thing very similar to Niwot,” Harrison said, adding that, with the addition of more commercial space along that portion of Harmony, traffic may be rerouted around rather than through the downtown. “If you look back 20 years from now, I think you will see the epicenter of Timnath surrounding this (Riverfront) property.”

That, at least, is his vision.

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