April 1, 1996

Real Estate: Poudre Valley Plaza sets ground-breaking for April

“We’re jazzed,´ said Bill Neal, president of Wheeler Realty Better Homes & Gardens and a general partner in the project. “It’s a goofy mixed-use deal. Traditionalists think I’m crazy for attempting it in Fort Collins. The market says it’s long overdue.”

The 7.5-acre site will be filled with seven separate buildings that include two freestanding restaurant pads and a bank, a mixture of office and retail spaces, and seven condo or apartment units on the second floor of one of the buildings.

“The radical thing is mixing office and retail with residential in the same building,´ said Neal, who said the concept has been incubating in his brain for years. Neal has a graduate degree in urban and regional planning. “The idea has probably been around for a thousand years in Europe, but we’re just now getting around to it in this country.”

Designed by Fort Collins architect Dana Lochwood, the project is carefully crafted to be attractive from all sides, Neal said. Even the backsides of the buildings belie their utilitarian function.

The residential units — the developers still haven’t determined whether they will be apartments or condominiums — will be about 1,300-square feet with three bedrooms and two-car garages below. They are expected to be priced in the mid to high range.

“My own sales force is a great barometer of the market,” Neal said. “When we talked about the project, they said ?Hey, don’t put that on the market — I’m buying it!”

The key to the success of the residential portion of the project will be attracting compatible commercial, retail and office users to Poudre Valley Plaza.

Neal’s partner in Wheeler Commercial Property Services LLC, Fred Croci, said preleasing for the property is moving along at a brisk pace, with close to 30,000 square feet already under letter of intent.

“They want to be in the project, but we’re still trying to finalize costs,” Croci said. He expects about 90 percent of the letters of intent to convert to formal leases. The first tenants could move into the plaza by the middle of the fourth quarter of 1996.

Croci said that so far, a formal restaurant, a pizza restaurant, a bank, a mortgage company, a sandwich shop, a dance studio, and Wheeler Realty Better Homes and Gardens have committed to the property.

Now Neal and Croci are out scouting for, among others, both a breakfast-style and a family restaurant, and a wide variety of office tenants.

Farmers lament

Area farmers privately lament the encroachment of the urban corridor, mourning that as neighboring farms and ranches are carved up into 35-acre hobby farms, their problems increase exponentially.

City folk, who don’t always understand how their food gets from the field to the table, complain about the smell of manure, gripe that dirt clods on the road cause alignment problems in their cars, and scream in spring and fall when farmers are out in the fields late at night planting and harvesting.

But the 35-acre subdivision can be the farmer’s salvation, allowing the long-time agricultural families to cash in on a decades-old 401(k) to finance a college education, for example. And in some cases, a handful of 35-acre spreads can enhance or sustain a rural area, so long as traditional agricultural standards are maintained.

The key, observes Larimer County planning commissioner George Wallace, who also farms north of Fort Collins, is putting some thought into choosing locations for the subdivisions. But state law basically grants a use-by right to landowners, allowing them a minimum of one house for every 35 acres they own, regardless of water and transportation issues.

“It’s a real complex issue,” Wallace said. “Senate Bill 35 has made it very difficult to do land-use planning because you can subdivide almost without any review. We have a lot of farms and ranches cut up into 35s that aren’t at all efficient and turn over very quickly.”

Though Wallace said the 35-acre hobby farms tend toward the problematic, there are some areas where the concept has worked beautifully.

“There is a small portion of people who really do know how to live in the country; they may want to put up a little hay and keep some livestock,” Wallace said. “They allow for people who want to have 4H projects, or want to keep their fingers in agriculture, or allow farmers to sell off a couple of pieces to stay in business.

“But I think it becomes a negative when whole farms and ranches are chopped up into 35s, and when it is done where people aren’t going to be successful living in the country.”

Selling off the water rights or subdividing a parcel of land with poor soil or access can turn the North 40 into Hell’s Half-Acre.

“I’ve seen some real disasters,” Wallace said.

Wallace points to the burg of Waverley as a successful 35-acre subdivision that has made a decent effort at working with the surrounding farmers and ranchers to maintain the agricultural character of the area.

But participation in the ag process takes some education.

The Larimer and Weld county cooperative extension offices are offering a little help in the form of a day-long small acreage seminar “So, you’ve moved to the country. Now what?” The seminar runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 20 at the Holiday Inn at Interstate 25 and Colorado Highway 14 in Fort Collins.

The topics range from an overview of small acreage planning, to horse and pasture management, weed control, water, safety, wetlands, wildlife and fire and planning.

Cost is $25 per person, or $40 per couple. Call (970) 498-7400 to reserve a spot.

Wallace said that although the 35-acre developments, or small cluster developments, are preferable to large planned unit developments, a government without the will to take a stand could open the flood gates to unbridled development in unincorporated areas.

“Once you start to lose rural character, you’re going to see them start building PUDS everywhere,” Wallace said. “The main thing is that people need to take seriously what we are going to do to protect our rural areas and agriculture.

“If we have many more Ptarmigans (an unincorporated golf course development west of Windsor) you can see how easy it would be to fill in like Southern California, where we would have continuous low-grade urban tissue. And I don’t think the Realtors want that to happen, either.”

Done deals

Realtec’s Michael Ehler worked for more than two years to sell United Plaza, 1100 10th St. in Greeley. The $1.95 million sale of the 29,000-square foot building to the City of Greeley closed Feb. 29. Tenth Street Investors developed the property in 1983. United Plaza is one of three major office buildings in downtown Greeley, and is home to the city’s Planning and Zoning and Building Inspection departments, the Weld County Public Defender, Security Title Insurance and Bonnie Dean Associates.

Robert R. McConnell, of McConnell Hale & Co. in Fort Collins, is handling preleasing for the Becker Office Building at the southwest corner of U.S. Highway 287 and 39th Street. Brewer Personnel Services will be the primary tenant, but McConnell reports that up to 10,000-square feet of first-class office space will be available this fall.

Realtec’s Dan Eckles and Tricia Diehl brokered a new lease for 640-square feet at 606 S. Mason St. in Fort Collins for use by Agency Rent A Car. The property is owned by Nicol Enterprises. The pair also negotiated a lease for 3,060-square feet at 208 Commerce Drive, No. 4, in Fort Collins. Engineering Data Management is the tenant in the industrial space owned by K-Venture Properties.

Eckles and Diehl put together a lease agreement, with Realtec’s Jim Mokler working the other side of the contract, for 1,740-square feet at 5205 S. College Ave. in Fort Collins. RVNA Home Care Services Inc. will occupy the office space at Cameron Office Park. Nancy Potter and Bethphagae Mission West Inc. are the landlords.

Eckles also closed deals for the lease of 3,000 square feet on Willox Lane in Fort Collins to R&L Automotive, and 2,400 square feet at 1740 Willox Court to GBF Enterprises.

“We’re jazzed,´ said Bill Neal, president of Wheeler Realty Better Homes & Gardens and a general partner in the project. “It’s a goofy mixed-use deal. Traditionalists think I’m crazy for attempting it in Fort Collins. The market says it’s long overdue.”

The 7.5-acre site will be filled with seven separate buildings that include two freestanding restaurant pads and a bank, a mixture of office and retail spaces, and seven condo or apartment units on the second floor of one of the buildings.

“The radical thing is mixing office and retail with residential in the same building,´ said Neal, who said the concept…

Related Content