ARCHIVED  December 1, 1997

Hotel project mulled for Poudre

FORT COLLINS — A push by the city to redevelop the Poudre River corridor from Mulberry Street and Lemay Avenue northward as it winds to College Avenue could include major changes, including a possible hotel/conference center, amphitheater and high-rises.
"This whole concept will be the huge project of the 21st century," said John Fischbach, city manager, referring to redevelopment of the Poudre corridor overall. "I think people will get really excited about it and that we’ll find a common ground."
The city is assembling a team that early next year will begin developing a plan for changes along the Poudre. While possibilities include everything from putting a kayak boating course along part of the river to rerouting semitruck traffic off of Riverside Avenue, perhaps the most ambitious plan could include a public/private partnership to redevelop the Link-N-Greens golf course and driving range at 777 E. Lincoln Ave.
Area developer Bill Neal and Ed Baldwin, founder of the former Baldwin Construction Inc., are negotiating with owners of the golf course. They hope to purchase it, downsize the links to nine holes, increase the size of the lakes and build a major development to include the hotel and conference center, amphitheater, high-rises and retail shops.
"We still don’t have the transaction together," Neal said, declining to provide specifics about his plans until talks with the golf-course owners are complete.
Neal won the praise of city officials for his Poudre Valley Plaza mixed-use project at Shields Street and Horsetooth Road. It incorporates many of the design elements of City Plan, which generated major changes in the city’s zoning laws.
An owner of the golf course said the land deal with Neal still is in discussion.
"We’re still in the middle of a lot of negotiations," said Tom Frazier, a co-owner of the golf course and city transportation employee.
He said the golf course had not been for sale, "but like anybody who has property, it’s a business deal."
Frazier said that, even though he owns a share of the golf course, he is removed from any discussions that the city may have concerning its role in redevelopment of the links.
There has been talk for some time of adding a major full-service hotel to the downtown area, as well as a conference center that would alleviate crowding at the Lincoln Center. Additionally, the city has long wanted an amphitheater in the downtown area.
Greg Byrne, director of community planning and environmental services for the city, said he proposed the possibility of a public/private partnership to Fischbach for the property.
"When I heard of the possibility of redeveloping the Link-N-Greens golf course, it occurred to me that to have things happen independently might create missed opportunities," Byrne said.
Indeed, the city owns much of the land along the west side of the river, including an old pickle factory. Property near the river and Lincoln Avenue owned by the city is going to be restored for stormwater drainage that comes from Mountain Avenue and as a wetland area.
Officials in the city’s recreation department hope to build a boating course, much like the one along a portion of Boulder Creek in Boulder that was constructed there for kayakers.
Fischbach said retail tenants in the planned Neal project could complement river-corridor uses, such as bike- and skate-rental shops.
"I think we can do a real good redevelopment plan and respect the wildlife," he said. "What we need to do is develop a community-based process."
One of the most important aspects to any plan, say city leaders and those familiar with the project, is creating a link from the golf course to downtown. Such a connection would help ensure the revival of downtown by routing people from a hotel and conference center to the shops and restaurants downtown.
Some other commercial developers, as well as downtown business people, have expressed concern that the golf course concept puts the hotel and conference center near the northwest corner of Lemay Avenue and Mulberry Street, rather than at the north end of the property, nearer to downtown.
"Bill Neal is extraordinarily interested in making that link work," Fischbach said. "One possibility is a trolley running back and forth regularly."
Part of increasing pedestrian traffic from a redeveloped river to downtown also includes executing a long-discussed plan to get truck traffic off of Jefferson Street and Riverside.
"The discussion would be around Vine Street," Byrne said.
Fischbach said the city has $2 million in funds to start some sort of a truck bypass. Federal money also likely would come into play. Also, $2.5 million is in the coffers for sidewalk and landscape improvements along North College Avenue.
There’s also the question of whether the Downtown Development Authority would want to become involved in changes at the golf course.
While the course is not now in the DDA’s district, it is adjacent to it, one of the requirements for property to be incorporated into the district. The DDA could then help fund some of the improvements.
"Logic says that the DDA may participate," said Chip Steiner, a management consultant for the DDA. "The DDA has a deep, abiding interest in what happens along the Poudre. It could be a lovely, natural attraction."

FORT COLLINS — A push by the city to redevelop the Poudre River corridor from Mulberry Street and Lemay Avenue northward as it winds to College Avenue could include major changes, including a possible hotel/conference center, amphitheater and high-rises.
"This whole concept will be the huge project of the 21st century," said John Fischbach, city manager, referring to redevelopment of the Poudre corridor overall. "I think people will get really excited about it and that we’ll find a common ground."
The city is assembling a team that early next year will begin developing a plan for changes along the Poudre.…

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