In the works: Transforming Fort Collins' south side
The biggest change could break ground in late 2013: A $200 million residential development to be called Kechter Farms.
More immediately, developer Les Kaplan is now pushing forward with his plans to lure retail and build apartments south of Harmony Road after selling off a chunk of his land near the intersection of Lady Moon Drive to Banner Health System, which is planning a hospital at the location.
Once Kechter Farms and whatever Kaplan has in mind are built, a lot of the raw land and open fields that are now part of the scene will be gone.
Hundreds of homes will have been built and, every day, hundreds of new workers will head to the medical offices, shops and offices that are coming to South Fort Collins.
Kechter Farms will be a single-family development that has been in the planning stages since 2005, according to developers Tom Dougherty and Mike Sollenberger.
Working with staff from both the City of Fort Collins and Larimer County, the pair created a plan with nearby Fossil Creek Reservoir in mind.
In addition to 166 acres of developed land, the project will preserve 120 acres of open space surrounding the reservoir, and that space will never be developed, according to Dougherty.
Dougherty and Sollenberger won't actually develop the land themselves. Instead, they say they are in final negotiations with a national homebuilder that will buy the property.
The pair is taking this route because smaller, local developers can't typically find financing to pull off such a large project. Larger builders like D.R. Horton and Ryland Homes can typically finance their projects through private equity.
Dougherty and Sollenberger declined to say with which company they are working, but suggested that the company is known for producing a product that will "take Fort Collins by storm."
The plans for the project were approved unanimously by Larimer County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 10. Building will likely start in about a year, according to Sollenberger. After that, it will take between six and eight years to arrive at complete build-out on the project. In all, the development will include 406 homes, ranging in price from just over $400,000 to more than $1 million.
Aside from the construction of hundreds more homes in one of the fastest-growing parts of Fort Collins, the project includes a component that will complete a piece of the city of Fort Collins traffic master plan.
That plan calls for linking Lady Moon Drive with Trilby Road, according to city planner Ted Shepard. Kechter Farms will surround that juncture.
As the Kechter Farms subdivision goes in, the roads will be connected, creating a thoroughfare linking drivers to College Avenue on the east and Harmony Road on the north.
Connecting the two roads did raise some concern about the possibility of the street developing "racetrack potential," according to Rob Helmick, the Larimer County planner working on the project.
To mitigate this, a roundabout will have to be installed at the intersection of Lady Moon Drive and Zephyr Road, which will dead-end at the roundabout, inside Kechter Farms.
The merging of Lady Moon and Trilby is a part of a larger plan for southern Fort Collins called the Harmony Corridor Plan. The plan was approved in 1995 and spells out approved land uses for the area south of Harmony — the area where Kaplan's interests enter the picture.
Kaplan owns 85 acres near the intersection of Harmony and Lady Moon. Thirty acres of that property are now under contract to be purchased by Banner Health, which revealed its plans to build a hospital and ER there last month.
Kaplan has either developed or has plans for all but 30 acres of his land. His most recent project there is the 240-unit multi-family project Terra Vida, which was completed in mid-November and is about 29-percent leased.
Once Terra Vida is filled, a second multi-family project is planned for an adjacent parcel. The remaining land could include retail space, possibly including a hotel and convention center or a health club, Kaplan said. This land, which is composed of two parcels, one about 19 acres and the other about 10, does not have any potential user interest at the moment, Kaplan said.
With Kechter Farms coming, that interest might not be too hard to find.
Kaplan spent nine years assembling his parcels, which are just across Lady Moon from a 105-acre parcel owned by MAV Development of Ann Arbor, Mich.
Kaplan, MAV Development and other developers involved in nearby projects began working together years ago to make sure the area was ready for eventual development by installing the necessary infrastructure.
For example, the construction of Lady Moon itself pre-dated any development on the parcels, Kaplan said. Water and sewer lines have also been installed. Since 2002, Kaplan estimates that he and other developers have spent a combined $5 million to $6 million in infrastructure improvements to the area, saving the City of Fort Collins "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
The Kechter Farms project will fit in with plans to turn the Harmony Corridor into a primary job hub, according to Dougherty.
Part of the Harmony Corridor Plan is about bringing primary jobs to the area, according to Kaplan. Much of this has been accomplished with the location of companies like Hewlett-Packard and Avago, but, again, more jobs are now expected to locate in the area.
At Banner's new campus, for example, company executives are anticipating "hundreds" of employees.
All of those employees will need a place to live, and Kechter Farms will be just down the road.
The Banner facility could be something of a catalyst for the remaining undeveloped areas, including not just Kaplan's land, but also the land owned by MAV Development, known as the Harmony Technology Park.
MAV Development did not return requests for comment; that should change once they have something big to announce.
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