After 10 years, only a small portion of the businesses and thousands of homes slated for Three Springs have been built. But now, the real estate is in demand.
In 2004, city leaders approved the subdivision to absorb inevitable growth, and it is fulfilling that vision, although, much of it remains to be built.
Nearly half of the 100-unit apartment complex was leased in three weeks, said Tim Zink, real estate portfolio manager for the Growth Fund Real Estate Group.
None of the future tenants have seen the units and they won’t be available until August, when the building is complete, he said.
The influx of residents is attractive to businesses and may help drive a transition along Mercado Street away from administrative offices and toward retail shops, Zink said.
“I think we’ve really hit a tipping point,” he said.
There’s been an uptick in the interest in the commercial district, and he expects the buildings to be full shortly.
In August, another 2,000 square feet of retail space in the apartment complex campus will open, and he has been showing it.
The Growth Fund Real Estate Group, a Southern Ute Indian Tribe company, is also preparing lots visible from U.S. Highway 160 for 256,000 square feet of big-box retail stores. More retail space is planned north of Wilson Gulch Road, but it is under other ownership.
Despite consumers nationally spending more time shopping online, Zink believes the community will recruit businesses because La Plata County’s population is above 50,000 and it is a highly visible area.
A gateway for businesses
A $9.2 million extension of Wilson Gulch Road is being built to help attract large retailers and connect the so-called Bridge to Nowhere to the end of Wilson Gulch near Mercy Regional Medical Center.
But it has faced delays and unexpected costs. The city, La Plata County and the Colorado Department of Transportation shared the first $8.2 million of the project. But the city had to set aside $960,000 this year for sidewalks and landscaping.
Last year, federal reporting requirements and utility line relocation delayed the construction, and it was too late in the season to complete sidewalks and landscaping.
Then a city contractor inflated the estimate for the concrete work by 10 percent, said City Manager Ron LeBlanc.
“We decided that was too much money and we went back out to bid,” he said.
A new contractor has not been selected, but the city expects the road to be finished by September, LeBlanc said.
The city is investing in this infrastructure to attract new retailers because many people drive to Farmington to shop.
“If we could help recapture those sales and keep the tax dollars local, it benefits everybody,” he said.
A partially fulfilled vision
Years before the Growth Fund broke ground in the subdivision, the staff made a pitch to Mercy Regional Medical Center. The hospital was on the Durango Public Library site and it needed a larger campus, said Pat Vaughn, president and CEO of the Growth Fund’s Real Estate Group.
The Growth Fund donated 35 acres to the hospital and brought in utilities, he said.
“It was a rare thing for a master-plan community to have an employer,” he said.
Durango City Council annexed the area in 2004, and two years later, the hospital opened.
Former Mayor Doug Lyon was a member of the planning commission at the time and recommended the approval of the project because it was a dense community that could support public transportation and it made the new hospital possible.
“Sometimes I go out and look at it, just to see how it is developing … just to see if it developing according to the vision, and it is,” he said.
It has helped the city respond to demand for more housing. If the city had slammed the door on the project, it could have driven up housing prices, he said.
Former Durango City Councilor Joe Colgan thought the design would bring together a mix of people from the highest income levels to the lowest.
“We’ve become so divided on so many issues … It just seems like we ought to be better neighbors and recognize we’re all in this together,” he said.
There are 82 affordable or attainable homes so far in Three Springs, and it is unknown how many there will be when the development is finished, said Kurt Prinslow, planning manager for the Growth Fund Real Estate Group.