The city of Durango lost its chance, again, to buy one piece of property key to building the city’s preferred pedestrian bridge and underpass at 32nd Street in Durango.
The city of Durango wants to connect the Animas River Trail across the Animas River and 32nd Street, while avoiding street-level road crossings on the trail. The designs for the bridge, however, have been a source of contention.
The favored design, an underpass and street-level pedestrian bridge, was possible only if the city purchased 275 E. 32nd St. The city made an offer, but property owners didn’t accept it, deterred by a history of noncommittal attempts by the city to buy the land.
“We want to make it clear to the Durango community that we made multiple good faith efforts to sell the property to the city, but they were unable or uninterested in making it happen,” said Jerrold Fields, a co-owner of the property, in an email to The Durango Herald.
The property is under contract with private buyers, and owners are waiting to close the agreement.
The pedestrian bridge is part of an effort to connect the Animas River Trail’s northern terminus at 32nd Street on the eastern side of the Animas River to its new, northern extension to Oxbow Park and Preserve on the west side of the river.
Some saw the original proposal, a $3.4 million, three-section pedestrian bridge, as too costly, too bulky and out of character for the view corridor.
Fields’ property would have allowed the city to avoid the controversial plan and pursue the alternative, a $3.4 million underpass design. The land parcel would turn into a paved loop connecting the underpass under 32nd Street to the pedestrian bridge parallel to Emerson-Parks Bridge (32nd Street).
“The city has expressed interest in buying our property four different times in the last 12 years,” Fields said.
In 2009, the two parties agreed on a price to buy the property, but the city backed out, Fields said. (The city said it didn’t back out.) In the city’s second attempt to buy the property, Fields backed out.
“After months of waiting, we finally got tired of being in limbo,” Fields said.
In early 2020, the owners reached out to the city about selling the property after seeing the controversy about the three-part bridge design. The city was uninterested, Fields said.
The city made its final attempt in August. The property’s contract to sell to a private buyer fell through the same month, and Durango City Council jumped at the chance to buy it during an Aug. 25 City Council meeting.
That week, city staff members expressed interest to the property broker; city representatives met twice to discuss purchasing options; and staff members learned the property went under contract with a new private buyer, said Mitchell Carter, city spokesman.
The two parties provided contradictory accounts of the negotiations. Carter said the city offered $657,000, $10,000 more than the listed price of $647,000 during negotiations, which the owners declined the same day. Later that day, city staff members raised the offer to $700,000, the maximum amount authorized by City Council. On Sept. 2, the property broker said the property owner declined, Carter said.
The owners said the city never made a formal, written offer. They would accept the listed price for the house, but the buyers under contract did not want to walk away from the property, said Coe Hargraves, co-owner.
Hargraves said the city should vote on $700,000 – $647,000 for the owners and the rest to pay the buyers to walk away from the deal. Interim City Manager Amber Blake agreed to bring $700,000 to the council for a vote, but the council ended up voting on $657,000. The prospective buyers were not willing to walk away from the contract.
“I made it very clear that, that was the number. They chose to waste time and not make it happen,” Hargraves said, telling the city not to contact them again about buying the property.