New builder restores the ‘momentum’ at Gold Hill Mesa

       With the bankruptcy of John Laing Homes, Gold Hill Mesa has turned to another builder for five model homes, with possibly more to follow.

The first three of five models being built by Challenger Homes in Gold Hill Mesa face onto Millstream Terrace, just north of Lower Gold Camp Road. An open house is tentatively planned in May.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Challenger Homes began erecting its models a few weeks ago along Millstream Terrace, just north of Lower Gold Camp Road. According to Todd Anderson, Vice President of Challenger, an open house will probably be scheduled in May. He's interested in seeing buyers' reactions, but his hope is for Challenger “to be in here for years and years.”
       Although the Challenger Homes' historic styling is a bit less ornamental than the Laing product, Anderson said the goal is the same: to fit the “traditional neighborhood development” (TND) look and feel that Gold Hill developer Bob Willard has sought on the 210-acre development bordered by Highway 24, 21st Street and Lower Gold Camp.
       The property is masterplanned for 1,000 homes.
       “I had developed a product back in Indiana that fit well in TND communities, so we took some of those concepts and modified them to meet the Colorado styles of cottage and craftsman architecture,” Ander-son explained.
       “We've been very excited to have them on board,” said Stephanie Edwards of Gold Hill Mesa. “Challenger is a local builder that's had some of its best years in down times. So it's a great fit overall, and gives us forward momentum.”
       Laing completed 62 units at Gold Hill (all sold), according to Gold Hill Mesa Partners information. Four other lots have homes that were under construction when Laing as a national firm went bankupt, and so the local company had to stop work. There also are 45 lots that Laing had reserved for construction. These are tied up in bankruptcy for at least six months.
       With five plans starting in the lower $200,000 range, the Challenger homes are less expensive than the Laing homes, which started in the $300s (except for the Laing townhome units that sold new for just under $200,000).
       Part of the price difference is generally less square footage (the lowest is 1,327, the highest 2,430) and no basements; whereas, Laing had homes that were as large as 3,200 square feet, including a basement).
       However, Anderson said he believes buyers will be getting excellent bargains. For example, the Challenger homes have no hallways, meaning “there is no wasted space.” The exterior walls have 2-by-6-foot framing, which allows 50 percent more insulation than the typical 2-by-4 size, he added.
       Speaking to the style differences, Gold Hill Mesa Partners lead developer Bob Willard said the project's vision “has always intended to include a blend of home sizes and price points much like the old North End where you might see a Victorian mansion next to a Craftsman bungalow. The reason is to create balanced community with a wide range of home and business owners appealing to the whole life cycle - from first-time buyers to retirees. The project will never be homogenous or have an overabundance of any one range.”
       Another builder may also be brought in this year, providing yet another TND aspect, Edwards said. “We'd welcome that,” Anderson said. “We're not going to be the be all and end all to everyone.”
       Edwards said that because contract negotiations are not finalized, she could not release the name of the prospective new builder, but noted that one hope is to get it to work on the 45 Laing-reserved lots, once they are freed up.
       Another Challenger feature is that the master bedrooms do not have closets - these are off the bathroom, which is a more likely connection for people when they are dressing, Anderson said.
       One way that the Laing and Challenger products are similar is the virtual lack of a frontyard and a backyard consisting of a driveway to the garage coming in from the alley. The yard space is between the homes. Each house has a zero setback on one side and full use of the sideyard on the other, Anderson explained.
       The Challenger's involvement resulted from meetings with Brian Bahr (president and owner of Challenger Homes), Anderson and Willard over a year ago, Anderson said. “We felt like Bob and his team did a fantastic job of designing and building a neighborhood that was unique and offered the Colorado Springs Westside a great place to call home. Over last spring and summer we were able to interact with many of the existing residents and became more convinced that we should pursue the opportunity.”

Westside Pioneer article