Centennial Blvd. extension: Land swap proposed to allow northern completion

       As part of a land proposal scheduled for City Planning Commission Oct. 21, the last link of the four-lane Centennial Boulevard extension between Fillmore and Van Buren streets would be cleared for construction.

The statuses of different segments of the masterplanned Centennial extension from Fillmore Street to Fontanero/I-25 are identified. The latest proposal would allow completion from Fillmore to Van Buren Street (bottom of orange segment). See story below for more detail.
Westside Pioneer graphic by Travers Jordan (map courtesy of MapQuest)

       But there are a few complicated catches:
  • A land swap agreement is needed to allow the MVS group - which is seeking Planning Commission approval for a concept plan and flexible residential zoning on 47 currently open acres south and west of Van Buren - to build the missing 550 feet of road north of there, which is on a small piece of land now owned by a Pueblo bank.
  • Separately, the city and MVS need to agree on the dollar value for MVS building that link. This is because MVS, like all developers along the planned extension route between Fillmore and the Fontanero/I-25 interchange, is required to build the segment of the road next to it under a specific city formula based on road widths (a certain credit is allowed for Centennial because it is a wider, “minor arterial,” while the actual requirement is only for a narrower “collector” street.
  • Even with the agreements in place, no construction is likely to happen soon. According to Ron Bevans of NES, a contracted planning company, MVS is seeking the concept approval to enhance the property's developability and learn probable costs. But they prefer to wait for the market to improve before proceeding with actual development plans. And, MVS has no need to build the Centennial link until people are living there, Bevans pointed out.
           MVS has been talking to city staff about the development for over a year, and has held two neighborhood meetings. Complications also exist with the project itself. The property is now protected by a hillside overlay and is constrained by a former landfill on 17 of its acres. The proposal would remove the overlay - this has been opposed by the Mesa Springs Community Association, which is OK with partial removal, but not all - and work out a voluntary cleanup plan with the state that would reduce the landfill-impacted area to 8 acres (which would become open space).
           The proposed concept plan and zoning change would allow between 305 and 446 living units. This would be a reduction from the current zoning, which MVS is seeking to change from one type of planned unit development to another. The current zone allows 12.6 units an acre and a maximum density of 602 units under an ordinance for the property passed in 1983.
           Lonna Thelen of City Land Use Review said that with the numerous “moving parts” in the MVS plan, she wouldn't be surprised if it got postponed from the October 21 Planning Commission agenda. It previously had been scheduled for the planning review body in April, but was pulled back.
           Last winter, at a neighborhood meeting, MVS suggested a plan for Centennial Boulevard involving a two-lane “interim road” south from Van Buren to Fontanero. However, enthusiasm was faint for this idea because such a road would have to be rebuilt to full size at some later date and because of technical issues closer to Fontanero, specifically concerning buried utility lines and rights of way, explained Kathleen Krager, a city transportation engineer.

    A view looking south from the southern point of the partially finished Centennial Boulevard extension next to the Indian Hills Village property. The road would continue south about a half-mile from this point to the I-25/Fontanero interchange. The MVS property straddles the Centennial route, mostly to the west.
    Westside Pioneer photo

           When and if the road is completed to Van Buren, no access will be allowed from the expressway into the older Mesa Springs neighborhood (via Van Buren or Mesa Valley Road) until Centennial is finally built all the way to Fontanero. “We don't want people using Centennial and going down Mesa Valley or Van Buren as a shortcut,” Krager said. “We promised the neighborhood we wouldn't do that.”
           Should the northern link be built at some point, MVS would direct its residents to Fillmore via Centennial, at least until the segment to Fontanero is done. Such an arrangement would be acceptable to MVS, Bevans said, describing the plan as a “win-win” for the developer and the community.
           The only other potential users in that scenario would be the residents of the Indian Hills Village subdivision that was laid out next to the Centennial route about six years ago between Van Buren and Mesa Valley Road (but only about 20 of the platted 80 units were built because the developer ran out of money about three years ago). Those two streets, going east to Chestnut, provide the current Indian Hills access. Krager said she plans to meet with those residents to find out if they would rather keep that access or use Centennial-to-Fillmore when and if it happens.
           Centennial currently is in a state of partial construction (see map, Page 1). A segment south from the site now owned by Colorado Springs Health Partners is finished, including median and streetlights. South of that is Pueblo Bank and Trust's 550 feet, then the Indian Hills portion down to Van Buren.
           The latter segment has curbs and light poles. Work stopped when the Indian Hills developer quit; however, City Engineering is working with the company holding the bond that the city had required the Indian Hills developer to put up intially to ensure the road's completion. Nothing is built south of Van Buren.
           In the land swap, MVS would build the 550 feet of road and the bank would be asked only to give the city financial assurance equal to its collector requirement. At this point, at least, the bank has not objected to this idea, Krager said.
           Depending on what's agreed upon between the city and MVS, some portion of the southern segment - perhaps even all of that half-mile-plus stretch - would have to be built with public funds. But no funding for that currently exists. According to Krager, the best possibility appears to be a voter renewal in 2014 of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA)'s 1 percent sales tax that was first approved in 2004. In the current cycle, the Centennial extension is on the RTA's lower- priority “C” list (only A-list projects have turned out to be affordable). However, transportation planners are now saying Centennial ought to be built in the near future to relieve Fillmore Street congestion. If RTA is renewed, Krager said she would recommend it for the “top-10 list.”
           Thelen said the MVS proposal has been interesting to work on, despite the complications including Centennial. “I'll be interested in seeing what's up there 20 years from now,” she said.

    Westside Pioneer article