Century-old plumbing and heating company relocating to Centennial extensionNov. 20, 2018
After more than a century in the downtown area, the Olson Plumbing & Heating Company will relocate to the Westside in 2019.
Construction of the new facility by contractor G.E. Johnson has been under way since August on previously vacant land along the west side of the four-lane
Called the Indian Hills Business Park, the area totals 13.3 acres in all. The Olson operation will be focused on the southerly half of the site, featuring a 45,000-square-foot main building near Centennial and Van Buren encompassing company offices and manufacturing activities which in modern times include the in-house fabricating of entire systems for larger jobs.
A drainage detention pond is to capture the property's stormwater runoff at the low point of the site, by the Centennial/Van Buren intersection.
A short distance uphill (to the north) is a nearly completed warehouse about a fourth the size of the main building. It's being built first, because that lets various items from downtown be incrementally brought there for storage while work on the rest of the project continues.
Olson President Mike Trapp said the company plans to start storing materials in the warehouse in early 2019, with the main building expected to become operational by June.
Not yet developed, the northerly half of the Olson land consists of about four acres close to Centennial, which, according to plans, could to be leased out in the future
Olson's new location “is going to be great,” Trapp enthused. “This is a big deal for us.”
Trapp and his family are only the second to own the business in its long history, and were actually involved with it almost from the beginning. The originator in 1917 was A.E. Olson, who “worked with Spencer Penrose at the Broadmoor and was even recommended by Mr. Penrose to do the City Auditorium in 1922 and the new La Junta, Colorado, hospital in 1927,” the Olson website relates.
Trapp elaborated on the family history, relating how his grandfather John went to work for the company in the 1920s, followed by his son (Mike's dad) Keith in 1936, as an apprentice plumber. When poor health beset Olson himself in the 1950s, the Olson family hired Keith and another man to run the business.
Mike Trapp started working for the company as a shop boy in 1965 and has been there ever since.
He and his dad, who has since passed on, eventually joined up to buy the company, completing that transaction in the mid-'80s. Mike now owns 93 percent of Olson, with his nephew, Mike Bukowski, owning the remainder.
Over the years, “several members” of his family have also worked in the business (and still do), Mike Trapp summarized.
With about 200 employees, Olson has grown in its 100-plus years to also have offices in Denver, Pueblo and Canon City. The latter two, which Olson bought as
The Colorado Springs Olson is still the main office. One of its major current jobs is the new Summit House on Pikes Peak.
The company's relocation was precipitated by the plans (and now construction) of the Olympic Museum downtown at Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street, about a block away from where Olson had been since 1991. Trapp said the city and museum developer want the area around it to become more retail-oriented, like a mall - which is not a good fit for a service/manufacturing operation like Olson.
After land-searching for a few years, Trapp said he felt fortunate to find the Centennial site. A Westside resident himself, he preferred a place in the western part of the city, because that's where the bulk of the Olson customers are. But most of the downtown and Westside areas have been developed, so sizable vacant land is not easy to come by.
Fortunately, Trapp had contacts with Pueblo Bank and Trust, which owned some of the undeveloped parcels along the Centennial extension. This led to Olson's deal to buy
Especially appealing about the site, he noted, is its proximity to two roads close to I-25 interchanges - Fillmore to the north and Fontanero to the south - both via Centennial. At its downtown site, the company has had a similar amenity with the nearby Cimarron and Bijou interchanges.
Currently, Centennial has only been completed between Van Buren and Fillmore. The connection from Van Buren to Fontanero will be built for the final phase of the city's Centennial extension project - probably in 2021, according to City Engineering.
Technically three parcels in all, Olson's Centennial acreage had previously been zoned for housing. About 15 years ago, it was conceptually slated for Phase 2 of the Indian Hills Village townhome project (Phase 1 was on the opposite side of Centennial). However, the developer went bankrupt even before
Olson gained city approval last year for a zoning change to allow its type of business on the desired property, as well as for an amendment to the 1986 Mesa Springs Community Master Plan, which had previously suggested residential uses there.
Questions about changing it to a commercial use - including concerns about aesthetics, lighting, storage and landscaping - were brought up by Mesa Springs residents, starting with a neighborhood meeting in December 2016. However, there also emerged support for a long-established local business becoming part of the neighborhood. In the months that followed, as the plan moved its way through the city review process, no significant opposition arose.
Trapp spoke of a commitment to the neighborhood during the 2016 meeting and underlined it in a recent interview with the Westside Pioneer. The city also pushed such steps. Visible indications will be the low-key design and brick facing on the main building and, Trapp pointed out, the number of trees that will be planted.
In addition, he has pledged to have Olson's trucks only use Centennial Boulevard, not the adjacent neighborhood streets (Van Buren
Another development in the Mesa Springs area, the MVS proposal for housing on 47 currently vacant acres straddling Centennial south of Van Buren, has been in the planning stages with the city for several years.
Lonna Thelen, the city planner for both projects, recommended the Olson development in a report to the Colorado Springs Planning Commission in 2017. One plus she noted was a traffic study estimating 385 fewer vehicle trips per day than if the property was developed with townhomes.
Another is that “this proposal retains a major employer within the city,” she wrote.
Also, according to Thelen, “the presence of the Olson facility, along with future “office and neighborhood retail storefronts” (leasing space on the property), “will serve the needs of the area and encourage a mixed-use activity center that creates a land use pattern that integrates multiple uses, shortens automobile trips and decreases infrastructure. With the help of the Centennial Boulevard extension, an infill site that has never been developed can be developed to help stabilize and revitalize older neighborhoods.”
Westside Pioneer article