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Colorado Springs school district land could become low-income housing

November 28, 2017 Updated: November 29, 2017 at 8:25 am
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The entrance to the vacant land sits on a dead-end road in southeast Colorado Springs. (Debbie Kelley, The Gazette)

A 22-acre parcel of vacant land that Colorado Springs School District 11 owns could be destined for low-income housing on the city's southeast side.

The district's seven-member board will vote Wednesday night whether to accept an offer of $175,000 for the undeveloped land east of Wooten Road and south of Platte Avenue.

The site was donated to the school district more than a decade ago as a tax write-off for the Cloud family, which had owned the dog racing park in town, said Kris Odom, D-11's executive director of procurement and contracting.

A limited liability company that includes family members of Don Bates, an insurance agent who owns 40 acres of land next to the D-11 parcel, has submitted the bid.

If the board gives approval, the buyer intends to combine the D-11 property with the empty lot to the south and develop a residential community that will "enhance the neighborhood, address the community need for affordable housing, support the city's desire to complete the Sand Creek trail system and add open space," according to the proposal.

"The district is always looking for a good win-win-win: a win for the community, a win for the district and a win for the buyer," Odom said.

The pitch is the most appealing offer in years, she said.

The land has drawn interest from dozens of potential purchasers, including an agreement in the mid-2000s that a buyer defaulted on, she said. He wanted to use the lot for industrial storage.

Prospective offers have presented plans to set up solar-energy panels, build industrial office space and store various equipment.

"The board looks for something that will benefit the community," Odom said. "I believe the buyer intends to have this property developed into affordable housing, so it's intended to fit a need that would support the city's desire to enhance this area."

Situated at a dead-end street near Sand Creek, the land in recent times has become a haven for homeless people, Odom said. A pile of broken glass, appearing to be from a vehicle break-in, on Tuesday laid near a gate that prohibits entry to the property.

A portion of the land would be unbuildable due to its slope and would likely be left as open space.

If the deal proceeds, it could be sealed within three months, following a 60-day inspection period, Odom said.

Proceeds from the sale would go into the district's capital reserve fund, in accordance with state law.

D-11, the region's largest and oldest school district, has divested of numerous properties in recent years under a consolidation and restructuring plan that has led to school closures.

The district owns four other undeveloped properties: 10.6 acres adjacent to Bridle Pass Drive in the Newport Heights development, 22 acres adjacent to Jenkins Middle School off Austin Bluffs Parkway, 10 acres in University Park on Collegiate Drive and 10 acres east of Peterson Air Force Base near the Colorado Springs Airport.

An offer made this year on the Bridle Pass Drive land was terminated by the buyer, who wanted to build 31 single-family residential homes, before the end of the due diligence period, Odom said.

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