Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Oakwood Homes looking to buy more of Banning Lewis Ranch in Colorado Springs

By Rich Laden Updated: October 8, 2013 at 7:06 am

Denver-based Oakwood Homes, which last year bought 2,600 acres of the Banning Lewis Ranch in eastern Colorado Springs, has submitted a proposal to buy part of another 18,000 acres of the ranch that's owned by Ultra Resources of Houston.

Oakwood CEO Pat Hamill said the company has offered to purchase a "substantial" portion of Ultra's land, although he declined to say how much. The offer was made in the last 60 to 90 days, and Hamill said he's been told by Ultra the offer is being reviewed.

The land Oakwood is seeking to buy would tie into its holdings on the ranch, Hamill said. Oakwood is developing land on the ranch's north side, where it envisions 9,000 households and 35,000 residents over 15 to 20 years.

"We have the capital position to execute on it, and I'm sure it's going to be considered seriously," Hamill said of Oakwood's offer.

Ultra officials didn't return a telephone call Monday seeking comment about the offer.

One of the state's largest private homebuilders and residential developers, Oakwood and financial partner Mountain Real Estate Capital of Minnesota paid more than $16 million last year to buy the 2,600 acres.

Oakwood's offer comes about seven months after Ultra Resources, a subsidiary of Houston-based Ultra Petroleum, said it was shelving plans to explore for oil and gas on the ranch.

The fate of the ranch is being closely watched by city officials and community leaders.

The sprawling ranch - bounded roughly by Woodmen Road on the north, Fontaine Boulevard on the south, Meridian Road on the east and Marksheffel road on the west - makes up the eastern one-third of Colorado Springs. The city annexed the property in 1988,, and it was expected to become home to tens of thousands of new residents and businesses.

Despite a series of owners, however, the property remains largely undeveloped, except for several hundred homes on its northwest corner.

After Ultra said it was halting its energy exploration efforts, Hamill, Mayor Steve Bach and others said the community should discuss how the ranch could be best developed because of its size and growth potential.

Ultra and Oakwood came by their ownership stakes via the same route - buying the land after the ranch's previous owners went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings starting in October 2010.

An auction of the property took place several months after the bankruptcy. Ultra paid $20 million for 18,000 acres and KeyBank National Association of Ohio, one of the ranch's creditors, paid $24.5 million for 2,600 acres. Oakwood, in turn, bought KeyBank's land.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Hamill said Oakwood hasn't partnered with local real estate companies in making its offer to Ultra.

Doug Quimby, CEO of La Plata Communities, developer of the 10,000-acre Briargate master planned community on the Spring' north side, said his company's had general talks with Ultra after it shelved its energy exploration plans - most recently in the last six weeks or so.

However, Quimby said, La Plata isn't planning to make an offer, and he's unaware of any individuals or companies that have made offers or are looking to buy - although he suspects there's interest. He also said he's uncertain if Ultra has formally solicited bids on the property.

Classic Cos., one of the Springs' largest homebuilders and developers, also doesn't plan to make an offer, said CEO Doug Stimple. Classic already builds homes in the ranch on lots it's purchasing from Oakwood.

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Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228 Twitter @richladen

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