WOODLAND PARK - Within the next year, Woodland Park will have more than 200 additional apartments within its city limits, paving the way for small boost in population.
Developers are getting ready to break ground on two multi-family rental complexes in the town of more than 7,000 people that lies in the mountains west of Colorado Springs.
A 168-unit project has been in the works for almost two years and will be built on East Sheridan Avenue just east of U.S. 24 on the western end of town. Another complex with 42 rental units will be built on Colorado Highway 67 less than two miles north of U.S. 24.
Brian Fleer, the executive director of Woodland Park's Office for Economic and Downtown Development, said the sudden emergence of the apartment projects is a reflection of what's become a statewide and national trend.
"It's a microcosm of what's happening in Colorado Springs, in Denver and what's happening nationally," Fleer said. "Multi-family housing is in vogue."
Colorado Division of Housing economist Ryan McMaken recently talked with The Gazette's business writer Rich Laden about the rental Climate in the Pikes Peak region.
"There's enough people demanding the units," McMaken said. "There are enough people with money and jobs to really sustain some significant rent growth at this time."
Colorado Springs' rental market hit an all-time high with average monthly rents rising to $807.21 from April to June.
According to Fleer, the trend is a "demographic condition." He said people who used to have single-family homes are now in a post-recession situation where they are "feeling better about renting than getting into a purchase situation."
Fleer also pointed to seniors that have sold homes at the beginning of retirement and are looking for more economical and low maintenance housing.
"But the big driver are post-baby boomers, which are 85 million strong nationally," he said. "They are becoming renters when they establish their first permanent residences."
Woodland Park's addition of 210 multi-family apartments will also help fill a local need that has been building for several years, Fleer said.
"There is very little multi-family housing, in particular that with any quality," Fleer said.
The 42-unit complex will be built on 3.2 acres between Woodland Park Community Church and State Highway 67 near Valley View Drive. Fleer said it will not be a low-income complex. He called it "workforce housing."
"It's designed particularly for family incomes based on the market in Woodland Park," he said, noting that the target market will be teachers, entry-level police officers and firefighters and public employees.
The 168-unit, seven-building Trail Ridge Apartments off East Sheridan Avenue will be in the "affordable housing" category, said Debbie Miller, the president of the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce.
Miller and Fleer said the influx of apartments will allow employees at Woodland Park and Teller County businesses to live closer to work.
The Trail Ridge project, developed by P2G Enterprises, was approved by the city, Fleer said. P2G is owned by Woodland Park's Mayor Pro-Tem Eric Smith.
The biggest obstacle P2G faced during the planning was resolved in June 2012 when the city council voted unanimously to approve a change-in-height variance. Trail Ridge will consist of three-story units about 40 feet tall at roof peaks. The previous height allowance was 30 feet for apartment buildings, but was changed to 45 feet to allow for architectural elements on the buildings.
The 15-foot change in height faced some opposition at the June 18, 2012 meeting.
Jean Rickman, who lives on Spruce Street just north of Sheridan Avenue, spoke before the variance was approved. She was worried that her view would "be disturbed, and expressed concern about increased traffic," the city council's meeting minutes said.
The city is revamping channels of Fountain Creek near the Trail Ridge site. A 72-inch pipe will channel the intermittent creek below grade to address any threat of flooding.
Fleer said the culvert project will be completed some time in September, clearing the way for construction on the complex.
"My guess is construction will start in October (on the Trail Ridge Apartments)," he said.