bijou condos
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A pedestrian walks past the closed Clarion and Quality Suites on Bijou Street and the west side of Interstate 25 on Monday. Perry Sanders Jr., attorney and owner of The Antlers and Mining Exchange hotels, plans to transform the old Clarion and Quality Suites hotels into affordable-housing condominiums.

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Colorado Springs’ housing-starved downtown area would gain as many as 100 residential condominiums under a plan by local attorney and real estate investor Perry Sanders Jr. to convert the aging Clarion and Quality Suites hotels into condos.

A limited liability company formed by Sanders — who owns the downtown Antlers and Mining Exchange hotels and The Famous steakhouse — paid $7.8 million in December for the Clarion and Quality Suites at 314 W. Bijou St., El Paso County land records show. The site is just west of the Bijou Street bridge as it crosses Interstate 25.

Sanders shuttered the hotels March 1 and now plans to transform the property into “The Bijou,” as he’s calling it. He said he hopes to begin remodeling guest rooms in 90 days; in a best-case scenario, he wants to complete the condos in six to nine months.

The project isn’t just another real estate deal, however, Sanders said.

He said he wants to provide an amenity-filled property that will help spruce up downtown’s west edge, an area frequented by transients.

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But a loftier goal would be to help people realize their dream of home ownership by offering qualified borrowers down-payment assistance through a family trust he’s started, Sanders said.

He said his father, a Baptist minister, lent him money to buy a triplex while he was in college decades ago.

That helped him get started in real estate, and now he wants to do the same for condo buyers.

“We’re trying to help some people get on their feet and start ownership like my father helped me get on my feet and start ownership,” Sanders said. “And that’s the plan.”

As envisioned, The Bijou would have a mix of one- and two-bedroom condos among its 75 to 100 units, he said. Purchase prices haven’t been set but will be at least $100,000 and likely higher, he said.

Amenities would include kitchens with granite countertops and double-door refrigerators, upgraded bathrooms, washers and dryers in each unit and high-end light fixtures. Owners would have up to two parking spaces per unit, access to business work areas and the use of five conference rooms decked out with smart TVs.

A courtyard ringed by the hotel buildings would be upgraded with fire pits and bocce ball, and the fitness center and indoor pool would be improved. And pets will be allowed.

He expects condos to appeal to millennials and retirees, and he said he’s had several people show interest.

But coming up with money for a down payment is one of the toughest parts of home buying, Sanders said. So for buyers who qualify for a mortgage from banks or other lenders, he said, he’ll offer a second mortgage at a 6 percent, fixed rate over 30 years that can be used for a down payment.

“I ended up having the notion that an awful lot of people would like to own if they had a chance to, and the hard part is saving up the down payments,” he said.

“I’m really trying to make this work the way my dad tried to make it work for me.”

Sanders’ condo complex would add to the mix of housing in the downtown area, which still lacks residences despite several new projects in recent years.

The 171-unit, 333 ECO apartments opened last year at Colorado and Wahsatch avenues, and a 184-unit apartment building is under construction at Cascade Avenue and Rio Grande Street while the 27-unit Casa Mundi Lofts — an apartment project — are being built on South Tejon Street.

But some residents want to buy in the downtown area, said Laurel Prud’homme, a spokeswoman for the Downtown Partnership advocacy group.

“When we’ve done our urban living tour (a look at downtown residences), we hear feedback that people are looking to buy as well as looking to rent, and we don’t have a lot of options for people to buy,” Prud’homme said.

“Our downtown is behind in terms of the amount of residential offerings we have. So I think this kind of addition to the product mix is going to be really beneficial.”

The condo project also would add to developments taking shape just west of downtown.

A 46-unit apartment building, 22 Spruce, was completed a few years ago on Spruce Street, southwest of the Clarion and Quality Suites. A Holiday Inn Express & Suites opened south of the former hotels; it was developed by the Jarosz Family Limited Partnership, which sold the Clarion and Quality Suites to Sanders.

The conversion of the Clarion and Quality Suites, which land records show were built in 1972, would mean the loss of about 150 hotel rooms for the downtown area.

Even so, a hotel construction boom will add hundreds of rooms.

A 167-room Hilton Garden Inn is to open this year at Bijou and Cascade, while a 252-room Marriott-branded hotel is planned for South Tejon Street and a 120-room Hyatt Place is on the drawing board for Nevada Avenue and Kiowa Street.

Ground also was broken in January for Kinship Landing, a boutique hotel with 80 beds in a mix of 27 private rooms, seven suites and six shared dorms that’s planned for South Nevada Avenue.

Business writer, Colorado Springs Gazette

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