by Rick Langenberg
Woodland Park is finally on the move, with more progress in housing efforts and new business activity than any time in the last five years, when the area got crippled by the economic recession.
And better yet, the city may get repaid for its loan to the Downtown Development Authority.
These were some of the themes of a recent report by DDA and Woodland Park economic development director Brain Fleer, who gave a bullish account of recent business and downtown activity.
Fleer said the Woodland Station project (at the former Saddle Club site) is progressing well with the expanding Woodland Hardware store, expected to open by February 2014. “They are making significant progress,” said Fleer. Also, a new temporary Beer Garden, part of a project by the owners of BierWerks Brewery has opened, and will provide a temporary glimpse into what the project will eventually feature. “It will basically be a plaza,” said Fleer.
At the same time, Fleer said public infrastructure is proceeding well for the Woodland Station development, aimed at offering more parking and a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. These projects, highlighted by the new Center Street, are funded mostly by the DDA and the city.
Plus, the EDC director reported continual interest in the Paradise Lodge facility off Hwy. 24. In the past, this historic structure has been touted as a project with much potential but one that never progressed due to the economy.
And from a financial standpoint, Fleer noted that with rising valuations, the DDA may be in a position to repay the city for a $1 million-plus loan it incurred, or at least to start making payments. This news was greeted enthusiastically by certain city leaders. The DDA loan subject has been a sticky subject for Mayor David Turley and other leaders, who haven’t been that impressed with the Woodland Station venture. At one point, the city was eyeing a $60 million-plus development that almost resembled a resort destination-like village, with shops, entertainment centers and even a recreation facility. Instead, it ended up with a development that merely accompanied an expanded hardware store, according to critics. The verdict is still out on this development, but city officials believe the final product will speak for itself. And when it comes to future housing opportunities, Fleer said the city is making major strides in being able to offer more multi-family dwellings, something that is desperately needed in Woodland, based on market studies. The new Trail Ridge apartment development, which will offer 168 units, just off Hwy. 24, will break ground in early October, according to Councilman Eric Smith, a business partner in the venture. Another 42-unit multi-family housing development off Hwy. 67, called the Willows, is moving ahead, noted Fleer.
As for long-term improvements, Fleer expressed much optimism about the city’s Main Street bid that could become official in 2014. This nationally recognized –program, launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and now administered in Colorado by the state Division of Local Affairs, can give Woodland more grant opportunities as long as it adheres to standards aimed at preserving its downtown. A number of small and mid-sized towns in Colorado, including Victor, have become Main Street candidates. Much interest has been generated over the Main Street effort across the state, with many cities now trying to join the bandwagon.
Talk is still abounding about other opportunities for downtown Woodland Park.
A meeting is scheduled this Wednesday evening (Sept. 18) at Carmen-Tapas Grill and Bar outside the Gold Hill Square Theaters from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to discuss a variety of ideas for the future of Woodland Park.
At this time, the Woodland Park Roots project will be introduced. This is a non-profit organization established for the purpose of promoting family health, community life and a vibrant town. The group has already sponsored such activities as “Movie Above The Clouds,” featuring family-oriented movie nights in Ute Pass Cultural Center. It also wants to showcase more public recreation, family and teen activities. The group, being headed by Holly Morrell, also wants to emphasize some of Woodland’s historic roots.