Mega Housing Development In Cripple Creek Gets the Green Light

Creek Population Expected to Grow Dramatically

Rick Langenberg

After months of speculation, a goliath, multi-family 20-acre housing venture–a bid that could help address Cripple Creek’s current and future housing crisis and set the stage for eye-popping population growth estimates–a proposed 519-unit apartment development has received the initial green light.

And while elected leaders may debate these days slightly on marijuana licensing, casino signage, marketing and recreation, when it comes to housing, they echo one strong rally cry: “Bring it on.”

Last week, with virtually no negative comments or huge concerns, the Cripple Creek City Council unanimously approved a huge, record-breaking new  housing project proposed by M.A.R. Holdings in the south part of town near C Street and Thurlow Avenue in a prompt manner.  More specifically, the council signaled the green light for the first stage in the process, the okay of a Planned Unit  Development concept plan.

The project is the brainchild of Hayden Rader, a long-time resident, and is being coordinated by architect Eric Miller.

Following last week’s hearing, Miller estimated that ground-breaking could occur this fall, with the project’s first phase, the construction of 264 units with a variety of three and four-story structures. The goal is to offer mostly one and two-bedroom apartments, aimed at catering to the workforce housing needs for the gaming, mining and hospitality industries.

Miller, who does work in a lot of other communities in Colorado, believes the first phase will take about 18 months to complete. He said the project proponents have received considerable support and requests from the gaming community.

At last week’s hearing, Rader cited the many benefits of the development. “It makes a lot of sense  We think we have provided a great project,” said Rader. Miller agrees and stressed that the apartments proposed will be quality units and the development will feature plenty of amenities.

The project is being named the Mountain Meadows Apartments. It is the first of a series of mega housing developments being planned in Cripple Creek, which has upped the ante by offering unprecedented incentive benefits for those offering affordable housing projects.

Besides the apartment units, the development will feature a clubhouse building, and a slew of amenities, including trails and various recreation perks, such as a special exercise room. At total build-out, the development also will allow for close to 1,000 parking spaces.

Strong Community Support

Rader and Miller didn’t exactly have to twist the arms of the council is getting their support.

In fact, several civic leaders addressed the council and urged the panel to act fast in okaying the venture. “This project is a game changer for the community,” said Mark Green, of the Two Mile High Club, and a previous council member. “The one thing we desperately need is affordable housing.”

Green and other civic leaders see Mountain Meadows as playing a lead role in grappling with this crisis. Green said that while he served on council, leaders sought to adopt new policies aimed at facilitating more housing projects. He cited the project as the first real tangible answer to this effort. “This is an opportunity for us all to grow.”

Colt Simmons, the former county assessor, echoed similar sentiments, and said from a demographic standpoint, the project is a real gem. “We are going to see this growth. It seems to meet the needs.”

Simmons cited state demographic statistics estimating that Cripple Creek could reach a population of 4,000 within the near future, based on the hotel expansions on the table and the additional growth opportunities, coupled with the no-betting gaming limits. Plus, the legalization of retail marijuana and a push for  more recreation assets are expected to add more ammunition to Cripple Creek’s desire to become more of a destination area.

Other residents, including Frankie Wolfe and Annie Durham, also rallied behind the housing venture. Durham, the CTE coordinator for the Cripple Creek and Victor RE-1 School District, said the local schools have lost so many staff members due to the housing shortages in the area.

The only cautionary comment voiced at last week’s hearing came from a resident who raised a slight red flag about the impacts for wildlife in the area.

But for the most part, the Mountain Meadows Apartments struck a harmonious cord with the council and large crowd of meeting attendees.

“We need this bad,” commented Councilman Bruce Brown, who cites the advantages of this development. “It is a community within a community.”

But that said, the councilman, who served as the town’s mayor for 10-plus years, contended that developers will face their share of challenges. The proposed project area is partially located in a floodplain area.

Mayor Pro Tem Melissa Trenary outlined drainage problems in this particular section of Cripple Creek as one definite challenge the developers must confront.

The staff has made a number of conditions which the project proponents must address in the next few months. One of these includes conducting a traffic study.

Future Housing Projects In the Wings

Mountain Meadows is just the lead player in a spree of future housing projects. Since town leaders opted to bet big on housing by offering definite, unprecedented incentives, such as tap fee waivers, Cripple Creek has sported a lot more housing plans than  past years. But to date, it hasn’t featured any real massive projects, such as Mountain Meadows.

To further prepare for future housing developments, the city council last week, at the request of planning chief Ken Hartsfield, approved a three-mile plan. This would make it easier for the city to annex prime areas that may become the sites for future multi-family housing.

Also, the city is wagering big on infrastructure in making aggressive bids for $10 million-plus in state and federal grants for increasing their water and wastewater facilities and lines.