DDA: Woodland Station Is Out of Our Hands

Group Must Now Address Development Activity Outside of Tava House

Rick Langenberg

The Woodland Downtown Development Association reached a new milestone last week.

It conducted one of their quickest sessions in recent memory. More importantly, no discussion occurred over Woodland Station, a subject that has grabbed center stage at virtually every DDA session for the last five years.

And in reality, this project site, once the mecca of rodeo action for decades in Woodland Park, has been on the town’s development radar since 2005, shortly after the property changed hands from the Woodland Park Saddle Club to the DDA.  The number of failed ventures at this site has become a thorn in the side of the DDA, almost resembling a development soap opera of sorts, or a bad reality TV show.

The number of failed Woodland Station bids even included the city, which mulled putting the Aquatic Center there.  But the costs of financing the associated infrastructure forced them to consider an alternative location, resulting in the current pool facility, just outside the Woodland Park High School.

But the latest proposal, made originally by Derek Waggoner, several years ago, proved to be the turning point. This bid calls for a restaurant, tap house, event center and a mountain hub for Victor Matthews’ Paragon Culinary School.

For the most part, members were still ecstatic over the sale of the Woodland Station property to the Tava House Properties, setting the initial green light for the first phase of the development.  The second phase could include housing, according to preliminary drawings.

“Woodland Station is sold,” said DDA Vice-Chairman John Gemelke, who confirmed earlier reports that the $800,000 cash deal for 6.3 acres for the sale of the property has been completed, at last week’s brief session.  DDA officials say the property is now in the hands of the city.  “The fun is just beginning,” quipped Gemelke, who elaborated slightly on the signing party held recently, with a final celebration at 911 Reserve.

But according to Woodland Park Planning Director Karen Schminke, a real detailed process awaits the Tava House group, in order to move forward with their project. The group initially must present a site plan and subdivide their lots.

Plus, the group must address environmental concerns dealing with reported benzine plume, located beneath the soil on the property.

City Manager Michael Lawson cited infrastructure and drainage as some of the main hurdles. He said the project will now be solely addressed by the city.

But if the developers want to obtain a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) deal, then the Tava House project will come back to the DDA for their consideration, according to Lawson.

The city manager sees the DDA now focusing on other areas of local development and improvements within its district.

For months, the DDA has been focused mainly on Woodland Station.  That no longer will be the case.

Still, the new Woodland Station development faces months of going through planning and regulatory hoops.

“It is a long process,” said Schminke, who didn’t want to speculate on any possible ground-breaking date for the Tava House project. City officials and DDA leaders agree that the approval process is quite complex.

Still, they are cautiously optimistic about the latest deal, which has advanced much further than other Woodland Station pursuits. The original development rendering almost resembled a ski village with a projected price of $60 million. At the time, the development was named Woodland Village. Since then, various bids have been proposed, including an attempt by the previous board to turn the area into a park.

But none of these efforts, featuring a variety of national, state and local investors, have panned out.

The pandemic didn’t help, with officials wondering if this property would ever get sold.

In other action, the board heard a brief presentation by an applicant for a vacated board position from Eric Cabrera, who owns the Donut Mill. He cited a strong interest in getting involved with the DDA and cited his community ties.

His application will be forwarded to the city council, which will make the final decision. He would replace Matt McCracken, who recently stepped down.