COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A proposed project to turn a long-blighted area into an apartment and townhome project advanced to the next step during a work session of the City Council Monday.
The project, known as Hancock Commons, would build 180 apartments for rent and 72 townhomes for sale; the proposal offers the housing at market rates and is not an affordable housing project; it requires millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades.
Also required for the project is a realignment of Hancock Expressway, west of Chelton Road, where a sharp curve cuts through the 25-acre proposed complex site; the realignment would straighten Hancock and create a new intersection at Hancock and Chelton that will improve traffic flow and safety for residents going in and out of the complex.
Other infrastructure improvements needed include demolishing the old section of the expressway and reducing flash flooding in the area by upgrading a drainage channel to the south and creating several stormwater retention ponds.
The improvements will cost between $5.5 million and $6.5 million, to be fronted by the developer and reimbursed through future tax revenue once the project is completed; the project also would include some commercial and retail space.
Initially, the improvements were estimated to cost $4.8 million but have become more expensive because of pandemic-related supply chain issues with construction materials.
Ray O'Sullivan, the developer, of JRO Land Company, said the that the cost of repairing infrastructure has long made other developers unwilling to invest in a housing project in that area.
"The previous owners tried several times to sell the property and had no success," he explained to the Council. "But I started talking to them, and said that I thought I could make it work if I got support from the city traffic office and local elected leaders. The big step was getting a 3-2 approval from El Paso County commissioners."
The Council responded favorably to the proposal -- including Yolanda Avila, who represents the southeast side and has often complained that it gets overlooked for economic development.
"I think this is an excellent project," she said. "In 2019 the southeast (side) shouldered one-third of the fatalities and injuries, so I'm more excited about getting that road fixed. It's so dangerous."
Councilman Dave Donelson said he has heard that past legal issues regarding townhomes and condominiums has made developers reluctant to build them at a time when so many people struggle to be first-time homeowners.
"These townhomes give our citizens a chance to get into home ownership at a starting level, so that's good," he said. "Thank you for doing this."
The council expects its first vote on the project in two weeks, including approval of an Urban Renewal designation that would provide state funding for removing blight in the area.
O'Sullivan said that monthly rents for one-bedroom apartments would be between $1,150 to $1,250, while two-bedroom units would cost between $1,400 and $1,600.
"But we're getting closer to $1.950 for a two-bedroom," he added.
The proposed complex sire is around midway between the Colorado Springs Airport and Academy Boulevard.