Saturday, August 22, 2009

Whatever happened to the sold St. Vrain School District Land?

Long before the global economic meltdown of 2008, the St. Vrain Valley School District (SVSD) had their own crisis back in 2002 when it was discovered early in the school year that they were $13 million in the red. Financial mismanagement was eventually judged to be the root cause of the shortfall. If you remember, the state had to get involved and give SVSD a $10 million loan, led by then-state treasurer (now US Congressman) Mike Coffman.

To help with getting out of the hole, in addition to salary cuts and hiring freezes, the SVSD Board decided to sell some of its property. Let's see what two of these properties (there may have been more) are doing today.

The first is located on the west side of South Sunset Street, just south of Left Hand Creek, between two developments, Creekside and Watersong. This land was given to SVSD by the Creekside developers back in the 1990's for future use as a school site, as part of standard agreements between developers and SVSD. For years the field sat empty and a whole generation of kids in the area grew up using it as an ad-hoc BMX bicycle course. Along came the SVSD crisis, and the district admitted that they had no future plans to ever build a school here. Up it went for sale and it was bought by a developer.

Today this piece of property is mostly developed as a subdivision called "Village at Creekside":

There are still a few more available lots in here (behind the fence):

Just about a mile north is SVSD's Career Development Center (CDC) school, where among many other things, agriculture and farming are taught. Even today, you'll see cows, goats, and greenhouses behind CDC but many Longmonters will remember the large field behind CDC where students grew tall fields of corn or soybeans during the summer, providing a farm within the city. I lost more than a few tennis balls in this field, from the adjoining tennis courts!

When the SVSD crisis hit in 2002, this field immediately got attention for its potential real estate value, which was appraised at more than $1 million. An SVSD board member was noted saying (paraphrased) that "CDC had a mighty expensive garden" and that cheaper land could be found outside the city for CDC student use. Sure enough, the land was put up on the market and also sold to a developer. Hopefully, there still is a teaching farm somewhere for use by CDC students. Leave a comment if you have any details about it.

I'm fuzzy on the details and the time line but a developer did come up with an elaborate plan to build a new subdivision on this property, offering many tiers of housing. It passed through Planning and Zoning, and the City Council, and I remember a very detailed model was shown at Council one night.

In what I'm guessing was a sign of the very early tremors of the housing market shakedown, the development was never built. Perhaps there was not enough interest by buyers, or the financing fell through.

Today the field sits peacefully idle, sort of oasis-like, full of weeds and crickets and maybe waiting for a housing revival.

The field along Iowa Avenue:

The City built this "road to nowhere" into the future subdivision, called "Terra Rosa Avenue". Maybe that was the name of the new neighborhood, too. Let me know if you remember.

The SVSD budget disaster was a huge setback to the community, teachers, and students, if you remember. One tiny consolidation is the land mentioned above probably sold for a lot higher in 2003 than it would have received a few years later.

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