INFRASTRUCTURE

Colorado State University stadium redevelopment plan hits major snag

SOURCE: Jan Alexander/Pixabay
The Hughes Stadium was the home field of the Colorado State Rams, and a Rock & Roll venue.

Residents of Fort Collins, Colorado, are protesting plans to build hundreds of homes in the former site of Colorado State University’s (CSU) Hughes Stadium.

A representative group called the Planning Actions to Transform Hughes Sustainably (PATHS) claimed the development, currently under review by the university, would be to the detriment of the local economy and the environment.

“There are over a half million people who visit Horsetooth Reservoir each year. People want something that retains the crown jewel of Fort Collins,” PATHS member Mary Grant tells CBS4 journalist Tori Mason in a televised interview.

Known for its hiking trails and camping spots, the six-mile-long Horsetooth Reservoir is popular among locals and visitors to Fort Collins.

“We’d like a restaurant, a music venue — something that would be available for those people to use when they come and enjoy that space.”

PATHS is demanding CSU end its contract with Lennar Colorado, the local builder that paid US$10 million for the 161-acre property.

They allege Lennar’s housing plan would add 1,500 more cars to the neighbourhood, leading to overcrowding and pollution, environmental stress, potential flooding and safety concerns due to limited access in fire and flooding emergencies.

“We understand that development needs to take place. What we’re concerned about is how and why that development would be there,” Grant says.

Hughes open spaces
PATHS want a sustainable and community-friendly redevelopment of Hughes. Source: PATHS

Prior to this, CSU’s Hughes Stadium had occupied the land parcel for over 50 years. It was an iconic site for Coloradoans; it was the home field of the Colorado State Rams who played football there between 1968 and 2016, as well as a rock ‘n’ roll venue, having drawn the likes of Chicago, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones to Colorado.

But after a brand new stadium was built on-campus in 2017, the site was annexed to the city last year, after which Hughes was demolished. 

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During community consultations in 2017, residents of Fort Collins were split on Hughes’ future, some asking for preservation and natural spaces and others seeking affordable housing.

CSU’s priorities, however, were clear. The board wanted sustainability and affordable homes to be a focus, acknowledging a growing problem in the city as home and rental prices escalate. A Coloradoan report citing figures from The Group Inc. Real Estate says as at end 2018, the average price of a Fort Collins home was US$443,576.

CSU alone employes nearly 2,000 employees in various roles, earning salaries between minimum wage to more than US$60 per hour. These workers have told CSU administrators of the struggle they faced trying to afford the city’s home and rental prices with their salaries.

According to reports, CSU’s Board of Governers sold the land to Lennar on January 30. In its preliminary design review letter to the city later, the developer said it would construct 600 to 700 new homes of varying types that “welcomes a broad mix of families and incomes”. These will include two single-family detached home designs ranging from 1,360 to 3,000 square feet, as well as attached townhomes and smaller detached cottages. 

Hughes redevelopment
Lennar’s development plan for the site. Source: PATHS

Terms of the deal have yet to be finalised, however, with a “feasibility period” ending today.

And PATH’s objections have also thrown a spanner in the works. The group sent a letter last month to the CSU Board of Governors asking for a different developer. CSU has not responded to the letter at this time.

Last Sunday, the group held a meeting with some 40 Fort Collins residents to discuss the matter. They have also launched a petition that has now amassed over 2,500 signatures demanding a “more sustainable, community-friendly alternative for our ‘Jewel’ than the redevelopment plan proposed by Lennar”.

On top of that, PATHS wants CSU to re-issue an RFP for a “community-friendly plan that is creative, innovative and economically viable.”

A university spokesman Mike Hooker has issued a statement, saying:

“The terms of the purchase and sale agreement between CSU and Lennar allow the developer – with limitations – to step away from the agreement, however, CSU cannot unilaterally end the contract.”

The development review process between Lennar and the city is still ongoing.