Old Town River District in the Making!

    Distillery, music space proposed in River District


    Activity in Fort Collins’ Poudre River District is reaching a level city officials only dreamed about five years ago when they finalized a redevelopment plan for the industrial area. Apartments, restaurants, offices and retail space are all under construction in a one-block area northeast of Old Town.

    Blue Ocean Enterprises, a Fort Collins company owned by OtterBox founders Curt and Nancy Richardson, has submitted preliminary plans for a 100,000-square-foot mixed-use project including a restaurant, pub, distillery, tasting room, retail, meeting space and music venue on the southwest corner of Willow and Linden streets.

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    The property is now occupied by Kiefer Concrete, adjacent to Mawson Lumber and across the street from the old Northern Colorado Feeders Supply building, which is in the throes of its own redevelopment.

    Senior planner Ted Shepard said Old Elk Distillery would occupy two thirds of the property toward Linden with Kiefer retaining one third. The site is long and skinny and narrows to a triangle as it nears Lincoln Avenue, according to drawings submitted to the city.

    The project “will be a national destination,” according to preliminary plans.

    Distilleries are a growing segment of the Fort Collins economy, with the opening of Feisty Spirits and CopperMuse and three more on the way.

    According to plans, the architecture is designed to evoke a sense of history influenced by Old Town as well as the industrial nature of the grain silos, railroad tracks and other buildings and site being redeveloped. The building steps up from one story to two stories with a tower that houses the tall stills of the distillery. There is an entry to subterranean catacombs, in which the company plans a music/event venue.

    The city of Fort Collins has big plans to make the district — which includes three breweries that draw thousands of visitors a year — a destination place, extending the intimate feel of Old Town across Jefferson Street, a psychological and physical barrier.

    The district — officially 17.5 acres bordered by Pine Street on the north, Lincoln Avenue on the south, Jefferson Street on the west and the river on the east — encompasses the Lincoln triangle, historic Buckingham neighborhood and the original fort that became the foundation of the city. It also includes longstanding industrial businesses, unpaved parking lots, vacant buildings as well as miles of trails, natural areas and Odell, Fort Collins and New Belgium breweries.

    MORE: Mill House apartments to go up in River District

    Unofficially, the area is viewed as running north to the CSU Engines and Energy Conversion Lab and east all the way to the Mulberry Bridge. Over the years it has been home to flour milling, retail, farming and ranching, lodging, animal feed production and the city dump.

    With nearly $250 million in construction projects recently completed or under construction, the river district is poised to begin a new chapter spurred in large part by redevelopment of Link-N-Greens golf course into Woodward Inc.’s new corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility. Located on 100 acres bordered by Lincoln Avenue, Lemay Avenue, Mulberry Street and the Poudre River, Woodward’s plan itself is generating renewed interest in the river district.

    MORE: Woodward cuts building from HQ construction project

    MORE: Despite flood, Woodward on track for late-summer build

    The reimagined district is a place that combines river, industry, art and history to create a hip, eclectic new business district. “When you are looking at projects like this or doing things like a river district, you can partially set the table and then private industry decides what the best project are,” said Bruce Hendee, the city’s director of sustainability.

    The distillery and other projects underway “are adding a lot of character,” he said. The mix of commercial and residential projects makes “for a more vital city,” and keeps the area alive at night as opposed to only having business uses, “which would make for a more sterile environment. That blend will be good for the community.”

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    The city has talked about creating a downtown river district for more than 20 years, Hendee said, but now it has hit a tipping point.

    “We will see the whole area developed out in short order,” Hendee said. “We are setting up to have a pretty nice blend of very interesting activity that will be populated all night long.”

    Blue Ocean’s plans are in the earliest stages of the city’s planning process. Blue Ocean officials have met with city planners but have not filed a formal application.

    The projects

    Major projects that are recently completed, pending or approved on the banks of the Poudre River in downtown Fort Collins:

    • Lagunitas Cos., 52 apartments and restaurant/brewpub. The 102-year-old building is home to Northern Colorado Feeders Supply, 359 Linden St., which plans to move if the project wins city approval. Cost: $10 million. Status: Apartments are under construction.

    • Encompass Technologies, 418 Linden St. (known as Block 1). A 37,000-square-foot, four-story building featuring Encompass Technologies office space, a restaurant and 12 apartments. Cost: $9 million. Status: Under construction.

    • Legacy Senior Residences between Linden and Pine streets. Seventy-two one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors age 62 and older whose incomes are between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income. Cost: $15 million. Status: Opened in March.

    • CSU Powerhouse Energy Campus, 430 N. College Ave. The 65,000-square-foot expansion that will contain lab space, offices and support space. Construction is nearly complete. Cost: $18.5 million. Status: Opened in April.

    Woodward Inc., 100 acres at the corner of Lincoln and Lemay avenues. Woodward is expanding its corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility. Woodward plans to deed nearly 30 acres around the river back to the city of Fort Collins. Construction is underway. Cost: $200 million. Status: Under construction.

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