Sunday, May 3, 2015

Where a house is a home

Posted By on Sun, May 3, 2015 at 7:05 AM

click to enlarge JOHN OLSON
  • John Olson
After more than a year of searching for the right community, my family has finally begun to settle into our new home in the Springs. Our pursuits covered the gamut, leaving us thoroughly exhausted. And as you can probably imagine, someone with particular ideals for a neighborhood and home is not easy to work with. (First step is admittance, right? Our builder knows what I'm talking about!)

It started with a goal to begin the complicated process of being approved for a loan on a second home in November of 2013. We own a townhouse in Spring Creek that we don’t want to sell yet. The location, for a neighborhood with new homes, is ideal for commutes to Fort Carson, Schriever, downtown, etc. And, along with a great location, townhouses make for excellent rental homes in an amazing rental market. We had the place rented to a great young couple before we even purchased a For Rent sign.

That left us with renting a townhouse of our own, which we did in the southwest corner of the city. It worked out, with a good landlord and a suitable home, but it wasn’t in a neighborhood conducive for kids. It was a learning process of understanding what we don’t want in a community.

With the search for a permanent home, our goal was to find something either new, or that had been fixed up, or required only minor improvements. And the home needed to be in a neighborhood, not a subdivision.

We started looking for infill lots around downtown, near Shooks Run, Ivywild, Old Colorado City and even downtown Monument. We found a couple — one that we even went to make an offer on but the lot had already been spoken for.

In the process I learned more about the difficulties of infill, especially on the minute scale of a single-family home. There are many fees involved, utilities to extend, variances to request, soils to investigate — I’m no longer curious as to why some single-family lots are left undeveloped, the process and costs are onerous. We looked at one lot in particular in the Ivywild neighborhood that was going to be over $100,000 just to secure the lot, remediate the unstable soils, extend the utilities, and pay the tap fees — a non-starter for us.

We ultimately had a semi-custom home constructed in Gold Hill Mesa. It’s loosely based upon the tenets of the new urbanism movement with tree-lined streets, alley-loaded garages, walkable retail and services (planned for the currently vacant land just to the north), and an underlying emphasis on fitness. The diversity of ages in the neighborhood is great, with an amazing setting, location and well-designed community ambiance. The neighborhood has regularly scheduled events, a great community center and a great presence of family and chance interaction with neighbors.

We are settling into the home now and excited for our first year on the westside of Colorado Springs!

John Olson is a licensed landscape architect, residing in Colorado Springs. He serves as the Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture for EVstudio Planning & Civil Engineering. He is also a co-founder of Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, which implemented Better Block Pikes Peak in 2012, the recent Walkability Signage found in Downtown Colorado Springs, and perhaps most notably, Curbside Cuisine.

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