WOODLAND PARK • The Downtown Development Authority last week gave an initial thumbs up to a new proposal for a $5 million commercial project in Woodland Station.
If the project wins final approval from the board as well as the city, Derek Waggoner of Woodland Park and a group of local investors will begin construction on Tava House.
Plans include a steakhouse, tap house, culinary school and event center. The culinary school will be led by one of the investors, Victor Matthews, founder of Black Bear Distillery and Paragon Culinary School.
Three years ago, Waggoner presented a similar plan to the DDA board, but gave up after the board “decided to go in a different direction,” Waggoner said in his presentation June 7.
The proposal is a reversal for Waggoner who, after giving up on the DDA, invested $150,000 in start-up costs to build the Tava House a few miles east of downtown, on Paradise Circle. “However, our desire has always been to be in the center of town,” he said.
In the interim, Waggoner kept tabs on the DDA, which had replaced five members within the past year. Last week, he made his pitch.
Along with the restaurant facility, the project would include a residential component. “We would have smaller homesites with focus on the walkability and connectivity of the project,” said Dustin Nelson, division president of David Weekley Homes, the largest homebuilder in the nation, with 30,000 employees. The residential units would probably be three-story with rooftop decks, he added.
ECHO Architecture is part of the project’s development team. The firm’s designs include Prime 25 and the South Tejon Mixed Use Development in Colorado Springs. “We believe in the power of architecture to help form a community,” said Ryan Lloyd, founder and owner, who was part of the original proposal.
The investors’ banker, Vincent Prins, vice president of commercial lending for TBK Bank, is part of Waggoner’s development team. “We look forward to presenting an offer to acquire Woodland Station property,” Waggoner said. “We will have every contingency built into the contract.”
Reactions from some members of the board:
Jerry Good: “I am not in favor of the residential aspect of the project. This is our last downtown business corridor.”
Al Born, original DDA board member: “Years ago, it was the desire of the board to do a melding of commercial enterprises and residential. I think this project is a healthy and forward-looking type of activity.”
Rusty Neal, the city’s liaison to the DDA: “I agree with Al. Citizens have expressed a desire to have restaurants, shops and housing in Woodland Station, desires that are codified in the city’s comprehensive plan.”
Merry Jo Larsen, DDA chair: “Have you talked to Arden Weatherford about buying his property?”
Weatherford, one of the five new DDA board members, owns three lots adjacent to the 6.3 acres. He recused himself from that portion of the meeting and will not vote on the project after the formal proposal comes to the board in July.
Nelson, David Weekley Homes, responded. “The more mass we can get with the commercially-viable site just makes the project more valuable for us. As we look at the residential development, I would imagine that it absolutely would include Mr. Weatherford’s property.”
A potential conflict-of-interest affects David Mijares, another new board member, who as the owner of Catamount Engineering, worked on Waggoner’s previous proposal to build on Paradise Circle. He is not currently under contract for the new site in Woodland Station, but, if he signs on as part of the consulting team, would recuse himself on the vote in July, he said.
Tony Perry: “We have investors, the funding and vision to do this $5 million commercial project.”
Yet Perry urged caution. “We know there are some economic storm winds brewing out there, but I’ve gotten to know this group and Williams’ group and, in my mind, both projects are synergistic,” he said, referring to developer Mike Williams, who has indicated interest in developing Woodland Station. “I hope this will challenge Williams’ group to step up and make a better proposal than the one where they want to pay zero for the property, have a TIF (tax increment financing) reimbursement and have the city do the development.”
Jon Gemelke asked if the board would lose control if the DDA sold the property.
“No, the DDA would still play a role,” Perry said.
Waggoner and Williams are scheduled to present their formal proposals at 7:30 a.m. July 5 in City Council Chambers.