St. Scholastica property plans in the works

A group of local individuals who have a heart for this community and its history is working to implement new plans for the vacant St. Scholastica property.

Phil Lund, president of Homes of the Canyon, LLC, who is in the process of purchasing the property, said a real estate transaction is expected to officially close mid-May, but he shared his vision with St. Scholastica neighbors during an informal meeting May 1 at City Hall.

“One of the critical components is what the neighbors think of what we are trying to do and where we are trying to go with this,” he said. “One thing I will tell you is we are absolutely determined to execute this and not just talk but to get things done.”

The campus originally was purchased by Colorado Springs developer Michael Butler in 2017, who had planned to redevelop it into apartments for people ages 55 and older, luxury apartments and affordable townhomes in three phases.

Lund was interested in the lots along Floral Avenue and was helping Butler with the planned unit development process when Butler asked if Lund would be interested in purchasing the 7.5-acre property, Lund said.

He is working with the city to create a planned development district and move forward with the subdivision process.

Under the proposed plan, the dormitory building will be converted into 44 single-family condominiums — 29 one-bedrooms and 15 two-bedrooms. They will be individually owned, but it won’t be “low-income” housing.

Along Floral Avenue, plans indicate there will be 13 lots for single-family units with space for accessory dwelling units, like mother-in-law apartments.

The units would be accessible through an alleyway, with no curb cuts through Floral, and no vehicular traffic through the middle of the site. All parking will be on-site.

Chris Koehn, the founder of Second-61 and a Cañon City native, plans to convert the old chapel and the former classroom building into a workspace.

Second-61 is an IT services company that was built around the workforce development that the school district and the P-TECH program have developed to create a work-ready workforce.

“Our interest is providing opportunities for the youth of our community to work in technology and to have jobs and to stay here,” he said. “We lose so much of our talent — our youth leave every year and go abroad to find an opportunity, we desire to provide those opportunities here in this market so they can — if they choose to —  have a good career here.”

He said the for Second-61 to grow, he needs spaces to grow into, and the chapel building is an opportunity to be converted into a technical space for his technicians.

“My interest in the property overall is I went to preschool there, my mom went to high school there, I have a care for that property,” he said. “To see all of those buildings razed breaks my heart, so what we can preserve that are preservable from the things that I’m interested in, we will. My desire is to be part of a work, live, play campus where there are professional jobs at those sites.”

He said the condos and his company’s compensation are a perfect match.

Denver-area resident and former St. Scholastica Academy student Cheloyne Mosher is formulating plans for the historic schoolhouse, which Lund said has turned into a “pigeon coop.”

“I remember when it wasn’t a giant pigeon coop,” Mosher said. “Even when I walked in and saw some of the structural issues and things that will have to happen to preserve it, that’s not what I was really seeing — I was seeing life there — I was seeing what it represented to me as 13- and 14-year-old.”

Mosher, formerly known as Lonnie Miller when she was a student from 1970-72, has the opportunity for a time-limited purchase agreement to preserve the historical building.

“I am passionate about preserving the history and honoring this, but it has to be current and relevant for today,” she said. “The campus is the heart of the city, and I would love for that historic building to be the heart of the property and be something beautiful while all this other is going on that seems so beneficial to the community.”

Her vision for the building includes potentially a space for community service organizations, physical and mental wellness services, arts and education, and/or professional offices.

She plans to create a nonprofit and begin to raise funds with the alumni to move forward with the project, which would require her to relocate to Cañon City.

“If this is a go, this will be my forever home, this is what’s next for me,” Mosher said.

The property will include green space for picnic tables and a bike path.

Lund said by having multiple parties coming in to work on the various lots simultaneously will ensure the project won’t string out over a number of years, leading to less traffic and disruption to neighbors.

Lund moved to Cañon City two years ago from the Denver area; before that, he lived in Michigan where he worked on similar projects dealing with condo conversions and served as a county commissioner.

“I am absolutely a fan of Cañon City,” he said. “I love Cañon City. I am going to be here for the rest of my life.”
Homes of the Canyon already has worked houses in Cañon City, including a condo renovation project at Second Street and Macon Avenue.

“We’ve got our team together —  the architect, civil engineer, landscape architect and surveyors — the whole team is ready to go,” Lund said about the St. Scholastica project.

Lund will meet with city staff and fire officials later this month to go over the PDD plan, and the final submission date is June 9. It should go before the planning commission in July and then to the city council for public input and approval.

“We are hoping, if we get this right, it will all be completed by September,” Lund said. “We are hoping to complete the condo conversion by February 1, that’s aggressive, but that’s the plan.”

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