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Frisco changing underfoot

ALEX MILLERsummit daily newsSummit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox
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FRISCO Drive around the south side of Frisco these days and it may be hard to recognize parts of the town compared to just a few years ago. Hemmed in by a lake on one side, an interstate on another and a national forest and a highway on the other two sides, its not secret that theres not much room left to build in Frisco thus the onset of redevelopment.Even in a down housing market, developers are bullish on the town, with a variety of new projects in the works and others on the drawing board. The decrepit Frisco Boardwalk building was recently torn down to make way for The Residences at Water Tower Place: 11 luxury residences priced from the 600s up to nearly $1 million. The old Lark Bed & Breakfast on Granite Street gave way to Mt. Victoria Lodge, a substantial, log-themed building with several residences and commercial space underneath. Other lots that formerly had small homes on them have been converted to duplexes and triplexes as well.Given the cost of this kind of redevelopment, what is it about Frisco that has people pouring money into the town like this?Proximity to Denver is a real key element, said Mark Harris, a Lakewood developer whos done a number of projects in town and has a few more in the works. Frisco is centrally located to all of Summit Countys offerings, and so makes it very attractive. It has a quaint downtown that some of the other towns dont.Harris has two significant projects ready to get underway, both of which involve scraping off existing buildings. One is Latitude 39 at the corner of Granite and Fourth Street: two buildings with four units ranging in size from 1,000 square feet up to 2,640 square feet, with prices topping out at about $1.3 million. On the site of the old Denver Archdiocese retreat at 2 Miners Creek Road, the buildings will be razed to make way for another pair of duplexes in the $1.2 million price range. Frisco Realtor Butch Elitch said more buyers are looking less at the extra-large single-family homes and more at smaller units with more manageable properties.Were seeing a lot of interest in these kinds of properties, Elitch said.Harriss wife and business partner Carrie Harris said theyre optimistic that the housing market will start to swing upward and make their investments worthwhile.People dont like to travel as much anymore. They want to be close to the mountains, she said.At what cost?There is a certain irony behind Friscos redevelopment wave and what the town says it wants to do: maintain a small-town character. Another goal of the town is creating more affordable housing for locals something not likely to be found in a million-dollar development. And town residents who live in more modest dwellings are not always thrilled to see the ranch home next door get swapped out for a towering four-plex. I see a real disconnect between what the town surveys say and whats going on here, said Todd Powell, a Galena Street resident who has a large building going up behind his house as well as a new, massive duplex across the street. Its kind of sad, but we think about leaving Frisco because of the changing feel of the town. Its becoming east, east, east Vail, or Breckenridges parking lot.Harris said his developments attempt to strike a balance between size and compatibility with the town.407 Galena is scaled to fit in the neighborhood and architectural stylings and work with materials indicative of the Colorado mountains, he said. With Latitude 39, we really tried to scale the building down and break it into two separate buildings so the scale and mass dont overwhelm the lot and fit with downtown character.Even so, theres a significant shifting underfoot when a single-family home or small business is swapped out for a multi-unit structure. Frisco has several examples where the buildings consume most of the building footprint and, in some cases, tower over the neighboring property.Cabin zoningJocelyn Mills, a senior planner at the town, said the planning commission and staff are working on a new type of zoning to address such concerns. Called cabin zoning, the idea is to encourage developers to go smaller but have the ability to build more units. If a lot is zoned for three residential units, for example, cabin zoning might allow five.But theyd have to be smaller only 750 square feet for the ground level and another 30 percent of that on the upper level.Its a voluntary thing but hopefully it will provide folks with another opportunity to consider when theyre redeveloping a site, Mills said, adding that the planning commission will discuss the idea at its meeting this Thursday. Weve gotten good feedback from the investment community.Another aspect of the cabin zoning is an affordable housing component, she said. Overall, smaller units should translate into less-expensive ones even at market rate.I believe the planning commission wants to offer another opportunity to people so we dont lose Friscos character, Mills said.Powell wonders if it isnt already too late.Ultimately the developer and planners will say this is the zoning, this is the density and theyll do it, he said. Frisco as a nice, small town? I dont see it in 10 years.Elich notes that some of the older homes being torn down were older and in disrepair especially ones that were rentals for many years.There are other people who are doing a really nice job of reconstructing older homes, Elich said, pointing out several examples on a recent tour of the town.Alex Miller is editor of the Summit Daily News. Contact him at amiller@summitdaily.com or 668-4816.


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