Location is crucial for a successful commercial real estate project, but visibility and access play key roles in unlocking a site’s potential, too.
That’s what longtime Colorado Springs developer Steve Schuck is banking on for one of his latest projects.
Schuck Communities plans to develop the 170-acre Conexus Business Center in Monument, which would be the town’s first major business park and a potential jobs generator in northern El Paso County. Conexus will run along the west side of Interstate 25, between Colorado 105 and Baptist Road.
But why Monument instead of Colorado Springs?
With the business park’s north-side location, Schuck hopes to attract users – such as offices, showrooms, distribution centers and research and development facilities – that want faster drive times for customers and markets they serve in Denver and Castle Rock. At the same, Conexus would be a short hop south to the Springs, he said.
Interchanges at Baptist and Colorado 105 would allow quick access to I-25, while unobstructed views from the interstate would give Conexus the high visibility that some businesses will want, he said.
"We already have direct experience which tells us this will be in tremendous demand for businesses wanting to locate as far north as they can get, yet still be in the Springs," Schuck said.
The Conexus site – named, in part, because it’s meant to connect to Denver and Colorado Springs businesses – is bounded roughly by Colorado 105 on the north, I-25 on the east and Old Denver Highway on the west.
The business park’s southern boundary ends about 1 1/2 miles south of Colorado 105; a privately owned parcel that’s not part of Schuck’s project extends farther south to Baptist Road.
Schuck has a 23-acre parcel under contract and expects to complete its purchase within 45 days from an Arizona group that’s owned the land for several years. He has another two years to buy the remaining 150 acres.
Among his initial plans, Schuck plans to construct a single-story, 26,400-square-foot building on the initial 23 acres that could be configured for office, commercial or industrial uses.
The rest of the business park will be developed based on demand, with parcels broken up into smaller pieces to accommodate a variety of users. Schuck said that’s another part of his strategy with the project; the days of 500-acre "mega developments" are over because they take too long and are too costly to develop, which turns off potential users, he said.
Businesses who’ve shown interest in Conexus include "everything down to a 1-acre user, up to a user we’re talking to who is talking about 50 acres – and quite a few sizes in between the two," said Michael Helwege, a principal with Core Commercial in Colorado Springs who’s marketing Conexus.
"There’s pent-up demand obviously for . small business commercial sites in northern El Paso County, along I-25," Helwege said. "This type of development (with two points of interstate access) is in insanely limited supply in the I-25 corridor."
Monument officials recently approved Schuck’s plans for Conexus, which will include landscaping and other amenities. Covenants and design guidelines will require a consistent look and feel to the project.
"It’s really important that we create a park, a sense of place," Schuck said.
Terri Hayes, president and CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, said the business group hopes Conexus will boost employment in the area. Some Monument, Woodmoor and Palmer Lake residents who work in Denver grow weary of the daily commute and would prefer to stay closer to home, she said.
"This business park will potentially bring some much-needed jobs that are in the more professional sector," Hayes said. "That will attract some people to maybe decide that they love the idea of stopping their commute and just living and working in their own back yard."
Schuck’s business park concept is coming at a time when smaller users are ramping up interest in parcels of 1 to 10 acres, said Jack Mason, a land specialist for Quantum Commercial Group in Colorado Springs. Mason has marketed the property for the Arizona group that’s agreed to sell it to Schuck; he’s also marketing property to the south of Conexus, portions of which are envisioned for industrial and retail uses.
"We think what he’s doing is right on for what’s occurring in the market today," Mason said. "We have lot of interest from smaller users."
The project also will benefit from a plan by state transportation officials to widen an approximately 18-mile stretch of I-25 from Monument to Castle Rock, Mason said.
Conexus isn’t the only project Schuck is focusing on.
Schuck Communities and a partner are developing Nexus, a 400-acre industrial park (and the other inspiration for the Conexus name) just west of Denver International Airport.
A food service supplier has built a 250,000-square-foot distribution center at Nexus, while a 540,000-square-foot facility is under construction for an international appliance supplier, Schuck said. Nexus also has letters of intent from firms interested in buying 70 acres.
Schuck, who turns 82 on Friday, has been part of the Colorado Springs business and economic development landscape since launching his first real estate company in 1969, said Nexus’ success is helping to spur his interest again in major land development projects.
Schuck Communities, headquartered in the 1st Bank Building in downtown Colorado Springs, had its ups and downs during the Great Recession, Schuck conceded.
But the company remains active and eying several projects, he said. In addition to Nexus and Conexus, he’s looking at development of an entry-level housing project in Colorado Springs.
"The reports of my death were greatly exaggerated," Schuck joked. "I still enjoy it a lot. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the action."
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