Latest News – September 23

We ♥ (The Railyard @) Leadville

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Wondering what the number one place to take pictures is – you guessed it! The “We ♥ Leadville” wall is by far Lake County’s number one picture taking spot on social media.

By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today

Sometimes a story turns into a game of Double Dutch, in which two long jump ropes turning in opposite directions, create an ever-changing, fluid situation. As a journalist, part of the job is to know exactly when to jump in and begin reporting, knowing that the facts could change tomorrow. However, when it comes to new development in Lake County, the time to jump in, is when the dirt starts to move. That’s when the real news begins.

After all, in an old mining town like Leadville, millions of dollars have changed hands in real estate speculation. But when the dirt starts to move, when what’s underground, comes up, that’s when people sit up and take notice.

Road Work_Railyard @ Leadville_2

S & A Excavating of Leadville is making the connection for the new Railyard @ Leadville development’s sanitation and water lines. The work could have portions of Highway 24 closed to through traffic this coming week.

And so it was, back in July when the earth began to move around the “We ♥ Leadville” wall. Once that very first bucket of soil was scooped up, Leadville Today immediately began to receive lots of communication concerning the new owners –  High Country Developers, LLC.  What are their plans? What kind of houses are they building? Why did Kum & Go pull out of the intersection plans? Why was the property annexed into the city?

It was back on October 17, 2016 when Leadville Today (LT) first broke the story that the property had sold for $1,350,000. And while there are plenty of real estate transactions making news in Lake County these days, this property was different. It was big: 40 acres. It was changing the municipal boundary line: annexation into the City of Leadville. And it housed one of the most iconic Leadville structures of the 20th century: the “We ♥ Leadville  ~ Great Living at 10,200 ft.” wall. WHAT are they going to do with “our” wall, people wanted to know!? 

So on July 17, 2017 Leadville Today met with the man who would be developing the Railyard @ Leadville property: John Lichtenegger. It was time to hear directly from the guy who would be in charge, the man who made the investment, the fella who would be making decisions that would forever change the city’s northern portal, Leadville’s “welcome” mat.Railyard_Public Notice

Most of the questions presented in these video interviews came directly from residents and readers. And the answers come directly from the source, not filtered through a report from a public meeting, or from a local official or organization. In fact, personal presentation, inflection and voice tone can say a lot about a person’s passion, or ultimate intention. So be sure to catch all four LT videos which will be presented over the next couple of days.

Additionally, listen closely to this millionaire developer’s story, especially concerning YOUR tax dollars. Are the public funds and monies put into “recruiting” people and business to Leadville, the true driving force behind someone’s decision to move to Leadville, to buy a home, to start a business, and in this case make a sizable investment in this small mountain community? Or does it matter? Did it matter in this purchase and plan?

And what about Leadville and Lake County’s readiness to absorb and manage big projects like the Railyard @ Leadville? Are elected officials educated and prepared enough to assure that local interests are protected? Or does rolling out the welcome mat come with costly legal and engineering fees that detract from roads, and other infrastructure budgets?

There is definitely a shift in the question, which has now become: what is the difference between “responsible/sustainable” and “economic” development? Are YOUR interests being represented? Or will Leadville get what it has asked for years NOT to become, another Vail, another Breckenridge?

Deadville_Leadville Sign

While Leadville’s iconic ♥ sign has always been housed on private property, over the years, it became the public billboard, pictured here expressing the bust years of the 1990s. Photo: Leadville Today

Decide for yourself, in this series of videos: The Railyard @ Leadville. And then join the conversation on the Leadville Today Facebook Page, because the clock is ticking towards a moment in time that could forever be referred as “that day” in Leadville history.

In this interview – Railyard @ Leadville Video #1  – John Lichtenegger discuss “Why Leadville?” If you have ever lived in Leadville, you have a story about how you came to North America’s Highest Incorporated City, and why you chose to stay.

But Lichtenegger’s story goes beyond that here, as he discusses his investments group’s first attempt at purchasing the Railyard @ Leadville  property in 2006. Why  didn’t things come together then? And what changed to finally make the purchase happen one year ago? Of course, for the naysayers, another question asks, why will your development be different? What will make this project succeed? Lake County has certainly seen its share of come-and-goers, and has plenty of half-finished projects scattered throughout the county to prove it! In this video, Lichtenegger outlines his team’s success with other developments and also explains why he wanted the Railyard @ Leadville to be annexed into the City of Leadville.

In small towns like Leadville, right after the how-do-you-dos,  come the what-do-you-plan-to-dos, which is what readers will find in this Railyard @ Leadville video #4.

In this interview, the residential and commercial plans for the Railyard @ Leadville are described by High Country Developers, LLC owner John Lichtenegger. No more hearsay; it’s a straight-up dose of HE SAID. What kind of homes do they plan to build? How much will they cost? How many of them? What kind of density does the project present? Will the commercial portion of the project look like the “strip-mall” that some officials have presented to the public?

 “We are not doing pack-them-in type of housing here,” explains Lichtenegger. “We are basically building family homes. And townhomes,” explained Lichtenegger, discussing the Phase One portion of the ultimate 250-house project currently underway, which includes 69 new living spaces.

Aside from “above-ground” concerns, Lichtenegger also addresses infrastructure costs, a sizeable expenditure when developing property at 10,200 feet in elevation. Fortunately for High Country Developers, all signs point to success when it comes to meeting the requirements with the Parkville Water and Leadville Sanitation districts.

In fact, if all goes according to plan, motorists will see parts of US Highway 24 closed to thru traffic at 13th and 15th Streets beginning Monday, Sept. 25, and lasting  several days, in order to jump those utilities across the state highway and into the new Railyard @ Leadville development. While weather and temperatures can affect digging schedules at 10,200 feet, it’s anticipated that US Highway 24 traffic detour  should be wrapped up by October 15, 2017.

That’s it for the first part in the Railyard @ Leadville series. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s ongoing conversation, focusing on ‘curb-appeal,” from updates on the Mountain View intersection, now that Kum & Go has pulled-out of the plans, to Lichtenegger’s vision for Leadville’s new northern portal’s “welcome” mat.

Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, A Media Company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com.

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