The Colorado State University System owns a 161-acre lot that once housed Hughes Stadium, left vacant when the football stadium moved on-campus in 2017. After years of evaluation to understand the needs of employees and the broader Fort Collins community, as well as the viability of the land for various purposes, CSU System is moving forward with a redevelopment plan that addresses unmet needs for attainable housing, healthcare, childcare, and sustainability.
Fort Collins is for all. The cost of housing is the number one challenge cited by CSU employees.
The environment matters. When people can live closer to their workplace, they drive less. A transit stop on-site will be a massive reduction in Fort Collins’ carbon footprint, eliminating 1.5 million commuting miles every year and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 430 metric tons annually.
CSU is a partner to Fort Collins. CSU is the largest employer in the city and Northern Colorado and takes its role as a partner to the community seriously. Over the last two years, CSU has worked with the city on plans for the Hughes site and followed the City Council-approved Fort Collins City Plan.
CSU has a responsibility to the state. Land owned by the university system is land that belongs to all state taxpayers, not only Fort Collins residents.
CSU has a responsibility to its employees. As the community’s largest employer, CSU has raised all employees to a living wage for Fort Collins. Assuring access to housing is the next step of this commitment.
In the values of environmental sustainability, healthcare access, quality childcare, public transportation, housing opportunities, equity, and fiscal responsibility.
What is planned?
242 single family homes
112 single family attached
Apartment complex, with affordable rent options
Urgent care/health care center
Open green space
Existing 18-hole disc golf course remains
What’s the Citizen Initiative on the ballot around this site?
On April 6, Fort Collins voters will consider a Citizen Initiative Ballot that would force the City of Fort Collins to zone and attempt to acquire the Hughes redevelopment site for parks, recreation and open lands, and natural areas. This measure is contrary to the City Plan and recommendations of City staff. Even if it passes, the ballot measure can’t force the University to sell the property. Meanwhile, CSU’s plan would preserve 40-45 acres of open greenspace at no cost to the City.
We love open space, too, but we can have both! The current redevelopment plan for the site includes 40-45 acres of natural areas and trail connectivity, and takes an already residential area of the city and utilizes it to meet important community needs around equity and accessibility: providing attainable housing, on-site healthcare and childcare, as well as transit.
We can support equity and access in our community and also have open space!
But why not just open space?
Over 50 percent of the Hughes land parcel served as event parking for 10,000 vehicles for 50 years. Extensive reclamation of the site costing millions of additional dollars to restore is required. The parcel also is surrounded by growing development.
City Open Space planners have said publicly that this is not an open space area they would choose to try to rehabilitate into a natural area; there are pristine open space parcels across the community that could be preserved with these resources that would be of greater value to all residents.
Frequently asked questions
The Colorado State University System owns a 161-acre parcel that once housed Hughes Stadium, left vacant when the football stadium moved on-campus in 2017.
The redeveloped site will have affordable and attainable ownership and rent options, including 242 single family homes, 112 single family attached homes, 108 townhomes, and an apartment complex. Planned amenities for the community include a child -care facility, transit center, urgent care/health care center, open greenspace, community park space, commercial space, and maintaining the existing 18-hold disc golf course on-site. Approximately 40-45 total acres would remain as open and green space under CSU’s plan. 100% of the planned rental units would meet the federal definition of affordable housing (80% of AMI), and the project will include attainable housing purchase options that fit the standard definition of “at or below the median home price in the market.”
For years, the CSU System worked to evaluate and understand the needs of CSU employees through employee surveys and conversations. Findings showed that a number one concern among employees was being able to afford living in Fort Collins. Surveys also indicated a lack of – and desire for – affordable childcare and healthcare options. These needs reflected the larger Fort Collins community, which is why the CSU System is moving forward with a redevelopment plan that addresses unmet needs for attainable housing, healthcare, child care, and sustainability.
Our target for attainable housing offered for purchase is that it would be at or below the median home price in the local market.
The redevelopment aligns with the City of Fort Collins and its 2019 City Plan, which outlines its core values and seven outcome areas: 1) neighborhood livability and social health; 2) culture and recreation; 3) economic health; 4) environmental health; 5) safe community; 6) transportation and mobility; and 7) high-performing government. The Hughes redevelopment plan provides a community amenity that enhances social health, creates and connects to recreation, improves economic health of individuals and the city, appropriately utilizes and protects land, and adds transit to the community. The redeveloped site will have affordable rental options and attainable ownership options, including 242 single family homes, 112 single family attached homes, 108 townhomes, and an apartment complex. Planned amenities for the community include a child care facility, transit center, urgent care/health care center, open and green space, community park space, commercial space, and maintaining the existing 18-hold disc golf course on-site. Approximately 40-45 acres would remain as open and green space. In addition, the City Plan also includes the City’s Structure Plan map, which is used in conjunction with the principles and policies stated in the City Plan to guide where and how growth occurs. The 2019 Structure Plan map was developed following the City’s evaluation of issues and opportunities pertaining to five focus areas: 1) making the most of the land we have left; 2) taking steps to support a healthy and resilient economy; 3) encouraging more housing options; 4) expanding transportation and mobility options; and (5) maintaining a focus on climate action. The Structure Plan map references the Hughes property and contemplates that the property will be developed for “suburban neighborhood” and “mixed neighborhood” uses. The planned redevelopment aligns with the City’s Structure Plan map and its five focus areas.
Estimates indicate this project would eliminate 1.5 million commuting miles annually, reducing the carbon footprint by approximately 430 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission per year. This is a 7% reduction in CSU commuting carbon impact. The homes planned for the site include solar and water-saving technology options. The project will also integrate into the bike and pedestrian trail system and add green spaces and buffers appropriate to this project. In total, there are 40-45 acres of open space included in the project, and the number of homes planned for the site is roughly one-quarter of the number anticipated for this area in the City Plan. The redevelopment of the site into a thoughtfully planned community will not only preserve Open Space and connectivity to trails, but it will allow hundreds more families to live closer to work, childcare, and healthcare options – naturally resulting in fewer vehicle miles traveled. In addition, a new transit station on the site will provide transport options that will keep cars at home. The inverse is continuing to push all of these families further out of Fort Collins, resulting in longer commute times and more vehicles and emissions on the road.
A full 100% of the rental options in this development will meet the federal definition of affordable housing. The project will also include attainable homes for purchase at or below market rates. The average home price in Fort Collins is more than $420,000, which inherently prices many employees who are helping to build our community out of living in this community. The Fort Collins community believes in equity, and equity begins with opportunities for people in all income brackets to call Fort Collins home. We enter a dangerous trajectory as a community when we intentionally bypass opportunities for more affordable and attainable housing options.
CSU has raised all of its employees up to a living wage for this community, increasing salaries as needed to make that happen. Even so, around a third of the University’s workforce – about 1,600 employees – are still at or below 80% of the average mean income for Fort Collins because of the state’s salary structure, which doesn’t recognize the cost difference in living in Fort Collins vs. living in less expensive areas of the state. Seeking to directly provide affordable and attainable housing in the community is an important part of CSU’s commitment to equity and creating more equitable living conditions communitywide.
Several reasons. The land itself is not well-positioned to become Open Space, as the plot has been mostly a parking lot for over 50 years and is filled with containments. City officials have stated that purchasing the plot would result in “significant” additional funding required to restore the land to viable Open Space. Also, this 161-acre site is surrounded by existing residential development, unlike other, more pristine parcels that the City could attain at a lower cost. The site provides a rare (and dwindling) opportunity for the City of Fort Collins to create a master-planned community with affordable and attainable housing, critical child- and health-care services that meet community needs, and a west side transit station. The project will preserve 40-45 acres of open and green space, as well as the existing disc golf course and connectivity to the local trail system.
The CSU System offered to sell approximately half of the site to the City, reducing the number of single-family homes from ~700 to 350. The City’s counter offer included zero single-family homes and a financial gap of about $7 million from the original development option. The Board of Governors did not view this as a viable offer because it didn’t meet any of the objectives of the CSU System. As a state entity, the CSU System has a responsibility to all the taxpayers of Colorado to recoup funding for the site; CSU wants to do this in a way that also benefits the people of this community and our low-income employees. As a result, the Board voted to move forward with its public purposes, uses, and planned development of the site.
Absolutely not. CSU cares about open space and preserves a large section for public enjoyment at its Environmental Learning Center in the heart of town. The CSU Hughes project would preserve 40-45 acres for open green space at no cost to the city. Buying the Hughes property would be a very bad deal for Fort Collins residents who want to preserve open space. The City’s offer of $7 million for the 161-acre site is $42,424/acre – about 92% more than the City paid on its most recent Open Space acquisition in Red Mountain. Not only is that more than half of the City’s 2021 proposed Natural Areas budget, the property would require remediation that would deplete that budget for many years to come because it’s been a parking lot with a giant concrete structure on it for half a century. There are already significant open space properties on the west side of town, so purchasing Hughes would create further imbalance with other parts of the city that don’t have access to similar outdoor resources. The City can preserve a lot more pristine open space for the entire community with what it would cost to restore the Hughes land.
CSU is a state agency and the largest employer in the city and Northern Colorado. It takes its role as a partner to the community seriously. Over the last two years, CSU has worked with the city on plans for the Hughes site and followed the City Council-approved Fort Collins City Plan. CSU partners with the city unfailingly, and we like to think the city is better for CSU being in it, and CSU is better for being part of the Fort Collins community. The Board and CSU System developed its plans for this site in accordance with the City Plan and have attempted to work with the City of Fort Collins for many years to achieve a mutually agreeable plan.
Yes, you – or people you know – may live on land that once belonged to CSU. CSU has sold land parcels such as Rigden Farm to develop housing access in Fort Collins. The university is currently working with a parcel adjacent to Timberline Church to develop additional attainable housing options. Other CSU projects outside of housing that CSU has developed to benefit the greater community include the University Center for the Arts, the land that is home to the Gardens at Spring Creek, the creation of a joint campus-community health center at Prospect and College, and many others over the years.
Under the citizen-initiated measure that voters will consider on April 6, the City of Fort Collins would be forced to zone and attempt to acquire the Hughes redevelopment site for parks, recreation and open lands, and natural areas. This ballot measure is contrary to the City Plan and the recommendations of City development staff. A vote for the initiative is also a vote against a solid plan to provide affordable and attainable housing (with access to child- and health-care) to hard-working, lower-income people in Fort Collins who are desperate for better options. Also, the cost to rehabilitate and then preserve this one parcel – already surrounded by subdivisions with substantial access to open space areas – would prevent the city from preserving more pristine areas across the community for many years to come. Importantly, the ballot measure cannot force the University to sell the property, and even if the City were to offer the full fair market value of the property, CSU would not obtain the benefits of affordable and attainable housing for our employees and the community, the training benefits for students, and the environmental benefits of increased mass transit usage.
CSU has worked diligently with the City and City Council to reach agreements around this site. When given the opportunity, the City was unable to come up with the necessary funds to purchase the site, and it is time to move forward with the CSU plan, which includes substantial community benefits and begins to address a critical need for affordable and attainable housing.
Saying ‘yes’ to this initiative would force the City to attempt to purchase the land, and not only set a very dangerous precedent for land owners by attempting to deny them the use and benefits of their property, but also forego the important affordable and attainable housing and community benefits of the proposed project. This ballot measure attempts to force the City to spend taxpayer money that it does not have, to purchase the land at a dramatically higher cost than the City typically pays for open space. It would force the City to make a fair market value offer for land that likely does not have a willing seller. For the 2021 proposed budget, Fort Collins projected a 24% revenue decline in 2020 – the city would have to choose to cut other services to purchase the Hughes site if this Citizen Initiative passes, and the true cost would be more than financial.