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Downtown pipe dreams

Each month,  the Downtown Development Authority sets aside time to hear ideas from the public. The DDA web site suggests:

These ideas should embody innovative thinking, cool and exciting project concepts, creative solutions …. The idea [need not] have existing financial backing.

Here are ideas presented to the DDA board this year (also see more in Comments below):

  • “A global village museum.” This would reside in the Carnegie Library building, soon to be vacated by the History Museum. We’d fill it with artifacts collected by locals in their travels.
  • “Renovation for the old piano at the Elk’s club.” This is a beautiful instrument. Unfortunately, they found it could be preserved or restored. But not both. It’s going to the History Museum for preservation.
  • “A charter nature school.” Kids. Dirt. Bugs. This would sit next to the Raptor Center, on Vine.
  • “Downtown botanical gardens.” Adults. Dirt. Bugs.
  • “Recycling facilities.”
  • “National newspapers to fill our news racks downtown.” Perhaps in partnership with Al’s newstand.

Some neat ideas.

Then,  there’s this idea from Geoff Robinson, a Lost Fort Collins reader. Thinking about the abandoned Steele’s Market, which replaced the Franklin school,  downtown:

  • Found school. “Wouldn’t it be interesting if the building that replaces the Steeles could have elements of the old [Franklin] School?” Geoff writes.
Franklin School

Franklin School

Yes I think so. As for me, I’d like to see an

  • Outdoor Organ Pavilion. Like this one in San Diego. We’ve got some awesome players in this town. And think of Halloween!

[Photo:  University Historic Photograph Collection, http://lib.colostate.edu/archives/historic_photos.html, Colorado State University, Archives and Special Collections]

18 comments to Downtown pipe dreams

  • All interesting ideas. My favorite suggestion this year was to build a Ferris wheel downtown. I personally think that would be awesome even though I am deathly afraid of them. A carousel would also be a great idea.

  • catfc

    Hi Grow,

    I like your latest blog entries. Especially the “sexed up” Park Lane Towers. Great find!

    Have you read “Cities back from the Edge”? It profiles Mansfield, OH, a small town that turned around a rotting downtown, starting with a carousel. It was a great idea and played a key roll in turning around downtown.

    At the same time, the book warns against making a formula out of anybody else’s success. Still, I think a carousel would work here. But ours would have mountain bikes instead of horses, right?

  • Thanks! I’m trying to keep up with the blog. The whole thing is very new to me so I’m still working it out. But I’m really making an effort to post more. I have not read that book but that’s sounds right up my alley. I’ll defiantly check it out. And of course our carousel would have mountain bikes. Mountain bikes and Subarus.

  • You sold me on the bugs and dirt!
    I had thought of going to a DDA meeting, but I’m such a FoCo N00b, I was afraid that they would drag me behind a horse (or whatever it is they do in this town).
    A Ferris wheel would be cool, also.

  • i’ve never seen a picture of the franklin school before. in fact, i never thought about what was there before the steele’s market building.

    we moved here 8 years ago and that old steele’s building has been nothing but an eyesore that entire time. it’s been vacant pretty much that long. i can’t BELIEVE that no one has moved in on that prime real estate. (i’ve only heard of one attempt and the rumor was that the neighbors squashed it.)

    i’m all for finding the stones of the old franklin school and rebuilding it. that place looks waaaaaaay more interesting than what’s there now. although at this point, i’d be happy to have ANYthing there. what an eyesore.

  • catfc

    Initially, that lot was slated for a tall condo. But public outcry prevented the project. People were worried about the shadow the 12-story building would cast on St. Joseph’s school. Then Pat Stryker bought the property, and I believe she still owns it. There was talk that she would build a complex for nonprofits, but it was just talk.

    Fort Collins had several “twin” schools. For example, Washington (the Lab School) is the twin of Harris Bilingual. I think Franklin was a twin of Laurel elementary.

    And here’s one more bit of fun trivia…you remember Hattie McDaniel? She played the slave matron in Gone With The Wind, and several other early Hollywood movies? She lived in Fort Collins as a child, briefly, on Cherry Street. She attended Franklin.

  • i had heard it was slated to be the condos that eventually went up on the corner of howes and that diagonal street instead, and that it was only 5 stories high. either way, there’s already a huge building on that block and i don’t think another would have hurt.

    does fort collins have a vacant building policy? how long are owners allowed to leave a building vacant before something has to be done about it? i’m surprised it hasn’t seen more vandalism than just the constant graffiti.

  • The building that would have been built on the former Steele’s Market site was known as the Mountain Avenue Residences. It would have had a 12 story tower and a 9 story tower with numerous setbacks to minimize the mass the from the street level. It would have contained 165 residential units as well as ground floor commercial space. Had the project been built it would have become a new tallest in the city by one foot. The building was approved by the city but the public outcry was too great. The plans were eventually scaled back to a 9 and 7 story tower but that was still too large of a project for the residents of the mountain avenue neighborhood.

    The building at Howes and Canyon you speak of had nothing to do with the Mountain Ave building but it was often brought up afterwards by the developer of the Mountain ave building as proof that their project could have been successful. The building on Howes is know as the Cortina and it is seven stories tall and a bit over 100 feet in height. Oddly not a single person objected to that development only one block away from the failed project.

    The Steele’s Market site is indeed owned by Pat Stryker. I have heard whisperings about a potential project on that site but nothing has been made public. I have a feeling that if the old project or something similar was again proposed on that site people would be far more receptive to it now. At the time of the old proposal only minimal construction had taken place downtown in several decades.

  • lol! i knew you’d know it all growfc. :-) thanks for filling in all the blanks and knocking dead all the rumors (the ones i was hearing, anyway). and yeah, i agree. i think people are much more open to building at this point. a lot of the stuff that’s gone up is pretty decent looking.

    doubt we could fill another building like that right now though. isn’t penny lane at a stand-still because they can’t fill the units? (driving by just a few days ago i noticed the glasses place (wasn’t that what it was?) has moved out already.)

  • I don’t believe we could fill such a project now or even in the near future. The amount of condos that would have been included in the Mountain avenue building would have been huge for a city of our size. It would have required a significant amount of presales before financing could be obtained. The process could have taken years. The easiest way for us to build something that large in this economic climate would be to build a for rent or lease project. Hell if Loveland can support a 200 unit apartment building in their downtown then we could in a flash. The majority of the new condos here are far too expensive for the average buyer.

    I haven’t driven by the Penny Flats in a few weeks. That’s unfortunate if the optometrist did close. I’ll have to check it out when I have some time off. The project is moving along at a far slower pace then originally planned. When they broke ground in 2007 the plan called for all 8 buildings to be completed by 2011. The plan now is to construct each building as needed. Fortunately with the news of the design changes in August we also learned they plan to break ground on the next phase, next summer. The design changes will add two extra floors to the next two phases of the project. They also increased the number of residential units at build out to 170. The building should be easier to sell considering they will primarily be one bedroom and studio units. Why the majority of lofts built downtown are two bedroom/ two bath units or larger when you are targeting young professionals baffles me. Things are moving along, we just need to learn to be patient.

  • nisperos

    Well, it’s maybe not as cool as condos that give a nod to the old Franklin school, but having spent some time in the Northwest, I always thought that the old Steele’s Market building would be great reborn as an Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant… all on account of the somewhat lame reason that they use a streetcar in their decor and our Birney line ends there.

  • nisperos

    …On second thought

    There are some in this town who wouldn’t want to see an echo of Franklin School.

    When Rockwood School closed, kids in Anderson, Buckingham, and Alta Vista were expected to attend Franklin, or Remington, or Lincoln… a couple of miles away in a time with no school buses… and many people didn’t want truant officers to enforce compulsory education… and this was as recent as the early 1950’s… and some Hispanic parents didn’t want to force their kids to go to a school where their kid would be laughed at… and in some cases a Hispanic kid might be the oldest in their class because they were behind from having missed too musch school…

    …and the irony of some of this is that A.H. Dunn, a former superintendent, has an IB World School named after him when he was the one who started separate classrooms for “backward pupils [who were not] book minded” and he announced that these students did “not fit well in any academic room.”

    So… those of us who have a child with a disability know how Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which integrated schools was a profound impetus towards inclusive education, but now we also know why in Fort Collins we HATE resource rooms or opportunity rooms (opportunity to get rid of someone). And, why we love things like Inspiration Playground, but also when other parks around town, not just new developments, get inclusive features to their playgrounds.

    Thank you to those who endured unspeakable prejudice so that others could move forward and have it better – both your own kids and other people’s kids who didn’t live through your history.

  • Jim Burrill

    My mom taught at Franklin school. She loved the Hispanic kids and some of them still have offspring who live in Ft. Collins. In all her stories of the kids, I don’t recall hearing of any racial prejudice in the school specifically. I do have one story: There was a student named “Telesfero” in her class. There was a typo someone made on registration day at the beginning of the year. All year long she called him “Telesferd” because she thought that was his name. On the last day of school, he told her she had been mispronouncing his name the entire year.

  • catfc

    Jim, I wish you would tell the story of your Grandma Ruth and her buddy Hattie going to Franklin together…

  • Jim Burrill

    Cat, I think Grandma Ruth was interviewed by someone and the story was put into an oral history in the library. Hattie McDaniel’s family lived very close to the family property either on Cherry or Howes Street. Ruth and Hattie did go to school together for several years. In later years, Ruth did visit Hattie at her California estate.

    I’m pretty sure Ruth wrote this stuff down also but my brother may have those writings. I’m foggy on whether it was Franklin or Remington school.

  • nisperos


    I think that’s kind of cool…

    When they had a Fort Collins museum display of some of the important historical women in Fort Collins’ past…

    I asked about Hattie…

    And the reply was that she hadn’t lived here that long…
    My response was: So? Why not feature her anyway with your own comment that her time in Fort Collins was short?

  • Jim Burrill

    I don’t know why Hattie’s family moved away quickly.

    Another lady named Josephine Payson Clements has written a lot about Hattie McDaniel. There was a story in the “Triangle Review” about Hattie that Josie wrote. I’ll bet they have that story in the library, or the museum now.

    I miss my dad as a reference when it comes to some historical items.

  • catfc

    Thanks Jim. I read the stories from Ruth at the library. I know Hattie lived on the 300 block of Cherry and that Ruth and Hattie went to Franklin. I was hoping you’d know a little more. Like WHICH house on Cherry. Every time I walk by there, I think of her.

    BTW, Malaby’s made the Armstrong’s Tour of Neighborhood Markets. It’s a lovely map of markets and ghost signs. I just posted about it. I might frame a copy.