Residents say Sugar Beet District Project threatens historic neighborhood

Rachel Musselmann

The comprehensive Sugar Beet District building re-development project in Northern Fort Collins, proposed by developer Mickey Willis, is sparking contention surrounding the Alta Vista community.

Proposed construction of cutting-edge business and residential buildings by Willis and his team could occur near the historical Alta Vista neighborhood. Neighborhood representative Lee Tijernia said he believes residents would suffer repercussions from the gentrification of their neighborhood.

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“New housing units will drive up property taxes,” Tijernia said. “Many of our residents are low-income individuals struggling to scrape by as it is. They can’t afford (an increase).” 

A map of the planned Sugar Beet District project in Fort Collins. (Photo Courtesy of SugarBeetDistrict.com).
A map of the planned Sugar Beet District project in Fort Collins. (Photo Courtesy of SugarBeetDistrict.com).

Willis said his plans are compatible with current housing values and ensure community protection, as mandated by the City of Fort Collins. The development team will include members of the Alta Vista community. 

“We’re not kicking people out, we want to encourage people to stay and participate,” Willis said. “We want to tell the story of Fort Collins.”

Some Alta Vista neighborhood residents are not convinced, and feel their community is under threat, Tijernia said. He said he is trying to have the neighborhood declared a historical district to protect it from development intrusions. The neighborhood contains some of the only remaining original adobe-style houses in America, and just three signatures are required on a petition to begin the process. 

Tijernia said he believes his community agrees with him. 

“There’s a high chance we can get it done,” Tijernia said. “There’s a lot of obstacles in Mickey Willis’s way.”

The re-development project is planned to be adjacent to the Alta Vista neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of City of Fort Collins)
The re-development project is planned to be adjacent to the Alta Vista neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of City of Fort Collins)

Tijernia said another concern of citizens is the loss of the natural grassland area on the proposed development site, currently owned by Rocky Mountain Raptor Program. 

Rocky Mountain Raptor Program Executive Director Judy Scherpelz said she is excited about the sale, rather than reluctant. 

“I think it’s a phenomenal project,” Scherpelz said. “It’s extremely creative, and will be great for this whole region.”

Scherpelz said the grassland property in question does not actually contain Alta Vista, and the neighborhood will benefit from the created jobs, rather than suffer. The term “gentrification” is being misused, Scherpelz said.

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“They (the development team) are not buying up houses,” Sherpelz said. “They’re not forcing anything on Alta Vista. I think people who are against this project don’t really understand what is going on.” 

Tijernia said even if the physical neighborhood is intact, the primarily Hispanic culture of Alta Vista will be marginalized by the city allowing the project. 

“It’s all about money,” Tijernia said. “Fort Collins is telling us that they don’t care.” 

Collegian Reporter Rachel Musselmann can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @rmusselmann.