Resort to triple in size

This is the site where Gateway Canyons is planning to build 340 homes on the east side of Hwy 141 in Gateway.


The story so far

When Gateway Canyons Resort opened in 2005, it featured a convenience store, a 16-room motor inn, a fuel station and a restaurant. It was billed as a small tourism-economy generator.

It grew rapidly, however, and in the past few years multiple amenities were added, including an auto museum, a 54-room lodge, an event center and an amphitheater. Resort executives slowed expansion, suspended some projects and laid off employees when the local economic downturn hit late in 2008.

But Mesa County commissioners last month approved a 42-acre expansion that will be used for employee housing and parking and resort support services. A second restaurant is slated to open this year.

The latest proposed expansion will nearly triple the size of the resort by adding a residential component.

Commissioners on Tuesday signed off on a concept plan that will add 416 acres featuring 340 homes and nearly 250,000 square feet of commercial space.

Gateway Canyons Resort has the green light to embark on a protracted expansion that will add a large, gated residential community and nearly 250,000 square feet of commercial space, nearly tripling its footprint in the red rock canyons of southwestern Mesa County.

With resort owner John Hendricks in attendance, county commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved a planned-unit development concept plan for the so-called Experius Community at Gateway Canyons. The 416-acre parcel straddles the Dolores River on the east side of Colorado Highway 141, east of the 225-acre resort.

The project would feature 340 homes, two 40,000-square-foot boutique hotels or bed-and-breakfasts, two 60,000-square-foot clubhouses or recreation centers, a winery, a greenhouse, an observatory, open space and other amenities. A public trail that will run through the residential community will connect the resort to Bureau of Land Management land southeast of the development.

The community would be built in seven phases over 30 years, although Hendricks’ attorney, John Williams, told commissioners that officials hope to build much quicker than that.

In an interview with The Daily Sentinel after the hearing, Hendricks said he hopes the soon-to-open Experius Academy, a program he called a “vacation for the lifelong curious,” will convert tourists and visitors into residents who want to retire to or own a second home in Gateway.

“I think they’ll fall in love with it just as we did,” he said.

The addition of the Experius Community will require the expansion of some utilities, although other infrastructure should be adequate.

County Senior Planner Ron Quarles said Gateway Canyons is adding 40,000 gallons of storage capacity to its domestic water supply, giving it 120,000 gallons of water storage. He said the sewer plant constructed in 2005 also will need to be expanded.

Williams said he believes there is sufficient electrical capacity to serve the resort and community at full build-out, but he said Grand Valley Power will review each phase of development to determine whether more capacity is needed. He said the resort will consider incorporating alternative energy sources into future development.

Williams said resort officials have held three neighborhood meetings about the resort community with Gateway residents and property owners.

“We’ve pretty well vetted this thing in the community for two to three years,” he said.

Jackie Bevan, president of the Gateway Property Owners Association, said Gateway residents largely have been silent about the expansion.

“Everyone has had ample opportunity to bring their concerns,” Bevan said. “There really hasn’t been any.”

Hendricks told commissioners he has invested more than $50 million in capital in Gateway Canyons thus far and expects to sink a total of more than $100 million into it by the time the resort and the residential community are fully developed.

Despite that hefty investment, the resort currently is losing money — about $2 million this year — as Hendricks noted the difficulty of recouping an investment in a remote destination. He hopes to reduce his losses to $500,000 next year and have the resort break even in 2013.

He then hopes to recoup $15 million of his capital investment by 2025. To recoup another $85 million and, therefore, the full $100 million, he said he would have to sell a minimum of 309 of the 340 lots at an average price of $275,000.

“We’re confident this is a very special part of America that people are going to discover,” Hendricks told commissioners.

The founder of the Discovery Channel said the Experius Academy, which will open in June, will offer weeklong retreats for individuals and groups to explore questions about science, technology, medicine and other topics. The academy and the Discovery Channel are partners in the production “Curiosity: The Questions of Our Life,” a five-year, 60-episode series that will premier next year.


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