Energy succeeds where housing developers can't

by Sarah Gilman

If you're looking for a parable of the post-housing-bust West -- where the real estate economy appears to have crumbled while the extraction industry roars back with a vengeance -- you might find one in the troubled Banning-Lewis Ranch on Colorado's sprawling Front Range. The city of Colorado Springs annexed the more than 21,000-acre property, which stretches along its eastern edge, in 1988. The land was slated to host enough housing for 175,000 people and 76 million square feet of commercial, office and industrial space. But its most recent owners filed for bankruptcy last October with just 300 homes built. This summer, Ultra Petroleum bought 18,000 still-undeveloped acres with plans to drill for oil and gas. The purchase coincided with the company's acquisition of some 100,000 acres of leases in the greater area, where it intends to drill its first exploratory wells this winter. City staffers are discussing their options and will work with city council and the mayor to determine what to do. "The master plan was done, the streets laid out, parks, all of the facilities had been determined. ... Quite a lot of work went into getting to that point," says city spokesman John Leavitt. "The city's position until now has been that we want homes there. We don't want other types of uses there."

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