WOODLAND PARK • In a choice between two developer proposals for Woodland Station, the Downtown Development Authority last week voted 6 to 1 to approve Tava House, a steakhouse, tap house and culinary school.
Presented in June by Derek Waggoner of Woodland Park, CEO of investor group Tava House, plans for the project include a mix of commercial, retail and residential aspects. Estate agent Mark Weaver was among the group’s investors present at the August 2 meeting.
Tava House got the vote on a project proposed by Mike Williams, Chad Anderson and Mark Crozier, doing business as Forgeworks.
DDA board member Jerry Good voted alone for Forgeworks, whose initial plans focused more on a residential component than a commercial one.
DDA members Arden Weatherford, owner of the adjacent property, and David Mijares, civil engineer and consultant for Tava House, recused themselves and left the room during the process.
The six DDA board members who voted to approve Tava House emphasized the local investor connection in addition to the commercial aspect and the residential component, aimed at middle to upper income buyers. .
Additionally, the majority of council said they preferred Wagoner’s offer of $800,000 in cash for the 6.3 acres of Woodland Station, a property in downtown Woodland Park.
“On July 31, the Teller County assessor appraised the property at $96,670,” board member Al Born said. “The $800,000 is probably an appropriate value for dirt and economic opportunity. The Tava House steakhouse is an anchor facility, a launching point for the whole project.
By comparison, the Forgeworks Group offered $200,000 cash for the 6.3 acres and a reserve fund of $1.8 million for the infrastructure.
Voting no, Good expressed concern about future spending. “With Tava’s $800,000 for the property, we will likely have a request for infrastructure costs,” he said. “Clearly the best financial deal for the taxpayer and the city is Forgeworks. I think the decision was irresponsible and not in the best interests of taxpayers.
Board member Matt McCracken disagreed. “Tava House indicated that they understood there would be infrastructure costs and would work with us on those costs. I love that the Tava house is the anchor,” he said.
DDA Chairman Tony Perry referred to documents provided by Wagoner that indicate the group has a loan commitment from TBK Bank for infrastructure costs.
“It’s just a fact that the actual amount of infrastructure is yet to be determined,” Wagoner said. “Tackling potential CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) and overall infrastructure spending is not just a Woodland Station/DDA issue, but it also involves adjacent landowners and the City of Woodland Park.
Board vice-chairman Jon Gemelke referred to a project first pitched three years ago by Mike Williams, who over the years lost investors until he joined Forgeworks. “Mike Williams has been around for years, and nothing seems to have come of it. Tava House is local and they live here among us. invested his own money, and that’s saying something.
Rebecca Rudell, who was recently appointed to fill the post vacated by former DDA chairman Merry Jo Larsen who was not reappointed to the board by the city council, said she is considering the Tava project House as an attraction. “I like the vision of commercial, retail and residential, and I feel like it creates a destination,” she said. “I think the project appeals to many members of our community, not just a certain segment.”
While people with middle to upper incomes would buy the homes, there is an infill advantage, said Rusty Neal, the city council’s liaison to the DDA board and a voting member. “It would have a domino effect drawing people to the city center and freeing up space in other residential areas,” he said.
Both proposed projects come with risks, Perry said. “I think the Tava House project poses the least risk to the DDA and the City of Woodland Park,” he said. “The Tava group is a local team that has proven itself. Local matters to me.
The Tava Group understands the environmental and infrastructure challenges of the ditch and retention pond on the property, Perry said. For example, Woodland Hardware paid $200,000 for Woodland Station Lot 1 in 2012. “The DDA invested $900,000 in infrastructure costs,” Perry said, referring to a former board that used the revenue funding through tax increases to fund drainage, roads and sidewalks. “This council has a say in granting TIF approval to the proposal,” Perry said. (Tax increment financing is based on the increase in value of a property after development.)
Wagoner and Tava House investors have engaged David Weekley Homes for the residential units. But if the company pulls out of the project, Perry offered Plan B. “I know several builders who would be willing to step in,” he said.
While the restaurant is one aspect of the commercial portion of the development, Perry suggested that Wagoner contact local business owners who have expressed an interest in moving into the property.
Wagoner’s ownership team includes his wife, Nicole; Mark and Mary Jean Weaver; Mary and Alan Sekowski; Philip and Deborah Wagoner (Derek’s parents) and Chef Victor and Rhianna Matthews.
After approval by the DDA, the Waggoner team will go before the city council to ask for its approval. According to Weaver, if all goes well, the Tava House could open in the spring of 2024.
After Perry adjourned the meeting, Mike Williams approached Weaver to congratulate him with a handshake.