COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - It's a project you may have forgotten about, but the troubled Banning Lewis Ranch development in Colorado Springs has quietly made a strong comeback in the past year.
In May 2012, Denver-based Oakwood Homes paid $16 million for the 24,000-acre property near the intersection of Woodmen and Marksheffel roads after the previous owners declared bankruptcy three years ago.
Since then, said Oakwood regional vice president Mike Tinlin, six builders have added 240 homes to the existing 350 homes. He said Oakwood plans to build a total of 7,500 homes by 2028 -- only a tenth of the homes planned during the next 50 years by the previous owners.
"Everyone thinks we're still in bankruptcy after the (2007-2008) recession," said Tinlin. "But we're not. We're alive and well, and back in business. I think it's better than we expected."
Tinlin said property values have risen as much as $25,000 since Oakwood bought the property.
"We're seeing 17 to 18 house sales a month," he said. "The homes are selling as fast as we can build them."
The demand means Carol Pounds should have no trouble selling her home. After moving to the ranch in 2009, she's moving to California to live with her daughter.
"It's just been a nice place to live," she said. "The family atmosphere is what brought me here and will bring others here."
The ranch includes parks, trails, a recreation center, a swimming pool and a charter school. Oakwood is considering more schools and possibly a second pool.
Jason Brockman moved into the ranch earlier this year with his wife and kids. He said he likes the area but is unhappy about problems from builder Richmond Homes. A neighbor mentioned similar problems.
"There was a sinkhole in the front yard and a leaky ceiling in the bedroom," said Brockman. "I sure hope they can fix it. We've been working on it for almost three months, asking them daily."
A Richmond spokeswoman said the company has built so many homes so quickly that it's been unable to keep up with repairs covered by the homes' warranties. She said Richmond has hired more people to address the problems.
Oakwood said oil and gas drilling in the area -- which may have discouraged potential homeowners in the past -- is no longer an issue. Except for around a dozen lots still in bankruptcy, there are no lingering problems from previous ownership, Oakwood said.