After delighting generations of Northern Coloradans with its wacky and whimsical sculptures, Timnath’s Swetsville Zoo property is under contract with plans to develop it into a mixed-use “live, work, play community,” according to Liz Newman, managing partner for the property’s prospective buyer, McCauley Development Group.
The sale of the 36-acre property is expected to be final in December, with its development likely taking years, Newman said.
Newman said the Windsor-based McCauley Development Group envisions developing the land east of Interstate 25’s Harmony Road exit into a mixed-use community with residential, commercial and entertainment offerings. It will also include a riverwalk and pedestrian bridge along the property’s section of the Poudre River. The development’s working name is the Timnath Gateway Project, according to Newman.
“The goal here is to work with (Timnath) to create something that is beautiful and works with the town,” she said.
A similar McCauley Development Group project is nearly underway in Johnstown, where the company is planning Waggoneer Crossing, a 16-acre, 100-townhome multi-use development surrounded by retail at the northwest corner of Highway 60 and Colorado Boulevard, Newman added in an email to the Coloradoan.
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The Timnath property’s listing agency, Power of 3 Real Estate, declined to disclose its sale price during an interview with the Coloradoan on Thursday. An online listing for the property showed an asking price of $10.6 million.
Bill Swets, the property’s owner and mastermind behind its beloved Swetsville Zoo sculpture park, deferred questions from the Coloradoan to Power of 3 Real Estate early this week.
While developing the property, Newman said McCauley Development Group plans to pay homage to the land’s history as a sculpture “zoo.”
Swets, whose parents purchased the farm property in 1942, has called the property home since he was 10 months old. He grew up in its still-standing two-bedroom farmhouse and continued to live, farm and raise his family there for decades, he told the Coloradoan in 2019.
In August 1985, when Swets was looking to blow off steam after a late-night volunteer firefighter call in Timnath, he decided to weld old bicycle parts, a garden shovel and plastic light reflectors into the shape of a little buzzard, which was appropriately named Buzzard George.
Unbeknownst to Swets, he had just kicked off a decades-long hobby and a cherished Northern Colorado tradition. He continued to weld together odds and ends found on the farm, turning scrap metal and spare parts into a menagerie of roughly 180 metal sculptures − from larger-than-life dinosaurs and dragons to cowboy-boot-clad robots and giant welded wildflowers.
Soon, the Swets farm became known as the Swetsville Zoo, which still draws visitors through its meandering sculpture-lined paths.
As the land is developed, Newman said The McCauley Group plans to incorporate select sculptures from the zoo into its designs.
“We’re going to pay homage to Mr. Swets. We feel his art needs to be recognized,” Newman said.
“…. It is a part of the history of the area and it is something that a lot of people in Fort Collins hold dear to their hearts,” Newman said. “I’ve run into so many people who feel that way.”
With developments like Costco and Walmart encroaching upon the once-rural property, Swets put the land up for sale in 2019.
“It’s been in the back of my mind for a number of years, and then two months ago I finally made up my mind that this is it, you know?” Swets told the Coloradoan at the time.
It was later pulled off the market in 2020 before being relisted with Power of 3 Real Estate roughly a year ago.
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Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at [email protected] The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan today.