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Larimer County buys Heaven’s Door Ranch; public access open space planned

LOVELAND — In case there was any doubt, song birds will be the only regular vocalists to perform at Heaven’s Door Ranch, which at one time its owners sought to make into a Red Rocks caliber country western music performance venue.

The Larimer County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $9 million to buy the 1,547-acre property and convert it to public-access, nature-based open space. The deal is expected to close Nov. 30, 2022, after final due diligence is complete.

Larimer County will buy Heaven’s Door Ranch located west of Loveland along U.S. Highway 34. Source: Larimer County Board of Commissioners documents.

The property is located at 9800 W. U.S. Highway 34, across the highway from Sylvan Dale Ranch and north of what will be the Chimney Hollow Open Space once the Chimney Hollow dam and reservoir is complete.

The property has been owned by the Lavin family; Leonard Lavin of Melrose Park, Illinois, bought the property in July 1995 under the name 1455 Loveland Ranch LLC for $1.55 million and built an 8,433-square-foot house on it in 1996. The name was changed in December 1995 to Heaven’s Door LLC.

The house includes two pools — one indoor and the other outdoor. The property also includes a barn with a living quarters upstairs, loafing shed, tool shed, hay shed, greenhouse and utility building.

The family had placed the property on the market for $18 million, which included $11 million for the land and $7 million for 100 shares of Colorado-Big Thompson water. The county opted not to buy the C-BT water rights; the property also includes ditch water rights and well water rights, which were included in the sale.

Loveland and Fort Collins will participate in the purchase, pending approval from each community’s city council. Loveland staff is recommending a contribution of $500,000 and Fort Collins staff recommends $750,000, according to the presentation at the commissioners meeting.

The property is best known to motorists heading up the canyon as the large open parcel — there are some forested acres, too — on the south side of the highway before entering the Big Thompson Canyon.

At one time, the family owners considered creating a $25 million music venue that was to be called Serenade Park. As noted in BizWest stories from 2003, the park would accommodate 9,000 concert goers, which is about the same capacity as the Red Rocks amphitheater west of Denver. 

Shelters at the proposed venue would cover about 3,000 people with others expected to be seated on the grass. A dance floor would be included for post-concert activity. 

The proposal met with opposition from neighbors and from the county. Former commissioner Steve Johnson recalled that noise and traffic were primary concerns. Large numbers of vehicles entering and exiting the site during the summer tourism season would pose safety and traffic flow issues. 

The county will likely sell four parcels of 35 to 40 acres each at the southeast corner of the property to offset some of the purchase cost, said Justin Core, senior land agent for Larimer County. Those parcels contain the buildings including the main residence. 

“We estimated the value of the land and improvements at $8 million based on comps [comparable property sales]. We offered $8.5 million and the owners countered at $9 million,” Core said. The county accepted the counteroffer.

Assistant Larimer County manager Laurie Kadrich provided “a shout out” to the Lavin family. “They didn’t have to sell the Larimer County,” she said, but the family was interested in preserving the property as open space.

Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally, who represents the district that includes the ranch, called the property “breathtaking” and it preserves “a visible, welcoming viewshed. It’s part of the visual postcard people see as the head into the canyon,” she said.

Leonard Lavin and his family are the owners of Alberto-Culver Co. (NYSE: ACV), which Lavin bought in 1955. The personal-products manufacturing company makes Alberto VO5 products and also owns Sally Beauty Supply and multiple food-related companies. It is a Fortune 500 company.

C3 Real Estate Solutions was the agent for the sellers.

Source: BizWest