New residential and commercial development could come to historic Holy Cross Abbey property in Cañon City

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The Holy Cross Abbey property in Cañon City.

The historic Holy Cross Abbey property on the east side of Cañon City might be the location of a new residential and commercial development.

The 187-acre site once housed a monastery and Catholic school. Currently, there’s a winery, events center and offices plus other residential and commercial uses.

Cañon City's City Council unanimously approved the preliminary rezoning plan that would add more than 850 new residences, along with additional commercial, retail and open spaces, although council members asked to have some clarification and analysis of lot sizes. It's on the agenda again Monday, Dec. 6.

Councilmember Dolly Gonzales said they need to consider the density of homes and the character of Cañon City.

“We heard a lot of people frustrated with the future of what might happen next to their homes,” she said.

The proposed Cañon City Commons at the Abbey planned development district, or PDD, calls for 25 different planning areas, specifying housing options that range from apartments to so-called estate homes on lots about an acre in size. It also includes a variety of mixed-use spaces including retail, office space, parks, trails and recreation areas.

The development plan calls for respecting the history, architecture and people of the area, including using the historic structures and maintaining operations of the winery and events center. The existing monastery would be turned into a hotel.

A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency helped fund public input and design meetings for the property. 

The history of the site was detailed in the proposal submitted to the city. Benedictine monks started the Holy Cross Abbey and opened an all-boys Catholic school during the 1920s. The four-story red brick Collegiate gothic style building off of State Highway 50 in Cañon City is a recognizable landmark to many people, according to the proposal.

When the school closed in 1985, the property was listed for sale, but taken off the market to preserve the historic buildings. The Country Green apartments, Towne Shopping Center and Quality Inn Motel, all located in unincorporated Fremont County, were developed in the area, according to the proposal. Twelve acres on the west side of the property were sold to Lindner Chevrolet. By 2002, the church began shutting down the Abbey as a religious institution.

The city annexed the property in 2004. At the time, the city zoned it for general commercial uses near Highway 50 and low-density residential further away from the highway. Currently, besides the winery, there’s an event center, state corrections department offices and overnight accommodations in the former nunnery, according to the proposal.

On-site, there’s also a 10-plus-acre detention pond dedicated to the city as well as a water ditch and a small cemetery.