Old Frontier Drive-in to get makeover

RIO GRANDE COUNTY— Mark Falcone’s vision for the Old Frontier Drive-in on Highway 285 just outside Center is expansive and infectious, creating a panorama of artistic events that will culturally enrich the Valley and tax revenue from Front Range visitors that could help boost the local economy.

Falcone, CEO/founder of Continuum Partners, LLC, has been involved in the re-development of Lakewood’s Villa Italia Mall, Union Station, art center condominiums in Denver and Market Square in downtown Denver, but his projects are located across the nation. One of his early developments was Zapata Ranch nearly two decades ago, resulted in a “deep personal attachment” to the Valley and contributed to his decision to tackle the Frontier Drive-In project. 

Falcone and Mike Anderson, senior development manager for Continuum, spoke to community members gathered for dinner at the Rio Grande Club Monday during an Upper Rio Grande Economic Development meeting. There the two men fleshed out a plan to turn a 9-10 acre crop corner into a space for re-creating and relaxing, using familiar half-round metal structures as a conference center, welcome center, guest accommodations for 55 to 60 and two common dining facilities.

Those nostalgic about the disappearance of the familiar drive-in will be glad to know the projector booth and screen will be retained and renovated. The old Frontier sign is currently being restored in Denver and will return with a bit of its weathered patina, complete with a few bullet holes, Falcone joked. The attractive floor plan of the restored projector room/snack station will be in keeping with a 1950s style drive-in snack bar but the design will also reflect the country location of the Frontier.

The project will include an RV park with 10-12 hook-ups, 24 cabins, 30 yurts with shared bathrooms and tent camping sites. An area for small scale agricultural production in cooperation with CSU Extension will seek out internships, Anderson said. The developers anticipate that various artists will choose to take up residence at the site where they can experience the rural lifestyle and landscapes firsthand.

Workshops featuring crafts native to the area will be held such as leather working, jewelry making, pottery casting, sculpting and other indigenous arts. Cooking events also will be featured at the center.

Native materials will be used to build the steel shed type buildings which will be finished on the inside with wood and stone. Continuum project manager Randy Bearrientez said he is looking for workers with general skills to help construct the buildings. Potato rock will be used for walkways and other local elements are incorporated into the overall design.

The project will break ground later this month and building will begin in earnest in May, Bearrientez said. The developers will partner with SLVREC and other local businesses to get the project off the ground, the developers said.

The project, to be constructed in phases, is slated for completion sometime next year.