Ore cart theme continues in Old Colorado City as Maintenance District unveils ‘news condo’

       For years, hard-plastic news racks of various shapes, colors sizes and degrees of disrepair have proliferated in Old Colorado City, much to the dismay of its Security & Maintenance District.

Metal sculptor Bear McLaughlin (left) and apprentice Teresa Turner stand beside McLaughlin's ore-cart-styled "news condo" at 26th Street and Colorado Avenue after its installation Dec. 30. The creation effort was spurred by the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Not that the district's board members are against newspapers or freedom of the press. As they've commented at meetings going back several years, they just want the area to maintain its historic look and feel.
       Their answer to the dilemma appeared Dec. 30 on the sidewalk at the southwest corner of 26th Street and Colorado Avenue. Informally called a “news condo,” it's a hand-built steel structure, designed to approximate the appearance of a gold-mining ore cart - including wheels on a track - with partitioned slots for up to 10 newspapers.
       The board endorsed the design about two years ago in keeping with continuing efforts to populate Old Colorado City with actual old-time ore carts (four of them so far).
       About 6 ˝ feet wide by 5 feet high and weighing an estimated 700 pounds, the unit was built to the board's specifications by Bear McLaughlin, a life-long Westsider who does metal sculpturing for a living from her Bear Studios near Old Colorado City.
       “This is a major art piece,” enthused Kathy Read, a board member who drew up the original design and who has known McLaughlin for years, in part through her (Read's) annual Folk Art Festival fundraiser for Rock Ledge Ranch. “Her heart and soul were in it. She's a neighborhood kid.”
       “It's big, but oh so cool,” commented Judy Kasten, another board member.
       The Dec. 30 installation event included city employees and district board members, along with McLaugh-lin and her apprentice, Teresa Turner.
       “It took a lot of welding and trimming,” McLaughlin said of the project. “It was like building a custom cabinet out of steel.” Typically a decorative sculptor (she also did the metal “cocapelli” at Old Colorado City's Flute Player shop), she thanked the board members for giving her the opportunity to do “functional art” as part of their “tireless effort to help our little area.”
       Technically, the piece is not quite done. To finalize the ore-care image, the board's plan is to obtain some rocks from a Cripple Creek gold mine and glue them together on top of the unit.
       Nor is the district done with news condos. A second McLaughlin-built box, just like the one at 26th and Colorado, is ready for installation on the sidewalk on the south side of the avenue's 2400 block, near the Colbrunn Court crossing point. An installation date was still being worked out with the city this week.

On the southwest side of 26th and Colorado, City employees and members of the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District had to move existing racks to make room for the new ore cart-styled "news condo" (background left, with door being opened) as part of the installation effort Dec. 30. Under a city resolution, publications with racks at a site where a condo goes in have to use it, as long as it has room.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The district's condo strategy follows a City Council resolution that allows individual, privately owned racks in the public right of way to be replaced with a single condo (or “newsrack cluster,” as the resolution defines it) capable of holding numerous publications. The idea is to enhance safety, aesthetics and even publication access.
       The resolution designates the downtown and Old Colorado City as places where - because of the prevalence of individual racks - such condo/clusters can go in. The downtown has had some for years, although none were built by local artists.
       For a short time at 26th and Colorado, people may still see some individual racks around the condo. Sue Matz, the city's revocable permit coordinator, said she has notified the rack owners, and they have up to 10 days to pick them up. If the owners fail to do so, the city will take the racks to a storage garage at which the owners can come and pick them up later.
       The Old Colorado City project took so long because it was hard to come up with a design that would satisfy the city and not be too expensive. Acceptable condo locations have proved elusive too. McLaughlin expressed frustration with her year in the process. “It was challenging dealing with all the meetings and city bureaucracy,” she said. “We're trying to make our neighborhood prettier, so the city should be helping us.”
       The city still has some concerns. Matz said she doesn't think the Maintenance District has provided enough slots for publications at 26th and Colorado. She said she has counted as many as 10 news racks at that corner, 4 of them for paid papers - but the new condo only has two potential “paid” slots.
       Kasten said she does not think space will be a problem, and has even noticed a drop-off in publications in recent years; also, the district will not be bothered so much if the paid racks stay where they are because they tend not to be as unsightly.
       The day of the 26th-and-Colorado installation, five free-publication racks were there, and one of these appeared abandoned. After moving them to make room, city officials and board members transferred the contents from the four active racks into slots in the new condo. After board members invited in the Westside Pioneer, there were still three vacant slots for free papers. This situation stayed unchanged through Jan. 4, and the two paid-paper slots also remained vacant. (Note: Paid-paper owners would need to install their own coin mechanisms.)
       On a permanent basis, Matz said the owners of publications must apply to her to be in the condo and those that had individual racks at the site before will get precedence. The cost for a slot is $40 a year.
       The Maintenance District is an entity with its own taxing powers (on properties within Old Colorado City), but the district falls under Colorado Springs government jurisdiction; also, its board members are appointed by the city.

Westside Pioneer article