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Pioneer's picks for top 20 Westside stories of 2014 - numbers 1-7

Recent Gold Hill Mesa homes, built around Portland Gold and Gold Hill Mesa drives (near the access from 21st Street), facing a shared grassy common area that will be maintained by the 210-acre development’s metro district.
Westside Pioneer photo
       In a year without a huge story on the Westside - not a bad thing after consecutive years of fires and floods - a range of events, projects and outcomes “competed” for the top spot in the Westside Pioneer's top 20 Stories of the Year for 2014.
       The two planned freeway interchanges (Cimarron and Fillmore) are going to have
Veterans in wheelchairs were part of a group touring the $10 million Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) outpatient clinic during its grand opening Sept. 26. It has since been officially renamed for PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom, a local man who died in World War II after receiving high awards for heroism.
Westside Pioneer photo
a massive impact - during and after construction - but both remained in the planning stages at year's end (although Fillmore was close - see separate story). Similar statements could be made for projects in No Man's Land along Colorado Avenue west of 31st Street and Camp Creek through Garden of the Gods and Pleasant Valley.
       It was only after perusing a year's worth of Pioneer articles that an undeniable sort of pattern emerged. A surge of key developments, renovations and changes - all but one of them in the private sector - boosted the Westside in 2014. A few of these have been given Stories of the Year rankings of their own, but cumulatively they amount to what we've called…
       1. Sprucing up the old place - Here's a list of significant efforts, starting with that one in the public sector:
       - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Lindstrom Clinic on Fillmore Hill, a much-needed (especially in a military town) consolidation of medical services and, in a year of VA health scandals nationwide, noteworthy for not having any.
       And on the entrepreneurial side:
       - The Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, a renovation and expansion that adds even more class to perhaps the most naturally stunning city park in America.
       - The Sentinel Ridge development, including a rehab/assisted living facility that's now in construction on Fillmore Street across from Coronado High.
       - The Holiday Inn Express, keeping the shell of the former county welfare building on North Spruce Street but getting a completely new interior and exterior.
       - Gold Hill Mesa, whose developers continue to grow neighborhoods on land they'd previously spent years reclaiming from cyanide-laced mill tailings.
       - The Palmer House Redevelopment - named after a one-time popular hotel that had to be demolished northwest of Fillmore Street and I-25 seven years ago, it's finally attracting commercial interest.
       - The Garden of the Gods Gourmet, renovating and relocating to a long underutilized restaurant site at 26th Street and Highway 24.
       - The Welcome Center, a facility to greet visitors, created by the Old Colorado City Associates business group inside a long-vacant historic house.
       - Mother Muff's, filling the restaurant/ nightclub void at Old Colorado City's mainintersection (25th and Colorado) left by the closing last summer of Meadow Muffins.
       - The Westside Outreach Clinic - a doctor on hand two hours a week for uninsured/underinsured patients in the Penrose-St. Francis Health Services' Nurses Center at the Westside Community Center.
       - The Colorado Springs Health Partners Urgent Care Clinic, open daily (but
Undeveloped parcels anticipated for construction in 2015 in the Palmer House Redevelopment are seen in this view northeast across the property. A tire store is to be built in the foreground and a retail store (name not yet announced) will be about where the trucks and equipment are, on the west side of Chestnut Street, across from the Kum & Go that opened at Fillmore and Chestnut streets in 2014. In the farther background is I-25.
Westside Pioneer photo
not 24/7) in the historic Roundhouse building.
       - MorningStar at Bear Creek, a center for Alzheimers or dementia patients, which buttresses the senior-care theme along that part of Lower Gold Camp Road.
       2. Interchange projects - After some funding hiccups that led to construction-start delays, both the $116 million Cimarron/I-25 and $13 million Fillmore/I-25 projects are on pace to break ground this year. Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials say Fillmore's contractor will reportedly get going in late January, with Cimarron tentatively scheduled for October. Both are regional-priority projects that will replace interchanges over a half-century old. Expected completion years are 2016 for Fillmore and 2017 for Cimarron. A year ago, the picture looked earlier and less expensive, with officials predicting Fillmore getting started by early 2014 (for $11 million) and Cimarron in spring 2015 (for $95 million). But bureaucratic delays in a new state transportation funding program slowed Fillmore's progress, then both projects got caught up in a statewide trend for radically increased contractor costs, which cost more time in the scramble to find additional funds, both at the state and local levels. Even now, the Cimarron budget lacks an estimated $3 million needed for landscaping, although state officials pledge that it will be taken care of somehow.
       3. No Man's Land and Adams Crossing - Since 2012, a project team
Charles Adams, standing behind Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta, helped a delegation of Ute Indians who went to Washington, D.C. in 1880 to negotiate a treaty with the U.S. government. Known for business and diplomatic achivements, Adams lived near present-day Colorado Avenue going over Fountain Creek at Columbia Road, resulting in that area being known as "Adams Crossing."
Courtesy of Uintah County Library and Clara Meury
consisting of engineers from Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and a hired consulting firm has been studying how best to implement a major upgrade of Colorado/ Manitou Avenue between about 32nd Street and Manitou's Highway 24 interchange. Although some issues still need to be worked out, that study - called the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) - is still on track for a $15 million construction project that will begin late this year, funded mainly by Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority funds. Key project decisions made so far, with public input, include reducing the traffic lanes from four to two (with a center lane), moving the roadway north about 10 feet (requiring partial property purchases) and building/designing a new bridge over Fountain Creek at Columbia Road north of the current one. A non-engineering decision that gained a citizen consensus in 2014 was to call the new bridge by the location's historic name of Adams Crossing, in honor of Charles Adams, a man of accomplishment who lived there in the late 1800s. Another public meeting is expected sometime this spring.
       4. Lindstrom VA Clinic - The new Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) outpatient clinic on the Westside's Fillmore Hill opened in August. A $10 million project under construction since a celebrity groundbreaking on Veterans Day in 2012, the 76,731-square-foot, three-story facility at 3141 Centennial Blvd. consolidates and expands medical services in the Colorado Springs area, according to VA officials. The building is on an 18-acre site on the east side of Centennial, just south of Fillmore Street. A city bus now makes a regular stop there. The clinic is named after PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom, a local resident whose heroism in World War II earned him a Medal of Honor and Silver Star before being killed in battle in 1944. The clinic construction had originally been slated to finish in May. The reason for the schedule slip was lost time by the contractor due to the heavy rains of August and September 2013, according to a VA spokesperson.
       5. Camp Creek's future - After an engineering study with several public meetings - the last of which was in April - the city and citizens agreed that the best of three alternatives
A conceptual drawing shows how the Pleasant Valley ditch for Camp Creek is envisioned after the study that ended in 2014. When built, amenities will include a channel lined with grass and rocks, and a multi-use trail along 31st Street. As part of flood safety, the channel will be wider and new bridges needed at cross-streets. But as the rendering indicates, parkways will have to be smaller and/or off-street parking reduced as a result.
Courtesy of Colorado Springs Engineering
was a $37 million plan. All the alternatives were estimated at more than $30 million, with the intent of improving the creek's flow and preventing future flooding. The chosen plan will include widening the ditch along 31st Street through Pleasant Valley (while giving it a park-like appearance and putting a trail along its side), building a detention/sediment collection pond in the north part of the Garden of the Gods, realigning part of the creek through Rock Ledge Ranch and replacing cross-street bridges with larger ones. A downside to the ditch widening is the roadway being closer to the homes on 31st, which will be at the expense of 31st Street residents' off-street parking or parkway space. For project funding, city officials are looking into different types of grants; they've also suggested phasing the work over time, using city funds that might be available.
       6. Dearly departed - Several influential Westsiders passed on in 2014:
       - Irving Howbert, the grandson of the early Colorado City pioneer by the same name. He himself had helped the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) in republishing his father's autobiography in recent years.
       - Dr. Robert (R.G.) Dunbar, pastor of the Lighthouse Temple, a Westside church that he started in 1959 with his wife Vernice, who preceded him in death in 2011.
       - Mark Hesse, founder of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI), whose work includes drainage control at the Garden of the Gods.
       - Jan Simpich, artist and co-founder of Simpich Character Dolls, who created dolls and ran the internationally popular business with her husband Bob from 1952 to 2006 (the last 28 years in Old Colorado City).
       - Dr. Richard Beidleman, a college science professor and namesake for the Beidleman Center; he is credited with leading the effort that resulted in saving what is now Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site from becoming a subdivision in the 1960s.
       - Ted Foltz, a Pikes Peak Hill Climb racing champion and member of the Colorado Motor Sports Hall of Fame. - Gene Smith, a City Parks employee who guided the historic restoration of Rock Ledge Ranch from its first public programs in 1977 until his retirement in 2009.
       7. Kum & Go gone - In 2013, the Kum & Go chain was planning to buy properties for two convenience store/gas stations on the older Westside. One of them, in the 2300 block of West Colorado Avenue, faced strong Westside opposition because of perceived incompatibility with Old Colorado City's neighboring historic shopping district, and the company abandoned the idea later that year. The other planned site was the northeast corner of 21st and Broadway streets. Probably because this seemed like a logical location - facing onto the envisioned access to the Gold Hill Mesa development's future commercial area - no opposition materialized. However, in 2014, Kum & Go backed out of that deal too, as part of an apparent pullback from an aggressive strategy that had put 11 stores in the Springs in about a two-year span. Ironically, soon after, the owner of a nearby 7-Eleven bought the 21st Street location. No plans have been announced. But there is one Westside Kum & Go. A new store/station opened in May at Fillmore and Chestnutstreets - the first development on the realigned Chestnut and in the Palmer House redevelopment project just north of Fillmore.

       Editor's note: The article about story numbers 8-14 can be found at this link and the article about story numbers 15-20 (and honorable mentions) at this link.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 1/18/15; Community: Ongoing Issues)

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