Size compromise paves way for Centennial extension

       At an estimated cost of $11.6 million, the 2 ½-mile extension of Centennial Boulevard from Fillmore Street to Fontanero Street would be the priciest of the Rural Transportation Authority (RTA's) Westside projects.
        Originally proposed more than 20 years ago as a six-lane road, the extension would be reduced to four lanes under a compromise agreement between the city and the Mesa Springs Neighborhood Association, which represents about 800 residents in the area south of Fillmore, west of I-25, north of Uintah and east of Sondermann Park..
        The association has historically opposed the project because, as past Mesa Springs Neighborhood Association President Paul Weeks told the Westside Pioneer, “It will cut our neighborhood in two (and) drastically change its character.”
       However, he added, “We've lost that battle.”
       The key reason is anticipated construction by different developers in the area west of Mesa Springs and north of 100- acre Sondermann Park. The closest to putting a spade in the ground is Continental Divisions' Indian Hills Village development - 80 attached townhomes on 14 acres. The project, proposed east of the Centennial extension right-of-way at the ends of two neighborhood streets (Van Buren Street and Mesa Valley Road), is tentatively set for the Colorado Springs Planning Commission March 4. However, that could slide to April, partly because of intricacies related to the extension, according to Rob Gray of Thomas & Thomas, planning consultant for Continental Divisions.
        The second and last phase of Indian Hills - number and type of homes not yet decided - will probably occur on Continental Divisions' 15 acres on the other side of the right-of-way sometime within two years, Gray said.
        By that time, another building plan near Centennial - for a medical facility on the south side of Fillmore- may be also be in the ground. The proposal by the Hill Development Corporation is currently in the “preapplication stage,” according to Senior City Planner James Mayerl. But should the plan go forward, it “would involve the extension of Centennial,” he said.
       The Mesa Springs Association does not oppose Indian Hills - on the contrary, it welcomes it, largely because the new residents will mean additional students to reverse the declining enrollment at Pike Elementary, Weeks said.
        Uncertainties about the extension include when it would go through, whether it will be in stages or all at once, and how the city will coordinate its construction with the different developers. Such matters are still under consideration, based on Westside Pioneer communications with Gray, Weeks and city staffers, and could very well be topics of consideration when Indian Hills goes before the Planning Commission.
       What “terrifies” the association, Weeks said, is the prospect of Centennial initially being built from Fillmore to Van Buren - a potential cost-saving outcome if the RTA does not pass. He said such a scenario could result in excessive “cut-through” traffic, probably along Mesa Valley and Van Buren, by non-local motorists seeking shortcuts around the Fillmore/I-25 interchange.
       “Now we're saying (to the city), 'If you're going to build it, build it all the way through,” Weeks said.
        At the same time, he said the association “will do everything we can to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.”
       City Planner Larry Larsen said city staff also opposes such a partial connection and “would work to not allow that to happen.”
       When complete, the extension would include a bike path and a hiking trail, City Transportation Planning Manager Craig Blewitt said.
       He said developers will help with the project by contributing to its cost as they build in that area.
        For instance, Continental Divisions would be required to build the 1,150 feet of Centennial that runs through its property, Gray said. The company would have to put up a bond to ensure completion.

Westside Pioneer article