Upgrades in 500 block of Avenue

       The north side of West Colorado Avenue's 500 block has been getting transformed in recent months.
       “It's a project that lends itself as multiple different uses - retail, restaurant or office,” Westside property owner/developer Mark Cunningham said in a recent interview. “We're going to completely change the face of the block.”
       With the exception of Lee's Liquor at the corner of Walnut Street, Cunningham's business entity owns all of 500's north side, comprising a total of 45,711 square feet of land and 22,337 of building space.
       The 500 block is part of what's known as the Near Westside or the Westside's Gateway. Located just west of the interstate, the area has not been a retail hotspot for years, but Cunningham is enthused by the Rex Tire renovation a few years ago and the Emergicare headquarters/clinic that opened on Bijou Street in January and sees great possibilities for the future. “Entertainment and dining are in the immediate area; there's good access to America the Beautiful Park, to trails and downtown (partly in conjunction with the I-25 widening project); and large parcels are in there that could be redeveloped,” said Cunningham, who also serves on the city's Planning Commission. “It could be a very vibrant gateway area if it's done with imagination.”
       His upgrade effort in the block started a few years ago with a modern style for the former supermarket at 522 W. Colorado Ave., which Cunningham had bought in 1999. He called it “Five West.” The recent work is continuing the Five West look in the parcels he purchased in 2005 at 506, 508, 512 and 516 W. Colorado.
       Although it's no longer evident, those buildings are even older than 522, which went up in 1946. The building dates for 506, 508/512 and 516 are 1904, 1921 and 1933, respectively, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office.
       Cunningham would have liked to restore the exteriors to their original appearance, but decided it was too late. “It's sort of too bad that previous owners covered over their historic nature with stucco,” he said. “You can't go back to the way they looked before because that's been obliterated.”
       The remodeling is being done in an open-ended manner, so that different kinds of tenants might be able to fine-tune the interiors to suit their purpose.
       The contractor is Murphy Constructors of Colorado Springs, which has handled numerous redevelopment projects on the Westside and Manitou Springs since the 1960s. Kevin Murphy, son of business owner Chuck Murphy, agrees with Cunningham that “the timing is good” for the improvements. Colorado Avenue traffic may be difficult now because of the I-25 bridge work, but when that's done later this year the avenue will be more attractive for travelers and “back to its heyday for traffic flow,” he said.
       The 516 building was the first to reflect the Five West look, with 506 nearing completion.
       The 508/512 space, which used to house the Hide 'n Seek restaurant/bar, may be the most visually distinctive when all the work is done. “It will be completely reworked,” Cunningham said. He is bringing back a historical amenity there: a pedestrian walkway between the street and a rear parking lot. The project will reopen that path, along with a driveway.
       “It's a unique piece of property,” Cunningham said. “There's a lot of flexibility. It just needed a new facade, new systems and a little better access.”

Westside Pioneer article