Commercial center proposed on former Palmer House site

       A major commercial center has been proposed on the site of the former Palmer House hotel at Fillmore and Chestnut streets, northwest of I-25's Fill-more interchange.
       Called the Palmer House Re-develop-ment, plans for the roughly 14-acre site “include a hotel, bank, gas station, three restaurants, an office building and several other buildings for retail stores or restaurants,” according to the “Project Statement” in the application submitted recently to City Planning.
       The commercial space on the plan totals just over 75,000 square feet in eight buildings, plus a 200-room hotel for which no square footage is shown. The property is bounded on the east by Chestnut Street, on the south by Fillmore, on the west by industrial and commercial businesses and on the north by apartment houses. The current Conoco gas station at the northwest corner of Fillmore and Chestnut is separately owned and is not part of the development.
       The Project Statement is part of the development application filed with the city by NES, a private planning company. NES represents property owner/ builder John Gatto of Crestone Development, which is doing business on this project as Bella Fortuna, LLC. He had bought the Palmer House property last year, as well as smaller parcels around it.
       The 40-year-old Palmer House hotel, which reportedly had been losing business in recent years, was razed in December. One commercial and two industrial businesses within the 14 acres remain along Fillmore, west of the Conoco, but are slated for eventual demolition.
       The request to the city is for approval of a concept plan for the redevelopment, as well as a zone change to commercial for 1 ˝ acres that are currently zoned industrial.
       In a recent interview. Gatto said he hopes by fall to “start horizontal construction” (meaning grading, laying in underground utilities, putting in roads, and preparing concrete pads for the buildings).
       He has not lined up any anchor stores yet. “I felt we needed to work through the issues with the city before we could market the site to users,” he said. However, his overall belief, as stated last November, is that the location - near a major interchange, with significant Westside growth occurring nearby (particularly in the Centennial-Fillmore area) - is an ideal spot for redevelopment.
       According to the “Project Description and Justification,” which was part of the Bella Fortuna application, “The redevelopment of this site will offer additional retail and office amenities to the surrounding residents, as well as the general public [and] improve the appearance at this key location… The addition of active commercial uses on this site will provide additional sales tax dollars to the City of Colorado Springs.”
       The NES application also includes a geological hazard study by Entech Engineering, which states that despite the slope - the west end is about 80 feet higher than the east end of the property - there would be no issues for development. Any unstable slopes can be eliminated by grading, which will create “a series of three terraces with retaining walls that step up the slope,” the study states. The wall heights are to be 20 to 22 feet near the western and northern property boundaries and 12 feet in the central portions.
       Proposed access points would be from both Chestnut (one) and Fillmore (two). One of those off Fillmore would be a new paved drive that would line up with Sage Street.
       City departments and Utilities have provided initial reviews of the project during the past few weeks, and discussions with the developer are expected to continue for several more weeks before Planning Commission considers the proposal. The biggest issue so far has been raised by Traffic Engineering, regarding the way the proposed development works with two major traffic upgrades, envisioned in coming years in the area of Fillmore and Chestnut. (For details, see story at the top of this page.)

Westside Pioneer article