CDOT seeks to buy, raze Express Inn
Land needed for future 8th Street interchange

       A plan is taking shape that could lead to the leveling of the currently closed Express Inn at 725 W. Cimarron St.

Outlined in blue, the 5-acre Express Inn property is being eyed for purchase by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
Courtesy of CDOT

       The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is negotiating with People's National Bank to buy the roughly 5-acre property for that purpose.
       CDOT needs the land eventually as right of way for the future interchange at Eighth Street and Cimarron/Highway 24.
       The state doesn't have the estimated $1.5 million needed for the purchase right now, but could borrow it from other state projects, explained Dave Watt, a CDOT engineer, at a meeting of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board July 13. No cash flow problem would result: “We're good for the money,” he said.
       The urgency to buy now stems from the current status of the site. The 45-year-old, 120-room Express Inn had fallen into disrepair - including a bedbug infestation and other health/safety issues - under a mortgage-holder who stopped making payments last fall. A District Court ruling in early May included an order to close the hotel until more than $200,000 of specific improvements could be implemented. Soon after, the Express Inn tenants were evicted and the site ringed by chain-link fencing.
       The board did not need to vote on the CDOT plan at this time; there were no negative comments, in any case.
       “It's an opportunity to buy low,” summarized Sallie Clark, the PPACG board chair.

In a photo looking southeast, traffic on Highway 24 passes in front of the Express Inn, which has been empty and fenced off since May.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The county had tentatively scheduled a foreclosure sale for the Express Inn property July 7, but has postponed it while negotiations continue. Watt said the bank initially approached CDOT with the idea of the state buying it.
       In an interview after the meeting, he declined to say how confident he is about the sale going through. The bank is talking to other interested parties, and the state is limited to offering fair market value. Still, “If I didn't think there was a chance, I wouldn't be here,” Watt commented.
       Working in CDOT's favor is that any other purchaser would have to weigh how much of a return on its investment it might get. Based on previously stated PPACG priorities, the Eighth-and-Cimarron interchange could be built within 10 years - at which time the state would be able to require a purchase under eminent domain (although the price would still have to be fair market value)
       If, on the other hand, a developer bought the site now and chose to upgrade it in the short term, that would make “future acquisition more costly,” according to a background document provided by PPACG staff.
       Only the Express Inn would be razed, should CDOT manage to make the purchase. The separately owned Acorn gas station at the intersection's southeast corner would be unaffected (at least until the interchange is built), Watt said.
       He told the PPACG board members (who are all elected officials from governments in El Paso, Teller and Park counties) that he would be back at their August meeting to provide an update. “We're going to keep moving forward with the bank and see if we can come to terms,” he said.
       The interchange plan for Eighth and Cimarron is part of the “Preferred Altern-ative” for a future Highway 24 expansion between I-25 and Manitou as proposed by CDOT. A draft Environ-mental Assessment has yet to be completed, but Watt said he believes it will be ready for presentation at a public meeting this fall, after which it will go the Federal Highway Administration for final approval.
       An even higher priority, based on previous transportation-project rankings by local elected officials, is replacing the half-century-old interchange and ramps at nearby Cimarron/ Highway 24 and I-25. The PPACG board has authorized CDOT to spend $4.2 million on right of way acquisition, preparatory to a phased construction project (for which no money is yet allocated).
       Some of the state money to buy the Express Inn site would be borrowed from that right of way fund, with “a repayment of the funding as the highest priority when funds become available,” the PPACG document states.
       For the past three years, about half the rooms in the hotel had been used as transitional housing for indigent and/or recently homeless people. Most of them were able to move into other area motels, as reported in the May 12 Westside Pioneer.

Westside Pioneer article