‘Rita’s’ location to become strip mall

       A 20,000-square-foot strip mall is proposed for the former Western Sizzlin'/Rita's Fajitas site at the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Highway 24.
       The redevelopment is being organized by an investment group including Colorado Springs broker John Egan. Calling itself “8th and 24 LLC,” the group paid $2.5 million for the 2.36-acre property in June, according to Assessor's Office records.
       Plans call for the 10,000-square-foot restaurant building, built in 1987, to be remodeled to house three businesses - an as-yet-unrevealed Chinese restaurant and two national tenants - while a slightly larger new building would be added just east of it, in what's now parking lot space.
       The new building would allow up to eight units of 1,400 square feet each. A national fast-food chain has already leased part of that space, Egan said in an interview this week.
       The project will include a new façade for the existing building so that it will match the new one. The overall look will be that of “a retail strip center, but it won't be plain jane at all,” Egan said, describing a “unique” exterior that will include copper roofing and stucco elements.
       The upgrades to the older building are to begin in about two months, with completion anticipated over the winter. As for the new building, a preapplication has already gone to the city, and planners are “pretty happy” with it, he said.
       Eventually, Planning Commission and possibly City Council would have to sign off on the proposal. Egan had no timetable for how soon that will occur.
       The location was chosen because of the busy location (88,000 vehicles a day). Also, in the most current Westside Highway 24 expansion plans by the Colorado Department of Transportation, that corner is not needed for its proposed interchange (in which the highway would go over Eighth Street).
       “We feel this is an underserved area,” Egan said. “The traffic is incredible there.”
       He noted that the property became available after the bank repossessed it from previous owners Rip and Janice Blackwood. They had operated the Western Sizzlin' there for five years before changing it to a 400-seat concept restaurant (Rita's Fajitas Mexican food) in December 2005. The restaurant lasted only about half a year before closing. The place has been unused ever since.
       Egan has been involved with commercial redevelopments in other parts of the city. On the Westside, he recently helped bring in new tenants for the multi-unit, freestanding building in the Office Depot parking lot on South Eighth Street, he said.

Westside Pioneer article