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EDITOR'S DESK: OCC changes bubbling below surface

       By Kenyon Jordan

       When the “Christmas spruce” in the Old Town Plaza turned brown and had to be removed this spring from its former spot beside the clock tower, the initial thinking of Old Colorado City's civic leaders was to replace it as soon as possible.
       But that sentiment has been replaced with more of a wait-and-see attitude,

thinking about what will fit with longer-range plans for an upgrade of Old Town's “streetscape” as a whole.
       The latter subject has been coming up often at the monthly meetings of the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District (SIMD) committee, which (in attempted concert with merchants) advises the city on district tax-money usage and upgrades in general to the avenue area between 24th and 27th streets.
       Concepts under discussion include two-laning Colorado Avenue through Old Town with angled parking, redoing the 35-year-old brick sidewalks (which are showing problems with heaving), improving pedestrian circulation, shutting off at least part of Colbrunn Court to cars, eliminating the Colorado/ Colbrunn pedestrian light and making the historic shopping district more inviting as a whole.
       None of these are likely to happen this year, chiefly because plans are still in the works and additional funds are needed to make the expensive parts happen (such as the sidewalks).
       However, the SIMD has contracted with an urban planner for a two-lane design between 24th and 27th streets, and City Traffic Engineering has said it's ready to restripe the avenue that way (unless there is strong opposition from the community). OCC property owners and merchants feel some urgency to get this
The “Christmas spruce” is lit up for the season in a view looking west along the south side of the avenue in December 2009. Prematurely aging, the tree had to be removed this spring.
Westside Pioneer file photo
done, believing that two lanes instead of four will slow traffic. They're also enthused by estimates that angled parking - another part of the restriping - would more than double (from 46 to 102) the number of spaces that the current parallel parking provides.
       The city announced its readiness to remove the Colbrunn light three years ago, but has held off doing so, waiting for the streetscape plans to ripen.
       Getting back to the Christmas spruce, a drawback to planting a similar replacement is the report from City Forestry that - at about age 35 - the tree died young, and it was probably because of its urban setting next to an asphalt parking lot. Thus, another evergreen would have little chance of faring any better.
       The old spruce is now just a ground-level stump, but for 20-some years it was a prominent landmark, particularly in late Novembers/ early Decembers, when it was transformed into a community Christmas tree. The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group, usually with help from Springs Utilities volunteers, would bedeck its broad-limbed, 35-foot height with multicolored lights.
       The merchants even doubled down on the holiday theme during the early years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, dubbing it the “honor tree,” with an annual ceremony in the plaza parking lot for three years (2004 to 2006) to recognize the military.
       What might go in the spruce's old spot? A flowering type of tree (perhaps a flowering crabapple) was suggested at a recent SIMD committee meeting, as was a gold-mining ore cart (matching others that the SIMD has installed in OCC in recent years). Another suggestion has just been to leave it empty.
       In any case, here's an RIP (if that's possible) for the late spruce, and we'll see what happens next with its old spot, not to mention the streetscape plan.
       A reason for optimism is that, by ordinance, the SIMD committee must consist of city-appointed Old Colorado City property owners. Plus, an OCCA rep attends its meetings. So we can at least be assured that any changes will be in the interests of OCC… and presumably those of the Westside as a whole.

(Posted 8/1/16; Opinion: Editor's Desk)

       Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.

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