EDITOR’S DESK: No ‘big box’ at Gold Hill Mesa

       It's hardly a story the big media are going to fight over, but to this l'il ol' Westsider, it's quite the gee-whiz. Whoever heard of a land developer turning down a Lowe's Home Improvement store?
       Yet that's what Gold Hill Mesa developer Robert Willard did two years ago. He also says he'd do it again. He has this "village concept" for the 214-acre property, and a massive big-box store didn't/doesn't fit that vision.
       Putting aside admiration for his principles, this is flat-out good news for the Westside. For over half a century, Gold Hill sat there - a polluted souvenir of the romantic gold-milling days. But everyone knew that someday, someone with a big enough bankroll and plenty of guts would come up with a plan to build on it. The question, for the many of us interested in what makes the Westside tick, was what form that development would take. In such a prominent area, a cookie-cutter, anywhere-in-America development (such as those littering the Colorado Springs eastside) could have been devastating to the embattled Westside ethic.
       Now it appears we're safe from such a fate. And I don't say that just because of the Lowe's matter. This is not the first time Willard has shown he cares about more than making money. Some developers hold neighborhood meetings because the city says they have to. Willard held such meetings, plus plenty on his own, years before he broke ground, because, as he explains now, he wanted to hear what his neighbors had to say and to get across what he hoped to do. (It paid off, as things turned out: Zero opposition when he went to City Council last year.) More recently, he went beyond the clean-air requirements to ensure that potentially damaging amounts of toxic chemicals don't blow off the site. And, his residential design plans reflect a clear effort to replicate the best historic styles we have here.
       Nope. Not a story the big media will fight over. But then, they don't live on the Westside, do they?

- K.J.