Architect who authored Manitouís guidelines hired for Westside overlay effort
Steve Obering, who wrote the City of Manitou Springs historical guidelines several years ago, will take on a similar task for the Colorado Springs Westside.
A member of the firm of Yergensen, Obering and Whittaker (YOW), the long-time area architect was selected by Colorado Springs Planning; his contract was approved this week by the State Histori-cal Fund.
Obering's task is to create design guidelines that would help Westsiders appropriately remodel front facades on older homes in a (yet-to-be-created) voluntary historic overlay zone. Plans call for the guidelines to be complete by December, at which time the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) - which initially proposed the project and has been working with City Planning on the effort - will convene three public meetings to let people review Obering's work.
Tim Scanlon, the city's historical planner, said he was pleased that Obering agreed to take the job. "He has experience developing guidelines and he understands historic architecture," Scanlon said. In addition, the architect "has a knowledge of municipal policies, has resources in his office and has demonstrated a willingness to help the city in the past. In 1988, he gave us a slide show that we still use to illustrate historical architecture."
Kristine Van Wert, who chairs an overlay subcommittee for OWN, has not yet met Obering, but is looking forward to it. "We've always thought very highly of the Manitou Springs guidelines, and now that we find out he wrote them, everyone is pleased," she said.
Obering himself said he is eager to get started. YOW is on the city's preapproved list for private architectural work, and he had previously helped the firm with Old Colorado City streetscape design. "Tim contacted me and said he needed a consultant," Obering explained. "I've always enjoyed the Westside and its historical character, so I was very interested in being considered."
The state and Colorado Springs are each paying about half of the $25,000 contract. Assuming the guidelines are met with favor, the next step would be establishing the overlay zone itself, which would ultimately require public hearings and City Council approval.
With help from the OWN subcommittee, Scanlon has already done some advance guidelines work, including a breakdown of architectural types and forms, decisions on how much (or whether) different buildings "contribute" to the area's historical value and an analysis of development patterns throughout the Westside's nearly 150- year construction history.
So that will be Obering's first job - to review all the work to date, Scanlon explained. "After that, he'll write up a summary of what he's found and what needs to be done."
The guidelines will need to be detailed enough that people could use them to restore any type of historically contributing building in the prospective overlay zone.
Scanlon said that from his review work he believes he has some inkling of how the Westside grew so eclectically. "You might see two or three houses in a row that are very similar," he said. "I suspect that a builder would buy those lots, build the homes, then build elsewhere. They weren't the large subdivisions that were found in the post-World War II era."
As a result, Scanlon said, there is a "huge variety" of homes in the older-Westside neighborhoods north of Highway 24 where the overlay is proposed. "It may be that diversity will be the dominant characteristic of the Westside - large lots next to small ones and minimal traditional homes next to Queen Annes."
Obering's hiring comes almost exactly a year after the city had hired another architect for the job (recommended by OWN). But he resigned last spring, unhappy at his work being found unsatisfactory by Scanlon and the state. None of his work is being used for the current effort, according to Scanlon.
OWN is the city-recognized advocacy group for the older Westside.
Westside Pioneer article