Public officials to hear merchant concerns for Colo. Ave. west of 31st

       Several high-ranking public officials are set to attend an informal meeting Tuesday, Sept. 29 regarding issues that 40-some merchants would like to resolve along Colorado Avenue west of 31st Street.

A Colorado Springs road striping crew was at work on Colorado Avenue across from the Red Rock Center recently. But the city (as well as El Paso County in the unincorporated areas) has been unable to afford the expensive upgrades that city engineers have identified as needed along the corridor west of 31st, including drainage improvements, sidewalks, curbs and gutters and a new bridge at Adams Crossing.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Planned at 7 p.m. at the Colorado Springs Shrine Club, 6 S. 33rd St., the meeting is also open to interested citizens
       “It looks like we have the start of a great opportunity to have a real impact on the future of the Westside area,” said Robert Maez, a business owner who's the contact person for the new group (tentatively called the Avenue Merchants Associ-ation). “I plan to do everything in my power to capitalize on that opportunity.”
       Responding to requests from outgoing City Council member Jerry Heimlicher, the retinue of officials is slated to include himself, District 1 City Council member Scott Hente, Police Chief Richard Myers, Fire Chief Steve Cox, City Engineer Cam McNair, Assistant City Manager Nancy Johnson, County Commissioner Sallie Clark, Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) President Welling Clark, and Bob Holmes and Jan Doran of Homeward Pikes Peak.
       The idea is for the civic leaders to listen to the merchants, narrow down the problem areas and start working up a plan to fix them, Heimlicher explained.
       “This is a kickoff for getting into what's wrong down there.”
       An early possibility, as Heimlicher sees it, is to have officials inspect some buildings along the avenue (ones about which the merchants have usage concerns) to verify they meet building and fire codes. This was the strategy taken on South Nevada Avenue, where Heimlicher led efforts to upgrade an area that had been troubled by blight and crime, the council member related.
       He doesn't think the problems are as severe on West Colorado and, Maez added, the area is a good place for business. But Maez said there have been problems in recent months with panhandling, burglaries and vandalism (a fire was even started a couple of weeks ago outside the liquor store in the Red Rock Center), and merchant concerns are growing about possible “places supporting prostitution and drugs. Our intent is to get rid of some of the blight.”
       The city and county have been trying for the past few years (without success) to obtain grant money to help cover estimated costs in the millions of dollars to upgrade the aging public facilities along Colorado Avenue west of 31st. That corridor is sometimes called “No Man's Land,” in large part because of its hodge-podge of incorporated (city) and unincorporated (county) land up to Manitou Springs city limits. Complicating matters further, the road itself (continuing into Manitou) is maintained by the state.
       Heimlicher, who had been involved with those grant-application efforts, even once admitted getting confused about the city portion of No Man's Land, thinking it was in his District 3, when the corridor west of 31st actually is in Hente's District 1.
       Heimlicher has announced plans to step down from council at the end of September before moving to his home state of Tennessee in November. But the District 3 council member said he would like to make a positive difference on the Westside before he goes. “I really love this part of town,” he said. “I want to leave it in good hands.”

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