STORIES OF THE YEAR – WESTSIDE, 2016
Sharing first for the second straight year are the Cimarron and (now complete) Fillmore interchange projects, both of which started in 2015. Other transportation-related stories in the Pioneer's top 10 are the Chestnut Street emergency bridge replacement (3), the long-awaited start of the No Man's Land/Adams Cros-sing project (5), the initial stage of the Centennial Boulevard reconstruction between Garden of the Gods Road and Fillmore Street (9) and the first year of 2C “road tax” work (10).
Non-transportation topics in our top 10 are the end of the annual car show in Old Colorado City (4), a quest to preserve the Mesa in the face of overall development (6), a proposed expansion of the Penrose-St. Francis hospital plan on the Mesa (7), and the relocation of Silver Key from the Westside (8).
Fillmore - Completed in July by SEMA Construction after a year and a half of work, the $15.1 million project upgraded an interchange originally built in 1960. The work featured two new bridges and two lengthened ramps, but the highlight was the region's first diverging diamond interchange (DDI), a cost-saving design in which Fillmore motorists switch sides as they drive over the interstate. Asked how this configuration is functioning after about six months, project spokesperson Ted Tjerandsen reported improved traffic flow and no DDI-related accidents. “The only problems are people running red lights, and that happens all over town,” he said.
Cimarron - The old freeway bridge over Cimarron Street/Highway 24 was torn down in November, and work is continuing where it was to build the rest of the new bridge. I-25 traffic in both directions has been temporarily aligned onto the half that was built just west of it earlier in 2016. In January, contractor Kraemer North America plans to open the new northbound off-ramp (although it won't be set up yet with its eventual triple-left turn lanes) and the new southbound off-ramp. Also in progress this winter are the northbound on-ramp, the Cimarron bridge over Fountain Creek (just east of the interchange), pedestrian bridges over Monument and Fountain creeks and preparations for Cimarron Street to have four lanes again by June. Overall completion of the $113 million is anticipated by the end of 2017.
3. Chestnut bridge. City engineers - along with area drivers - breathed a sigh of relief Nov. 12 with the successful reopening of this busy frontage road between Vondelpark Drive and Ellston Street. It had been closed from August 2015 to November 2016 because of a collapsed underground stormpipe. In response to that, the city sped up the replacement process as much as possible, from design to construction - although a public process was included, which led to the arch design of the culvert that will carry both the South Douglas Creek flow and a pedestrian walkway. As a non-traditional type of bridge, the $3.9 million project required contractor SEMA Construction to dig a pit about 100 feet wide by 50 feet deep to install the culvert while redirecting utility lines and the creek flow itself.
4. Last Good Times Car Show. For years, increasing city costs and regulations have made it harder for community groups to hold events in public parks and streets. Such issues were behind the decision to shut down the free, annual classic-car display in Old Colorado City after the last one Aug. 21, according to the car clubs that had sponsored it for 25 years. A telling fact was that the required cost for police presence had become greater than the money raised for the charity that had inspired the fundraiser in the first place. For the show, 400-some car owners from around the region would pay to display restored/unusual vehicles along Colorado Avenue between 23rd and 27th streets, with Bancroft Park rented out for a band, event coordination and award presentations. The shutdown announcement also raised questions about city priorities, when it later emerged that city staff's response to car club concerns about Old Colorado City street/park costs had been to propose the downtown as a better deal.
5. No Man's Land/ Adams Crossing. This multi-government endeavor, which took over a decade to move from concept to final design (including a higher-than-expected cost of $30.9 million), at last broke ground in December and is slated to continue into late 2018. Early work is utility related. Also known by its government study name - Westside Avenue Action Plan - the project will redo a roughly 1.5-mile stretch of Colorado Avenue west of 31st Street. Changes will include a new bridge at Columbia Road (Adams Crossing), storm sewers and underground electric lines and (in places where they're missing
6. Mesa vision. In the last few years, land developers have begun taking a stronger interest in the one-time cattle-grazing area known as “the Mesa” - roughly defined as Mesa Road and Fillmore Street between Centennial Boulevard and Uintah and 30th Streets. When proposed projects started showing higher density and taller buildings, some nearby Mesa Road residents objected, citing city Comprehensive Plan language about preserving mountain views and integrating “natural features” into building projects. City Council agreed, reversing Planning Commission in February on a large, proposed retirement home south of Fillmore. A subsequent, well-attended citizens' meeting endorsed a “vision” for the Mesa that incorporated the preservation goals and urged their application in future Mesa land deals.
7. Penrose-St. Francis' Mesa plan. In 2015, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services gained City Council approval for a potentially 12-story hospital and other tall medical facilities on 50 acres northeast of Centennial Boulevard and Fillmore Street. In the fall of 2016, P-SF officials proposed expanding the project area by 30 more acres. A neighborhood meeting in November gave the plan mixed reviews - area residents supported the hospital idea but not the high-rise aspects - and the medical organization was reminded of the new development “vision” for the Mesa (see Story #6 above). An informal group of residents and citizen leaders are working with P-SF officials on the details, with the hope that more land for the site will mean buildings that aren't so high.
8. Silver Key's move. Since 1978, Silver Key Senior Services had provided various types of aid to indigent elderly people in Colorado Springs from a building on 2.75 acres in the 2200 block of Bott Avenue. But over time the building showed its age while the city continued to grow east. Meanwhile, the nonprofit organization was expanding, in terms of clientele and programs. After a lengthy effort, Silver Key officials bought a 6-acre site at 1625 S. Murray Blvd., which provides more space for the thrift store, kitchen, pantry, offices and meeting rooms; consolidates transportation services, and allowed the addition of a dining area. The old Bott property now belongs to the ownership of Colorado Green Chili, which is working with the Craddock Companies to rehab the building and turn some of the space into offices and warehouses.
9. Centennial Boulevard reconstruction. Paving on parts of this four-lane arterial between Garden of the Gods Road and Fillmore Street had not been replaced for more than a quarter-century, and it showed. A $9 million Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) project, started in September, is rebuilding the roadway. The initial segment - described by city engineers as being the worst portion - is between GoG Road and Chesham Circle. The work there in 2016 required digging out the old pavement and medians down to the dirt. Before winter, the contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure Co., paved two southbound lanes and started building the new medians. Centennial is temporarily realigned to four lanes, with the balance of the project to be completed in 2017, starting in March, the schedule shows.
10. Road tax. Approved by city voters in 2015, the 2C road-repair program - funded by a .62-percent sales tax - started in 2016 and is to sunset after 2020. Over that five-year span, Public Works has designated (pending emergency changes) 35 Westside street segments for paving overlays out of nearly 300 citywide. Paved on the Westside in 2016 were 19th Street from King Street to Mesa Road, 21st Street from Cimarron Street to Lower Gold Camp Road, Bijou Street from Chestnut Street to I-25, Glenn Street from 19th Street to Stepping Stones Way, Wheeler Avenue from Westend Avenue to 21st Street and all the roads in the Garden of the Gods.
11. Camp Creek flood-proofing. A $1.1 million project on Camp Creek last fall - stabilizing the channel and its banks upstream from
the Pleasant Valley neighborhood - was the first of two major creek improvements budgeted by the city in 2016 and 2017. The other is a stormwater detention pond (estimated cost: $7.8 millon) at the north end of the Garden of the Gods. Federal/state grants are covering most of the cost of both projects. The pond's construction is scheduled to start in June. The 17-acre site will replace a smaller, temporary sediment pond that filled up rapidly during heavy spring rains in 2015. An environmental assessment predicts that the pond's 175-acre-foot capacity will “reduce the peak outflow rate in the 100-year event to less than half of the inflow rate, thus greatly reducing the size of the floodplain through the Pleasant Valley neighborhood.”
12. Avenue two-laning study. Manitou/ Colorado Avenue once consisted of four lanes all the way to the Colorado Springs downtown. In 2004, Manitou, at the urging of merchants who believed slower traffic would help business, slimmed the well-traveled roadway through part of town to two lanes. In 2017, that alignment is to be extended east, past Manitou's Highway 24 interchange. There, it will eventually match up with the just-started WAAP project (see Story #5 above), which is planned to continue the two-laning east to about 31st Street. What will happen then? And what about bicycle lanes? Colorado Springs officials are hopeful that a $90,000 study of traffic issues between 31st and 21st streets will recommend answers. Public meetings are anticipated in 2017.
13. Land - construction. The Westside remains popular with builders for commercial and residential construction. Most prominent in 2016:
Gold Hill Mesa - Residential construction continued to move forward. Especially visible was 21st Street's widening between Lower Gold Camp Road and Broadway Street, allowing new townhomes to go in around the northeast corner of those streets. Also, the ownership partners completed a widening/paving of 21st Street along the edge of the Gold Hill property - from Lower Gold Camp Road to Broadway Street.
Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence - Remodeling finalized the 16,000-square-foot, two-story building at 530 Communication Circle in March 2016. Providing programs and resources for veterans transitioning to private life, the privately funded facility had 3,021 visits during the year, according to Mt. Carmel Director Robert McLaughlin. Under construction a few hundred feet away (and due to open in 2017), at Communication Circle and Moreno, is Mt. Carmel's 7,500-square-foot, one-story health and wellness facility for vets.
Uintah Bluffs - Planning, grading, utility work and road construction began for this 31-home development on a 13-acre plateau south of Uintah Street. Construction of homes should start this spring, according to developer Matt Craddock. Access will be from Manitou Boulevard. A drainage detention pond is being built near the dead end of Dale Street.
Health Care Resort of Colorado Springs - Offering temporary rehabilitation (97 beds) and assisted living (28 beds), this two-story, 82,000-square-foot structure opened in April at 2818 Grand Vista Circle (off Fillmore Street, across from Coronado High School).
HSPPR Admissions and Lost & Found Center - As part of a multi-faceted expansion and renovation project, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR) opened this two-story, 13,145-square-foot addition which adds kennel space and includes separate waiting areas for cats and dogs.
Fillmore West Retail Center - An International House of Pancakes and a 100-room Best Western Hotel are being built northwest of Fillmore and Chest-nut streets (across from the Kum & Go) in this 13-acre commercial center. Both will open in 2017, center developer John Gatto said.
Water tank on Mesa - In a year-long project, Colorado Springs Utilities replaced its 50-year-old, 5-million-gallon water tank with one built next to the old one (which has since been demolished) off Manitou Boulevard. The project, required for maintenance and modernization reasons, had no effect on the southwest Colorado Springs residents the tank serves.
Old Bristol School - Houses on four lots have been built on the north half of the original Bristol Elementary site (dating back to 1903) in the 700 block of Walnut Street. One house represents a major remodel of a 2,300-square-foot classroom building that was erected in 1951. The other three are contemporary-styled homes facing onto Walnut Street.
Spruce Apartments - A four-story elevator structure has been an eye-catcher as part of the construction that started in mid-summer 2016 on this 46-unit apartment building at 22 N. Spruce St. Completion is expected in late 2017.
Pub Dog - A spring opening is anticipated for this barn-styled brewpub being built in the 2200 block of Bott Avenue. It's designed for people who want to eat out with their dogs.
14. Land - plans. These are prominent Westside development proposals:
Sentinel Ridge Senior Living - This was the submittal that dramatized concerns about oversized construction on the Mesa (see Story #6 above). The Senior Qualities Lifestyles Company (SQLC) of Texas proposed a facility south of Fillmore Street with more than 400 units for independent living, memory care units, assisted living and skilled nursing care. A reworked SQLC plan is expected in early 2017, according to Mike Schultz of City Planning,.
Indian Hills commercial - Olson Plumbing, a 100-year-old Colorado Springs company, wants to buy a 13.3-acre property along the west side of the future Centennial Boulevard extension and construct a building for itself and others that it would lease out. The desired location is across from the previously built Indian Hills Village townhome development off Van Buren Street.
Sacred Heart addition/ reconstruction - A submittal in November to City Planning depicts a three-phase vision to upgrade the nearly century-old Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 2030 W. Colorado Ave, remove its two adjacent buildings, add new construction, and in so doing create a significantly changed viewscape along the north side of the 2000 block.
Fillmore Apartments - A concept plan and zone change request were submitted to the city in August for what would be an 84-unit apartment complex on Fillmore Street between Coronado High School and Centennial Boulevard. At the end of 2016, plans were being reworked based on geo-hazard issues, Schultz said.
Robbin Place - It's only three duplexes, but the proposal at 543 Robbin Place riled the neighborhood because of a city regulation loophole that limited discussion, despite hillside and compatibility concerns. Late in 2016, developer Paul Rising resubmitted plans in a way that should allow full input by citizens and any appointed/elected officials hearing the matter.
15. Centennial Boulevard extension. The final pieces of this new roadway between Fillmore were 90 percent designed at the end of 2016, according to Aaron Egbert of City Engineering. He said a contractor will be hired this year - to construct the so-called “missing link” (550 feet) to connect two existing segments between Fillmore and Van Buren streets. The remaining stretch (about a mile) between Van Buren and Fontanero/I-25) can't be built until a residential land developer (whose property straddles the route) mitigates an old dumping area, Egbert explained. As part of public outreach, the design was updated in late 2016 to include a crosswalk near the Madison Street dead end that will give the Mesa Springs neighborhood nonmotorized access to trails and open space areas west of Centennial.
16. Leadership changes. Moving away in 2016 were Jocelyne Sansing, manager of the Old Colorado City Library since 2008 (to a similar post in her home state of Wisconsin); and Jamie Bequette, supervisor of the Bear Creek Nature Center since 2011 (to become a Peace Corps volunteer in Guyana). A replacement at the library is to be determined, with branch supervisor Trish Blakely serving as the interim (see article on Page 5). At the Nature Center, the new supervisor is Mary Jo Lewis, who had previously been the director of environmental education at a nature center in Pennsylvania.
17. In memoriam, 2016.
April 19: Bonnie Frum, 70, the operations director at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center from 1997 to her retirement in 2012.
May 12: Ron Buchanan, 68, a volunteer who led major upgrades to the Bear Creek Dog Park as president of its friends group from 2004 to 2015.
July 23: Ventura Ruiz, who co-owned Henri's restaurant in Old Colorado City through the latter half of the 20th century. It was nine days after her 106th birthday.
Aug. 18: Donna Scheeter, 70, who led the Bear Creek Nature Center from 1992 to 2007, including its 2000 building replacement after an arson fire.
18. General election. Democrat Pete Lee won a fourth term as the District 18 representative, while Republican Stan VanderWerf was elected to replace Westsider Sallie Clark (term-limited after 12 years) as District 3 county commissioner. School District 11 lost a bond issue/mill levy override bid that would have included building work at West Middle School, Howbert Elementary and Academy ACL Charter. Donald Trump, en route to being elected U.S. president, visited Colorado Springs three times, including an October rally at the Norris-Penrose Event Center.
19. Broadway bump-outs. Over a decade after the city agreed with residents about slowing Broadway Avenue traffic, a state Safe Routes to Schools grant paid most of the $243,000 cost to improve two intersections (including a stopsign at 25th Street) and repair sidewalks along Broadway near Mid- land Elementary. Each intersection (at Calvert Avenue and at 25th) now features “bump-outs” which cut the former 50-foot Broadway crossing distance in half, according to the Safe Routes grant request. From 2006 to 2016, city-installed temporary yellow markers had defined the bump-out zone at Calvert - remnants of a “traffic calming” program that the city discontinued in 2010.
20. Business notables.
Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado (JA) - Separate donations of $500,000 and $250,000 moved JA close to its $3.9 million fundraising goal in 2016. Located in Old Colorado City since 2015, the nonprofit that gives young people an interactive understanding of private enterprise plans to have its eighth-grade-focused Finance Park built by this fall, according to Carrie McKee, president and CEO.
Buffalo Lodge - With new ownership, the venerable Buffalo Lodge on El Paso Boulevard is being rebranded as a “bicycle resort.” This work includes upgrading the property, remodeling units, promoting the location to the growing trend of bicycle tourism and brainstorming ways to make it a go-to site year-round.
Parking Exempt District - Colorado Springs City Council approved expanding Old Colorado City's parking exempt overlay district a block to the west. The district now also takes in the business properties in the 2600 block of Colorado Avenue. The change had been requested by the advisory committee of the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District, with the justification that the three large, free district parking lots can handle the bulk of the parking needs.
MMJ store seeks to fit in - Moving into a storefront with floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows, the JP Wellness medical marijuana ownership sought to give its façade a compatibly historical look and feel, with old bicycles and other collectibles. The idea was to “keep the flavor of Old Colorado City,” co-owner Dustin Divitto said.
Dairy Queen closure/ Pizza Hut relocation - Between them, they had 83 years on the old Westside. (See two articles on Page 3.)
Honorable mention - A movie (“Our Souls at Night”) starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda was shot in Colorado Springs, including the use for about a month of two historic houses on West Pikes Peak Avenue… The annual Coronado High School Homecoming Parade in Old Colorado City came close to sharing the fate of the Good Times Car Show (see Story #4), but Principal Darin Smith hopes that a new fundraising effort will cover increasing costs… No trial date has been scheduled yet for Robert L. Dear, who is charged with murder in the November 2015 mass shooting at the Planned Parent-hood building on Centennial Boulevard that left three dead and eight injured. Dear remains in custody but has not been deemed mentally competent to stand trial… The Old Colorado City Foundation (OCCF) again raised money for Bancroft Park with its fourth annual Taste of OCC in May. City Parks is seeking money (in addition to the OCCF's roughly $30,000) to cover the rest of the estimated $180,000 cost for new public restrooms there, a Parks spokesperson said… Crea-tive detours were needed when 19th Street between King Street and Mesa Road closed to traffic in both directions for several weeks last summer. Colorado Springs Utilities needed the street to replace an aged water main so it would be done before a contractor under the city's 2C program came in and paved the uphill segment later in the year.
Westside Pioneer article