STORIES OF THE YEAR – WESTSIDE, 2017
But it was a highly unscheduled calamity that forced its way to number 1, even edging out completion of the new Cimarron/I-25 interchange.
1. Bancroft Park. Colorado Springs Parks had no plans for Bancroft in 2017 until a mysterious fire - perpetrators never found - badly damaged its bandshell late one night in January. Between an insurance pay-out and City Council allocations, the bandshell was repaired, with upgraded wiring, a security door in front of the stage and handicapped-access ramp in back.
However, a side effect of the work was the bandshell being unusable all summer, which hampered the Taste of OCC, Territory Days and Car Show events.
In April, taking advantage of council's concern, Parks led a one-month public process, resulting in a two-phase “action plan,” approved by the Parks Advisory Board.
Phase 1 was the bandshell. Phase 2 includes a new restroom by Colorado Avenue and a new playground. Also on the list is the removal of the pavilion (because vagrants use it for a hang-out, Parks officials say), which would let the park interior be redesigned into what's called a “plaza” layout. However, city progress has fallen behind the action-plan schedule, and now it's uncertain if there's enough funding for all of Phase 2.
Going into a public meeting Jan. 11 (see Page 9, Westside Happen-ings, for details), only the restroom appears likely to be built before summer. In any case, the city has pledged not to work in the park during event season again.
2. Cimarron/I-25. Now named after local Pearl Harbor survivor James “Jim” Downing, the new I-25 bridge over Cimarron Street - along with the interchange as a whole - has been fully open to traffic since October.
Contractor Kraemer North America started building the $113 million interchange replacement in April 2015.
Dave Watt, project manager for the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT), said the wider bridge structure, with auxiliary lanes on either side and a Cimarron realignment that eliminated one of the stoplights, has “eased congestion from merging vehicles, and the [pre-project] backups from exit ramps have been reduced.”
The project also included longer ramps, a rerouted Midland Trail, creek improvements west to Eighth Street, completion of the three-laning of I-25 through central Colorado Springs and the new “quadrant” shortcut that takes traffic away from Eighth and Cimarron.
Downing, 104, a 24-year Navy veteran, is the second oldest survivor of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. Since the mid-1950s, the Colorado Springs resident has been involved with the Navigators, an international Christian ministry located at Glen Eyrie, off North 30th Street.
Colorado Springs passed an ordinance in 2010 prohibiting public camping. Since then, however, responding to pressure from homeless advocates, the city ceases enforcement when the overnight shelters are full. That has been the case most of this winter, with homeless numbers reportedly on the rise - despite a 10- year city plan to “end homelessness.” The situation is fluid, but in December the Gold Hill Police Division (which includes the Westside) estimated 1,400 people without permanent residences vs. 1,000 shelter beds.
In addition, the city instituted a new policy this winter, allowing the camps - roughly estimated at 500, with many along Fountain Creek on the Westside - to have “warming fires.” With this policy came pledges that police and fire officials would be monitoring the camps to confirm that applicable safety rules (under “recreational fires” in the International Fire Code) are being followed.
Anticipating citizen concern about fires where laws otherwise prohibit them, a press release from the Fire Department cautioned that “these fires are not always hostile in nature and may not require a 911 response from the CSFD or CSPD.”
4. Westside Avenue Action Plan. After demolishing the north half of the old Colorado Avenue bridge over Fountain Creek in September, contractor Wildcat Construction has moved steadily forward on steps to build a replacement structure.
Expected to open to traffic before summer, the bridge is the featured item in the $30.9 million, multi-government Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) project, which is rebuilding 1½ miles of the avenue west of 31st Street.
The bridge's southern half is being temporarily retained to allow one lane of traffic each way. The location is the avenue's creek crossing at Columbia Road and the Midland Trail. The new bridge will be named Adams Crossing - as it was known for decades - in honor of Charles Adams, a prominent 19th century local businessman and nationally recognized diplomat who lived on property that's now inside the Garden of the Gods RV Resort.
Another WAAP focus, starting this year, is to develop a nonmotorized “plaza” in the short-block segment of Ridge Road between Colorado and Pikes Peak avenues. (See article below.)
A separate project - but which affects detours around WAAP - is one by Colorado Springs Utilities to replace a major water line along El Paso from Manitou Springs and then up Columbia Road. Blocking one or both lanes of traffic at times, that work will last till spring, according to the project timeline. A CSU official has apologized for the project occurring at the same time as WAAP, explaining that the old line, installed in 1934, had failed sooner than expected.
5. Bicycle-race issues. Two large-scale, on-street bicycle races last summer thrilled numerous spectators but caused some problems for Westside traffic, businesses and neighborhoods.
The larger of the two events was Stage 1 of the four-stage Colorado Classic Aug. 10. With 160 team-affiliated riders, several of them internationally known, the race had separate men's and women's events and a total of eight identical 15-mile “laps” through the Colorado Springs downtown and Westside.
As a result, several Westside streets - including lengths of Colorado Avenue, 30th Street, Mesa Road, Uintah Street and all the roads in the Garden of the Gods - were closed throughout the day, hurting businesses and causing traffic jams on the roads that were open.
Although pronouncing the event a success, city officials set up an online survey to hear complaints and suggestions for the next Classic, which is tentatively set for 2019.
Beyond that, Westside advocate Welling Clark has urged the city to let neighborhood representatives join in the race planning next time, to avoid foreseeable conflicts.
The other race was the Mavic Haute Rockies June 30, which numbered 400 riders and used unscheduled streets because of a delay in the start. The course change kindled an apology from the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation, the local coordinator for both Mavic and the Classic.
6. Centennial Boulevard - two projects.
This major four-lane traffic carrier got major attention in two places in 2017.
Centennial reconstruction project, Garden of the Gods Road to Fillmore Street - Contractor Kiewit Infrastructure Co. finished this $9 million project in November. Work had started in August 2016.
Improvements featured new pavement (much of it starting from ground level), drainage corrections, utility work, sidewalk/curb fixes, median relocations and striping for bike lanes.
The previous medians had included landscaped segments. Two of the new medians are landscaped too. “They “sit higher than the previous medians to help protect the plants from plowed snow and de-icing chemicals,” explained Ryan Phipps, the project manager for Colorado Springs Engineering. “We planted 38 trees (American Lindens and Japanese Ivory Silk), 130 shrubs (evergreen and deciduous) and about 550 grasses and perennials.”
Centennial extension (planned from Fillmore to Fontanero Street) - Activity by three contractors started in November on Phase 1 of this $10.45 million project.
Scheduled to last till May, Phase 1's road-building element has been contracted to Dwire Earthmoving. The company is building new roadway to fill a 600-foot gap in what was paved years ago between Fillmore and Van Buren Street. The gap is north of Mesa Valley Road and downhill from the segment that goes past the VA Clinic.
Other Phase 1 work, by the two other contractors, involves the removal of the long-closed/vandalized Sondermann Park restroom, as well as buildings on two properties in the new Centennial right-of-way off Fontanero.
The project will conclude with Phase 2, in which the new road from Van Buren to Fontanero will be built. The city timeline calls for that work to start in 2019.
The funding source is the Pikes Peak Rural Transporta-tion Authority.
7. “Deannexation,” 100 years late. The Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) sponsored an all-in-fun “revote” of the election a century ago that ended Colorado City as its own town.
This time it went the other way, with 6,914 saying yes to it being annexed into Colorado Springs and 17,946 saying no. The results were announced at the OCCHS' annual Founders Day celebration in mid-August.
No one could say why the “anti-annex” sentiment was so overwhelming, but some historians perceive lingering antipathy, especially after the decline that the Westside fell into before its resurgence in the late 1970s, when civic leader Dave Hughes redubbed its former downtown “Old Colorado City.”
The revote was blatantly unofficial, with people allowed to cast as many ballots as they wanted from April to August. It turned into a $250 fundraiser for the History Center, because every vote cost a penny.
8. Garden of the Gods plans. Although the city's quick removal of the “blue frame” at High Point drew the most publicity, three significant long-term changes at the Garden of the Gods were quietly being planned in 2017 through Colorado Springs Parks.
All are in response to the free-access locale's increasing popularity, with visitation estimated now at 4 million people a year.
Shuttle service - A conceptual scenario would have visitors parking in designated lots, probably just in the warmer months, then being transported through the Garden on buses. If designed effectively, the service could “alleviate congestion, improve emissions, enhance access and provide a better visitor experience to Garden of the Gods Park,” a City Parks statement reads. Public meetings are anticipated in 2018.
Gates - Metal swinging gates were installed in 2017 on all the roadways into the Garden, except the main one at Gateway Road, which is still under design. There is no schedule yet for implementing the city's overall plan, which is to provide the capability to close the park to cars overnight, when maintenance is needed or during special events.
Restrooms - After a public process in the fall, the Colorado Springs Parks Advisory Board approved a staff plan to expand restroom facilities in the Garden. Although funding is an issue, the intent is to start by building a larger replacement for the current building at the heavily used North Main Parking Lot. Currently it is the only year-round restroom in the entire park, with another open only seasonally.
Contractors paved parts of seven principal Westside roadways under Colorado Springs' 2C “road tax” program in 2017.
Paved in 2017 were the following:
The 26th and Uintah projects included restriping for bike lanes. To make room on 26th Street, the city widened the road for a block and a half across from Fairview Cemetery and eliminated about 30 on-street parking spaces between Robinson Street and Westend Avenue.
On Uintah, sharrow symbols (to show that cyclists are allowed but there isn't space to give them lanes) were also imprinted between 17th and 30th streets.
Looking ahead to 2018, two segments of 21st Street and parts of three other Westside streets (24th, Walnut and Gold Camp Road) are scheduled.
2C is the name of the city-sponsored ballot measure that voters approved in the November 2015 election. It established a .62 percent sales tax over a five-year span (2016-2020), with funds dedicated to concrete upgrades (as needed) and paving.
10. Car show. After the 25th Good Times Car Show on the third Sunday of August 2016, its volunteer organizers announced that it was the last. City costs had made the annual Old Colorado City event too expensive.
Along came Ace Cosley. A business owner and classic-car owner who does event promotions on the side, he believed he could find enough sponsors to keep the event alive. And he was right. When the third Sunday - the traditional date - rolled around, sure enough, OCC had a car show once again - about 400 vehicles parked, as always, along the closed-off avenue between 24th and 27th streets, and a live band in Bancroft Park. There's just one difference. The name. The Good Times Car Show really did end after 25. Cosley's was the first annual Old Colorado City Customs & Classics Car Show. But as far as most of the thousands of car-admiring attendees knew, nothing had changed.
11. Westside commerce. 2017 saw a plethora of significant business doings on the Westside.
The sale of Pikes Peak National Bank, announced in May, was still awaiting final federal approval at the end of 2017. The buyer-to-be is Antoun Sehnaoui of Beirut, Lebanon.
PPNB was started by Westside business leaders 60 years ago.
A benefit of the sale will be additional banking services and increased capital to allow expanded operations, according to the Sehnaoui group.
Otherwise, “everything will still be the same” for bank customers, said current co-owner and CEO John Georgeson...
Koscove Metal celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2017. Still within the same family that started it, the recycling business has been at 431 W. Colorado Ave. for about half of that century. Current owner Joe Koscove has run the operation since buying out his father Jack and uncle Marvin in 2003…
Pub Dog restaurant opened in April at 2213 Bott Ave. The brewpub was the first dining establishment in Colorado to legally allow people to eat out with their dogs, according to project developer Scott Downs and his daughter/business owner Tara Downs. The duo had to get a state health requirement changed to make it happen…
The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) joined the long-time Waffle House in providing “syrup synergy” at the intersection of Fillmore and Chestnut streets. The IHOP is the second business - after Kum & Go in 2014 - in the 13-acre Fillmore West Retail Center development northwest of the Fillmore/I-25 interchange...
A third business is nearly ready for operations at Fillmore West. It's a four-story, 100-room Best Western hotel that was in its final construction stages at the end of 2017…
The 7-Eleven at 1011 S. 21st St. shut down between May and December so the old building could be demolished and a replacement store built on the same site. It's a convenience store with gas pumps, like before. But it does offer something the old one didn't: landscaping…
The $10 million International Health and Wellness Center (IHWC) at 3314 Mesa Road had its ribbon-cutting in June. Open to the public, it's part of the Garden of the Gods Collection, a luxury resort and properties off Mesa Road, formerly known as the Garden of the Gods Club…
The club also invested in a development project just behind the Wellness Center, at Mesa Road and Kissing Camels Drive, consisting of 17 single-family residential lots, 20 casitas (small houses) on their own lots, relocated tennis courts and a new outdoor pool…
The 22-year-old Albertsons grocery store in the West Wind shopping center, 4405 Centennial Blvd., was rebranded as a Safeway in 2017. A Safeway spokesperson said no major service or product changes were planned…
Agia Sophia, a coffee house started in 2006 by the Westside's Saints Constan-tine & Helen Orthodox Church, closed. Over a century ago, the structure had been the former city hall for Colorado City at 2902 W. Colorado Ave.
The two-story locale had been unique for its lounge space upstairs and large selection of books (many about the Orthodox faith), for customer perusal.
12. Old Colorado City. The Westside's downtown presented various news topics in 2017:
Police presence. Working out of the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District (SIMD) building now are the two Westside officers on the Colorado Springs Police Department's DART (Downtown Area Response Team). They often walk a beat or use bicycles to cover OCC and the Colorado Avenue corridor.
OCC traffic study - A city-contracted traffic study of Colorado Avenue between 21st and 31st streets - focusing particularly on OCC between 24th and 27th - produced more questions than answers. The study looked into necking the roadway down to one lane each way and/or expanding the sidewalks, but found no consensus among businesses or residents.
Special events - The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group sponsors special events annually and reported strong turnouts for the Mad Hatter in March, Taste of OCC - a Bancroft Park fundraiser through its Old Colorado City Foundation (OCCF) - in April, Territory Days in May, Giant Pumpkins in October and Christmas Stroll after Thanksgiving. (The Safe Treats Halloween event is organized by Kasten Accounting.) In 2017, the OCC's Santa was moved to its Welcome Center after being situated at Bancroft Park's cabin for many years.
Seasonal displays - If Old Colorado City looked a bit brighter during the holiday season, it wasn't by accident. The OCCF started a grant program offering to pay $50 of the utility bill for any merchant agreeing to put up Christmas lights outside their stores…
13. Land - construction.
Gold Hill Mesa - The largest development on the Westside is nearing residential build-out with Filings 9 and 10 atop the old tailings dam. (See article, Page 1.)
Uintah Bluffs - With houses finally being built this year in the Uintah Bluffs subdivision, developer Matt Craddock commented that “they look even better than I imagined.”
“There was a lot of sweat, a lot of tears and lot more money than we ever expected to spend,” he added. “But it's worth it.”
The 31-lot project takes in the north and west portions of an otherwise undeveloped 13-acre hilltop plateau, accessible by a new public street off Manitou Boulevard that was part of the project.
Craddock acquired the property in 2005, originally considering apartment units, then townhomes before settling on single-family about two years ago. Issues along the way included the steep terrain and drainage control.
Sacred Heart - February is when completion is expected for major improvements to the church and areas around it. The exterior work involves a new roof, stucco and paint on the church building and elimination of the narrow alley behind it; inside, the renovations feature handicapped-accessibility, a new boiler, air conditioning, added seating and floor and ceiling restorations.
Walnut Street/Mesa Road - Properties/houses with long histories are being renovated by Carl Bourgeois, who's known for revitalization work in Denver.
He had a contractor pull building permits for 1065 Mesa Road (opposite Bristol Park), which has an 1895 house on 4.1 acres surrounded by a low stone wall; and at 944 N. Walnut St., which has an 1899 two-story house on just under a quarter-acre.
According to a 2015 article by Bill Vogrin in the Gazette's Side Streets column, the properties had been owned for some 60 years by members of the Llewellyn family, and they were not well maintained.
Bourgeois, who could not be reached despite numerous messages left at his Denver business number, also bought two other nearby properties from the Llewellyns in 2016 - a 1900 house on 1.68 acres at 1012 Cooper Ave. and 2.66 acres off Mesa Road. The total of cost for all the properties was $1,115,000, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office.
14. Land - plans.
Hospital on the Mesa - The tallest building in the future Penrose-St. Francis Health Services hospital complex on the Mesa will be no more than 165 feet high.
In May, Colorado Springs City Council approved a revised project concept plan - including that height limit, reduced from the original 200 - for the future facility northeast of the intersection of Centennial Boulevard and Fillmore Street.
In addition to height, the council vote lets 28 adjacent acres - purchased by P-SF in August - be added to the 51-acre project area that the elected body initially approved in 2015. The new acreage had been used for many years as an asphalt batch plant, most recently Martin-Marietta (which has relocated elsewhere in the city).
Going into 2018, Penrose-St. Francis had not yet submitted any development plans, which would be necessary before construction can begin.
Fillmore Apartments - After a zone change and concept plan approval from City Council, Challenger Homes submitted a development plan to the city for a 91-unit apartment complex on 5 acres at the southeast corner of West Fillmore Street and Grand Vista Circle, in an area of the Westside known as “the Mesa.”
The submittal can be approved administratively; however, Challenger has agreed to work with Mesa residents concerned about density, design, height, landscaping and other details.
15. Robbin Place. In November, a construction crew poured 28 of the required 40 caissons for the six-unit Robbin Place townhome project, only to have the city issue a stop work order after residents complained.
This incident fit in with the two-year saga leading up to it. Neighbors of the hillside site (between the west 500 blocks of St. Vrain and Boulder streets) have steadily opposed the project, citing compatibility, land stability and fire safety concerns.
Developer Paul Rising only gained City Council approval this fall when a motion to uphold a neighborhood appeal of a Planning Commission decision failed in a tie vote.
The stop-work decision was based on the city position that Rising had failed to obtain the necessary grading permit and to make certain “technical modifications” on the plat that council had approved.
For his part, Rising said he thought the council action authorized the caisson work, that he had not been told a grading permit was required and that the caissons he did put in have helped shore up the hillside.
The project is expected to restart eventually, and the city plans no penalties against him.
16. Election ballot issues. All four ballot issues/questions on Westsiders' ballots passed in the Nov. 7 election. These were:
17. Paint the Town Blue. After 11 years of summer concerts in Bancroft Park, the Pikes Peak Blues Community (PPBC) had to relocate to Thorndale Park in 2017, due to the fire that charred the bandshell in January followed by repairs that lasted into September.
But the relocation didn't go badly. In fact, “there was so much enthusiasm for Thorndale from the people attending” that the free “Paint” shows will likely return there in 2018, according to PPBC spokesperson Jim Sesters.
At Thorndale (located at 24th and Uintah), bands play in the 4-acre park's covered pavilion, facing toward a slightly uphill grassy area where people can set up portable chairs and/or dance.
Sesters gave four reasons for the decisision: Thorndale is a “natural amphitheater” for sound, has a playground (helpful for attendees who bring kids), has “great shade trees” and has “less homeless people to deal with.”
PPBC is a nonprofit consisting of area musicians and their supporters. “Paint the Town Blue” typically offers 10 or so concerts between June and August, with a different local band each time.
In 2017, new leaders came on board with several prominent agencies/groups on or directly affecting the West-side. Elected to Colorado Springs City Council was Richard Skorman, representing District 3, which includes the southerly part of the Westside, including Old Colorado City. At West Middle School, Shalah Sims, who had been the principal since 2015 of West Middle (grades 6-8) and Elementary (K-5), now heads the middle school only; and Karen Newton, formerly middle school assistant principal, is principal of West Elementary.
Other new leaders are Sean Mandell, Gold Hill Police Substation; Janina Goodwin, Old Colorado City Library; Thomas Zelibor, Space Foundation; James Thompson, Organization of Westside Neighbors; Welling Clark, Alliance for the Historic Westside; Kristy Milligan, Westside CARES; Ken Norwood, Westside Community Center; Dave Brackett, Old Colorado City Foundation; Karen Cullen, Old Colorado City Associ-ates; and Jody Barker, Alzheimer's Association (Central Colorado).
19. Arveson Shrine. The property once known as the Arveson Shrine at 3540 W. Pikes Peak Ave. has been cleared of those trappings and has a new owner whose plans are not yet known.
From the 1960s until the early 2000s, the daughters of Rose Arveson, believing her to be a Christian saint, had offered the quarter-acre site - where they also lived - as a free place for anyone wanting to come in and seek spiritual solace. Most prominent to passersby was a metal arch spanning the driveway entrance off Pikes Peak with a cross above it, and a sign reading “Saint Rose E. Arveson Shrine.”
But both daughters had died by 2011, and the shrine fell into disrepair until it was finally sold in September 2016 and again in March 2017. It is now owned by a Cascade-based entity named Atlas Development LLC.
20. In memoriam. Three prominent Westsiders...
Beverley B. “Bev” Disch, 91, a retired schoolteacher, eight-year president of the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) and co-founder of the Pleasant Valley Swim Club. She died in October 2017.
Joel Beck, 70, a Vietnam War veteran, builder, retired operating engineer, 34-year blood donor and community volunteer. He died in February 2017.
Marie Pemberton, 96, who had owned and operated the Maverick Motel for 25 years She died in January 2017.
Honorable: mention. Discouraged by lack of support from most El Paso County Health Board members at their December meeting, a nonprofit agency abandoned plans (for now, at least) to open a needle exchange program for intravenous drug users in a church at 21st and Broadway streets. If approved, the program would have been the first in El Paso. Supporters said it would make drug users safer; opponents argued that it would do nothing to reduce their habit…
Despite privacy fears by the neighbor whose property line it's next to, a formal trail through a vacant lot was backed by Colorado Springs Planning Commission in September, legalizing a longstanding walking shortcut for Holmes and Coronado students. Supporters with the Friendship Lane/Crescent Lane neighborhood's HOA had built the roughly 85-foot-long path - nicknamed the Tolerance Trail - in the past year, connecting Friendship Lane with Pioneer Park.
The construction was made possible by a supportive neighbor who bought the vacant lot…
The Westside Community Center organized its first “Community Picnic” in August, attracting about 250 people. The free event included a celebration of the neighborhood effort that had gone into building a playground in the mid-'90s when the site at Bijou and 17th streets was still the Buena Vista School. City Parks installed a new playground there in September…
A project this fall and winter upgraded the city's King Street detention pond. The pond collects runoff from homes on the hillside above King. According to city engineers, the $518,829 project improves water quality, in part by slowing the pond's flow into city storm drains en route to Fountain Creek. The contractor was Langston Concrete of Florence.…
The Avenue Merchants group donated $1,200 to the Colorado Springs Police Department, requesting that the funds help its Downtown Area Response Team (DART). DART provides specialized police coverage to the downtown and the West Colorado Avenue corridor, including Old Colorado City. Started in 2010, the Avenue Merchants consists of about 10 businesses along West Colorado…
Bristol Elementary, a K-5 District 11 public school at 890 N. Walnut St., won a $15,000 grant this fall from the Colorado Succeeds program, a non-profit coalition of business leaders that seeks out and recognizes public schools that are having a “transformational impact” on Colorado education…
Ten suspects - one of them an illegal alien with federally reported gang affiliations - were arrested in connection with the murders in March of Coronado High students Natalie Partida, 16; and Derek Greer, 15. Five are to be tried for murder.
Westside Pioneer article