In my almost 15 years at ULI, it’s been gratifying to see real urbanism take root in our state. Compact, walkable new neighborhoods and districts are popping up everywhere. We’ve featured our members’ work toward this end in Arvada, Aspen, Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley, Idaho Springs, Loveland, Silverthorne, Westminster… and not least, our second-largest city, Colorado Springs.
On October 22, ULI Colorado’s “New South End” program focused on a former warehouse district and 82-acre urban renewal area just south of downtown.
Until recently Colorado Springs was known for sprawl (460,000 people spread over 190 square miles) and a historic but becalmed downtown. This began to change with a catalytic national ULI Advisory Services panel held (amidst terrifying wildfires) in 2012. The panel urged Colorado Springs to leverage downtown assets such as: a sensible street grid laid out by Gen. William Palmer, historic buildings, the isolated America the Beautiful Park, and the brand of the city’s Olympic heritage.
City leaders listened, producing dramatic results in just seven years. According to the Downtown Partnership, in only two square miles, downtown saw $860 million in redevelopment projects in the last year trending toward $2 billion in the near future.
Key elements include the addition of 241 new homes (after no new residential construction since the Eisenhower Administration) and construction of the $55 million U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum to open in 2020.
The program began with a 90-minute walking tour including three projects:
GE Johnson-led hard-hat tour of the Olympic Museum, sheathed in nearly 10,000 custom aluminum panels, and designed by world-renowned architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Casa Mundi, a boutique 27-home infill apartment building designed by HB+A and developed by Darsey Nicklassen, owner of DHN Planning & Development.
Cascade Park, 187 apartments developed by Nor’wood Development with Griffis Blessing. (DHN’s Blue Dot Place was nominated for a ULI Colorado 2017 Impact Award.)
Moderated by Jariah Walker, executive director of Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, the panel included:
Susan Edmondson, president of the Downtown Partnership. Edmondson covered strategic planning and investments, noting that downtown’s residential and hotel developments (“doubling the number of downtown hotel rooms”) are booming, while office holds steady with a modest employment base of 27,000 jobs.
Ryan Tefertiller, the city’s urban planning manager; discussed the Experience Downtown Master Plan (adopted 2016) and successful efforts to streamline development through form-based zoning.
Troy Coats, director of development for Neibur Development, presented the Trolley Entertainment District, the successful adaptation of a former trolley barn as an entertainment district anchoring the South End with Atomic Cowboy, Denver Biscuit Co., Pikes Peak Brewery and more.
Laura Neumann, strategic project lead for CityGate by Weidner Apartment Homes, discussed the planned Switchbacks Stadium, an 8,000-seat multi-purpose venue for professional, Olympic and amateur sports that can be expanded to 15,000 for entertainment and cultural events. The outdoor stadium will become the permanent home of the Switchbacks soccer club.
The stadium cost is estimated at $28 million plus a $40 million mixed-use development for a total of $68 million. In addition to the $10 million in state RTA bond funding, the Switchbacks will contribute another $10 million and Weidner $48 million.
Nor’wood VP Jeff Finn discussed his company’s master plan to wrap the Olympic Museum with a 240-room hotel, hundreds of apartments, 200,000 square feet of office, and a stylish new bridge broaching railroad tracks between the museum and American the Beautiful Park, also linking to 10 miles of greenways. Finn detailed the many layers of public and private financing (TIF, two Metro Districts, PIF among them) needed to fund streetscapes and infrastructure needed to create a walkable district.
Reflecting local enthusiasm for downtown revitalization, more than 150 guests attended. ULI Colorado is grateful to the Southern Colorado ULI committee chaired by James McMurray of HB&A and Jariah Walker, Colorado Springs URA; to event sponsors Downtown Colorado Springs; GE Johnson, HB&A, and Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority; and to community partners APA Colorado, ASCE, and WTS.