GAZETTE SPECIAL REPORT
A resurgent Colorado Springs basks in record low unemployment numbers, a soaring housing market and an increasingly burnished national reputation. But an entire quadrant of the city, the southeast, languishes in the shadows.
By: Jakob Rodgers | PART I | 11.26.17 | 6 AM
Colorado Springs is a city rising, its economy jet-fueled by one of the hottest housing markets and lowest unemployment rates in the country. Downtown is on the cusp of a residential and commercial renaissance. Cranes dot the skyline, new hotels are going up and ground has broken on the new U.S. Olympic Museum. To the north and east, new houses are sprouting in the expansive Banning Lewis Ranch.
But not all of Colorado Springs is sharing in these good fortunes. There is a corner of the Springs whose prospects have dimmed as the rest of city’s brightens, where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is stretching.
As much of Colorado Springs resurges, large swaths of southeast Colorado Springs remain gripped by poverty, its hold refusing to yield. In many neighborhoods, the unemployment rate has typically been two to three times that of the rest of the city, according to the most recent available data.Continue reading
Some southeast neighborhoods glow with pride of place, as residents vie in friendly competition for “best yard” honors. Blocks away, others despair in decrepit apartment buildings on blighted streets, saying they feel trapped.
Poverty, along with difficult home lives and personal circumstances, the absence of electronic devices outside of school and a lack of emphasis on the importance of education can count as strikes against many southeast students.
Crime and perceptions of public safety vary from one neighborhood to the next, even among those in close proximity. A tangle of stubborn social issues in the southeast that include disproportionate poverty, joblessness and related urban ills have long been linked to higher crime.
Terry Ragan’s southest apartment complexes account for more than half of all city code enforcement housing cases, and about 80 percent of all housing code violations. Police responses to the complexes more than doubled between 2003 and 2016. Astonishing numbers, but nothing much changes.
Southeast Colorado Springs has its business success stories. Advocates cite “a ton of opportunity.” Yet real estate developers say it’s tougher to launch projects there, retailers covet faster growing and wealthier parts of town, and even development leaders concede parts of southeast are a non-starter for prospective employers.
Largely devoid of the same health care resources as the rest of the city, the southeast’s residents suffer some of Colorado’s highest rates of poor physical health and mental distress.
Experts say reinvigorating southeast Colorado Springs is not impossible, but any successful effort to do so will take enlightened city policy, progressive private developers, great patience and public will.