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Council decision gives data center project a boost, developer says

March 25, 2011

Vince Colarelli’s phone started ringing only hours after the City Council approved his request to designate 108.5 acres he owns on the city’s south side an urban renewal site.

Colarelli wants to turn the old Vineyard Golf Course and the Pikes Peak Vineyards winery into a state-of-the-art business park with data centers and a power plant.

The urban renewal designation, which the council approved on a 5-3 vote Tuesday, allows the project to use tax increment financing, or future revenue from taxes on the property, to pay for park, road, storm water, sewer and other public improvements.

“It was absolutely a trigger for a number of the discussions we’re having right now,” Colarelli said Friday.

“Since Tuesday evening, I’ve had conversations with six different prospects, most recently one today, all of whom are very interested in this project,” he said. “They were waiting to hear about the urban renewal declaration before they took their next step.”

The request encountered opposition, especially since the council took — as Councilman Randy Purvis put it — “an awful lot of grief” over a vote last May to designate about 200 acres of vacant land on the north side of Colorado Springs as an urban renewal area.

The urban renewal designation for the site of the proposed Copper Ridge retail complex is supposed to allow most of the future sales tax revenue to be used to complete a 4.5-mile stretch of Powers Boulevard from Colorado 83, through the Copper Ridge site and onto Interstate 25.

“As I’ve looked at urban renewal designations, I’ve always insisted that the public get something for its money,” said Purvis, who, along with Councilmen Tom Gallagher and Sean Paige, voted against the urban renewal designation  for the Vineyard project Tuesday.

“I don’t understand the blight finding,” Gallagher said at the meeting. “This was a golf course and yet you found slum conditions. This was a vineyard with growing vines and stuff until the scrapers went in and removed all that stuff. Did we construct blight?”

A finding of blight is the first step in designating a property for urban renewal. In December, the city’s Urban Renewal Authority voted unanimously to accept a Denver-area consultant’s report that found several blighted conditions, such as deteriorating and dilapidated buildings and a faulty street layout, exist on the land.

In contrast, the Urban Renewal Authority had rejected the Copper Ridge plan, saying only decaying areas deserved urban renewal status — and that the undeveloped land on the suburbanlike north side didn’t qualify.

Councilwoman Jan Martin, at Tuesday’s meeting, voiced concerns about the viability of a proposed waste-burning power plant at the business park but said she was willing to move forward with the project.

“I’m all about jobs these days,” she said. “I think this project does provide that opportunity.”
Over a 10-year period, the project is expected to create 300 to 400 permanent jobs and 700 to 800 construction jobs.

“If we approve it and (Colarelli is) successful,” Councilman Scott Hente said, “we bring a lot of money in, we can do a lot of infrastructure changes and we create a lot of jobs.”

Colarelli said he appreciated the council’s willingness to move the project forward.

“It lets us go out and complete the process for bringing financing to the table. In addition, it helps us secure the tenants that we’ve been working so hard to mature at this point,” he said.

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