May 2, 2013 Updated: May 2, 2013 at 9:40 am
Downtown supporters won't have to wait much longer for Curbside Cuisine, a collection of mobile eateries that is set to open May 15 on the site of a former service station across from Palmer High School.
The mix of food trucks, trailers and carts was to open last June near Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon Street, but the Waldo Canyon fire and other issues delayed the project and resulted in moving to a new location after officials with the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region agreed to host Curbside Cuisine at least on a temporary basis. The YMCA owns the former service station at 225 N. Nevada Ave., which has been vacant for nearly a year since Denny's Auto Sales closed May 25 after the retirement of longtime owner Denny Lauer.
'We want to transform what has become a pretty big eyesore in the downtown area into a place that is an easy walk for most downtown workers where they can find a different lunch experience, ' said Sandy Vanderstoep, a former local caterer who is working with the nonprofit Colorado Springs Urban Intervention to put Curbside Cuisine together. 'Portland (Ore.) had a 15 percent increase in downtown pedestrian traffic after a food truck pod opened there in 2010. We believe Curbside Cuisine will be a draw for downtown by creating a more walkable downtown. '
Vanderstoep hopes to get city approval and sign leases with eight vendors next week and repair and repaint the former service station during the next two weekends; workdays for volunteers are planned on Saturday, Sunday and May 11. She declined to disclose the identity of vendors with which she is negotiating leases, though owners of Nourish Organics have already confirmed they plan to be part of the project. Curbside Cuisine will operate daily between 6:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. with vendors selling meals priced between $5 and $8, she said.
'Our focus is on unique, fresh and healthy food offerings, not something made in an off-site commissary of a chain, ' Vanderstoep said. 'This gives entrepreneurs a less-expensive option to test a dining idea. They can spend $25,000 to $30,000 to buy and equip a truck and come up with a menu rather than $250,000 to $300,000 for a brick-and-mortar location. We believe we have a potential market that includes 1,500 members who visit the YMCA, 2,000 to 2,500 students, faculty and staff at Palmer High School and thousands of other downtown workers. '
Curbside Cuisine has leased the building and half-acre site for six months with options to extend the lease for a year or two. Vanderstoep said the organizers hope to later add up to seven more vendors in trucks, trailers and carts and two or three related businesses in the former service station building. If the concept is successful, she said Curbside Cuisine wants to expand into other areas of downtown, including near the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and the Colorado College area, where a student-owned mobile food vendor already operates.
Vanderstoep sold Garden of the Gods Gourmet, a Springs-based catering business, in 2011 and now works as a consultant to the Alliance for a Sustainable Colorado in Denver. She is a board member of Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, an arm of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation that organized the Better Block Colorado Springs project, which closed two lanes of Pikes Peak Avenue between Tejon Street and Nevada Avenue for a day in September to demonstrate how downtown visitors would react if the street were more pedestrian-friendly.
The former service station was slated for demolition early this year, but the YMCA delayed the demolition when Curbside Cuisine approached the nonprofit about leasing the building, said Dan Dummermuth, CEO of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region. The site is eventually slated to be used for expansion of the YMCA's downtown location, he said.
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