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Manitou Springs hoping to attract developers to revitalized 'No Man's Land'

October 5, 2017 Updated: October 6, 2017 at 8:27 am
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Traffic drives along Colorado Avenue Saturday, July 27, 2014, between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs in an area called "no man's land." (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

With construction under way on a multimillion-dollar revamp of West Colorado Avenue, Manitou Springs officials are shifting their focus to attracting new development to fill a stretch of the corridor once improvements are complete.

The Manitou Springs Urban Renewal Authority recently launched a new website with information intended to pique developers' interest in the stretch of Manitou Avenue just beyond the city's archway sign, where crews are now at work revitalizing the roughly 1.5-mile span of the street known as "No Man's Land" that links Colorado Springs and its neighbor to the west.

Crews broke ground in December on the roughly $30 million project, called the Westside Avenue Action Plan, or WAAP. When it's completed, the four-lane span of Colorado Avenue - which becomes Manitou Avenue - from 31st Street to U.S. 24 will become a two-lane avenue bisected by a center turn lane and lined with bike lanes, widened sidewalks and vintage streetlights. The authority is chipping in funds for the project, which is mostly funded by regional transportation tax dollars.

With the project set to be completed in late 2018, the authority hopes to partner with investors to bring new housing, hotels, restaurants and other businesses to the highly-trafficked area.

"The potential is there," said Farley McDonough, president of the authority's board. "We're ready to do business. That's what this website says."

 

The authority was created by the Manitou Springs City Council in 2006 to set aside some property tax and sales tax revenue to subsidize development in the area along Manitou Avenue from U.S. 24 to the city's eastern boundary.

The authority's 2017 budget is roughly $2.4 million, much of which is paying for improvements to the corridor, said McDonough, who owns Adam's Mountain Cafe at 26 Manitou Ave. This year's revenues included about $64,000 in property taxes. The authority will likely garner nearly $1.4 million more in sales tax collections by the end of the year, according to the city's finance director, Rebecca Davis.

The website, www.msura.org, includes facts and statistics about the Manitou Springs community and other content that developers might find helpful, including information about investing in urban renewal efforts, zoning regulations, historic design guidelines and necessary forms and fees.

According to the website, 11 parcels within the urban renewal area are considered "underdeveloped." With little new space available, developers are going to have to be creative, officials said.

"What we're looking hopefully to see is a lot of mixed use development - so, some new retail, some new restaurants, some housing opportunities," said Leslie Lewis, executive director of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.

Last year, Judi Ellias-Ochs opened a new location for her metalworking business in what was once an auto service repair shop along the stretch. While sales were up the first summer her Metal Mama's shop was operational, the construction has taken a toll, she said.

"With all of this construction going on, it's very difficult to operate a business," she said. "We're hanging in there."

But Ellias-Ochs is confident her enterprise will bounce back when the upgrades are completed. She said she was drawn to the space, situated along a well-traveled corridor with creekside views and mountain vistas.

The latest WAAP milestone happened when crews began demolition work on the Adams Crossing Bridge over Fountain Creek on Sept. 20. The iconic Manitou Springs sign was taken down at the end of August for construction and will be reinstalled next year, said Greg Dingrando, El Paso County's digital content specialist. Much of the work so far has focused on underground water lines and curb and gutter improvements along the north side of Manitou Avenue, he said.

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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