Updated: February 27, 2014 at 9:59 am
A group driven by the desire to get streetcars in Colorado Springs has reached a verbal agreement to acquire the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad rail yard in downtown Colorado Springs.
There are a lot of ifs, though.
The railroad last week agreed -- at least in principle -- to sell all or part of the 20-acre property to the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation, which owns the rights to put streetcars on the city's roads.
The narrow strip of railroad property is east of downtown, flanked by Cucharras Street to the north, Wahsatch Avenue on the west, Fountain Boulevard on the south and Shooks Run on the east.
The railroad "has agreed to sell us a part of or all of the property, subject to certain conditions," said foundation president Dave Lippincott,.
The nonprofit must come up with a down payment -- 10 percent of the price -- before a contract can be finalized. Lippincott did not disclose the price.
But the deal gives the foundation time to raise money to buy the property, Lippincott said. It's an all-volunteer effort that scrapes by on donations at its present site at 2333 Steele Drive.
"We're doing due diligence now and several foundations have been approached," he said. "Matching funds will no doubt be needed, and we are soliciting individuals and corporations wishing to contribute. Use of the money is contingent on us acquiring the property, of course."
The foundation isn't the only potential occupant.
Lippincott said discussions have been held with people behind a proposed Colorado Springs Public Market and the Museum of Railway Workers, based in Boulder.
As he envisions it, the public market would be on the southern end of the property, along with the railway worker museum. On the north end, the foundation would have its trolley museum, offices and storage for its streetcars.
Lippincott said the foundation has initiated talks with a transit group in Chicago to acquire a couple double-decker cars. A local restaurateur is interested in using one of those for a restaurant on the property.
The property also could be developed as residential in some areas and could be used for parking for city events. A streetcar would transport people to events, Lippincott said.
"We're trying to set up something that could work with City for Champions," Lippincott said.
Acquiring the property, he said, "would be a very significant step for us."
Among other things, the move shows potential investors that the foundation is progressing toward the use of streetcars, and it would bring more visitors to the foundation's museum.
"It gets us downtown," Lippincott said. "It lets investors see that we are moving ahead."
LOOKING FOR FUNDS
Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation is looking for funds to help acquire the property from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
For more information, click here.