College students could walk and bike their way under busy North Nevada Avenue to reach a new Costco, restaurants and a city trail if a $2 million underpass becomes part of the corridor’s redevelopment.
Nevada, between Garden of the Gods Road and Interstate 25, was declared an urban renewal site by the City Council in late 2004. A year later, the council agreed to spend $34 million to rebuild Nevada to six lanes, bury utility lines and improve drainage, among other upgrades. Tax revenue from new stores, restaurants and other businesses developed along Nevada would repay bonds issued to finance the work. But the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs also wants construction of an underpass to connect its growing campus on Nevada’s east side to a planned shopping center and the city’s Pikes Peak Greenway Trail on the west side. The underpass would be similar to one on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder, said Brian Burnett, UCCS vice chancellor of administration and finance. That underpass was designed by OZ Architecture of Boulder with decorative rock and sandstone. A skylight in a median above allows sunlight to filter down, giving the underpass an airy feel. Security cameras on each end of the UCCS underpass would help ensure safety, Burnett said. “We think an attractive underpass that’s 20 feet wide, with skylights in the center, would be something that would enhance the campus’ development for pedestrians and bike riders,” he said. The underpass wouldn’t just be used by students and faculty. UCCS wants to develop a research center on 350 acres it owns on Nevada’s east side, which school officials and business leaders expect could bring new companies and thousands of employees to campus. New sports and cultural venues planned for the site also could attract throngs of visitors. The underpass was included by developers in their plans for University Village, an 80-acre, 650,000-squarefoot shopping center they plan for Nevada’s west side. Costco Wholesale Club and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse will anchor the center. The underpass should be a “high priority” because of the convenient access it would provide, said Springs developer Kevin Kratt, who’s building University Village. The underpass, however, isn’t a done deal. Its $2 million price, along with higher land-acquisition and construction costs, have pushed the tab for Nevada upgrades to about $40 million, said Chuck Miller, a Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority consultant. The authority plans to issue bonds in September to finance the upgrades, but first it will present a new financing plan to the City Council, Miller said. The underpass, which could be about 200 feet long, must have adequate lighting and visibility, Miller said. A Denver firm is designing it. “In order for these underpasses to be successful, they have to be pedestrian friendly and inviting and safe,” Miller said. “You don’t want to feel like you’re going into a tunnel. It has to be open and well lit and inviting and has to be visible from some distance.”