Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the Polaris Pointe retail complex in several references.
The city is being asked to boost its funding to extend Powers Boulevard on Colorado Springs’ far north side, which proponents say would ensure the long-stalled project’s construction while positioning the Polaris Pointe retail complex for more development.
Mayor John Suthers’ administration and Polaris Pointe developer Gary Erickson want the City Council to increase, from 1 percent to 1.75 percent, the portion of the city sales tax earmarked for the Powers work. The proposal was presented to the council Monday at its workshop session; it will be voted on later, possibly as early as March 12.
Powers, which community leaders have envisioned for decades as a north-south alternative to Interstate 25, runs along much of Colorado Springs’ east side. But the road stops at Colorado 83, and the state Department of Transportation has said for years that it has no funding to extend Powers to I-25, even though the road would serve one of Colorado Springs’ fastest-growing areas.
That lack of money prompted city officials years ago to seek an alternative funding mechanism tied to the development of Polaris Pointe, a 200-plus-acre retail project southeast of Interstate 25 and North Gate Boulevard.
In 2010, the council declared Polaris Pointe — then known as Copper Ridge at Northgate — as an urban renewal site. Critics questioned that decision, saying the grassy, undeveloped Polaris Pointe site showed little, if any, signs of blight.
In most urban renewal projects, tax revenues generated by newly built stores, restaurants, hotels and the like are used to fund wider sidewalks, utility line upgrades and other on-site public improvements. Setting aside those revenues for public upgrades is intended to encourage developers to tackle projects in blighted areas.
For Polaris Pointe, the council designated increased tax revenues from the new development to pay for the Powers extension. Of the city’s 2 percent general fund sales tax on Polaris Pointe purchases, the council agreed to set aside half of that amount to fund Powers.
Since then, Polaris Pointe has taken off. The complex is home to Bass Pro Shops, Magnum Shooting Center, Overdrive Raceway, C.B. & Potts, Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse & Tavern and the recently opened Boot Barn Hall at Bourbon Brothers concert venue, among dozens of stores, restaurants and businesses.
That development, however, has taken place north of the future Powers Boulevard as it would extend through Polaris Pointe.
A southern portion of the complex — where an enclosed mall with new-to-market stores and restaurants is envisioned — can’t be developed without Powers, Erickson said. The extension would provide access and visibility that retailers demand before they’ll commit to Polaris Pointe, he said.
The extension also would get traffic off busy North Gate Boulevard, he said. That road cuts through the northern portion of the Flying Horse development and past residences and Academy School District 20’s Discovery Canyon campus for preschool through high school.
On Monday, Erickson and Bob Cope, the city’s economic development officer, told the council that more money is needed for the Powers extension.
In addition to asking the city to increase its sales tax share to 1.75 percent, Erickson said he plans to ask El Paso County to chip in 0.5 percent of the sales tax revenue it collects from Polaris Pointe purchases. In 2011, the county commission overwhelmingly rejected funding for Powers.
Increased city and county funding would generate enough money to build an initial, $59.7 million portion of Powers from Voyager Parkway to I-25 and to upgrade the interchange at I-25 and North Gate Boulevard. Nearly $10 million of that cost is in the bank — $3.6 million in city tax revenue generated by Polaris Pointe sales and a $6.3 million water quality grant, which Erickson says could go to the road.
The increased funding also would pay to build the leg of Powers between Voyager and Colorado 83, whose early price tag is pegged at $71.6 million, Erickson said.
Council members didn’t indicate which way they might lean on earmarking more city money for Powers.
Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler said she wants to see what the county commission does first. Councilman Andy Pico, however, said the city can’t wait for the county to act.