Imagine Downtown, a nearly decade-old development blueprint for downtown Colorado Springs, is getting a $300,000 update.
The goal: Take the existing Imagine Downtown plan and fine-tune it to reflect today's downtown trends, said Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership, the area's leading advocacy group.
The update will identify public and private improvements that will boost the area's economy, improve its mobility, enhance parks and open spaces and make downtown a more livable place. The update also will add items that weren't a focus of the original plan - such as emphasizing the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.
"It is an update as opposed to a brand new plan," Edmondson said. "Much of the good work in there remains, but we need to address where the market is now, which is very different than it was in 2009, as well as changes and trends in how cities are developing in very positive ways that we want to leverage."
Imagine Downtown, one of several downtown initiatives over the last few decades, identified goals and objectives for improving the area - including adding more housing, increasing retail and entertainment and bringing more employers to downtown. The plan also mapped out development and redevelopment opportunities and public improvements for downtown.
Imagine Downtown started with planning and brainstorming efforts around 2005 that involved more than 400 people; a formal plan later was assembled and adopted as a downtown master plan by the City Council in 2009.
The Downtown Development Authority, which provides financial incentives to encourage development in the area, has hired two planning firms to update Imagine Downtown: Progressive Urban Management Associates of Denver and Berkeley, Calif.-based MIG, which has an office in Denver. The firms, hired after a national search, were selected for their expertise in downtown planning and experience working with municipalities around the country.
Most of the $300,000 update cost, which the authority is funding over two years, will go toward hiring the two firms, Edmondson said. Their update is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2016, she said.
The city of Colorado Springs will partner in the update, although not financially, Edmondson said; key city staffers will serve as part of a project management team for the update and contribute time, expertise and data, she said.
The update's goals include:
- Put more emphasis on public spaces and accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicles and transit.
- Develop a market-based approach to implementing the updated plan, while understanding how national trends favor urban environments.
- Produce printed and digital materials that highlight investment opportunities in downtown.
- Incorporate numerous new community plans - such as the city's Park System Master Plan and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments' regional Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, among others - into Imagine Downtown.
Such plans - which are either complete or a work in process - contain valuable information that will help provide a road map for downtown development, Edmondson said.
"When someone is looking to invest in downtown, build in downtown, bring something to downtown, they need to know, where's downtown headed?" she said. "Currently, I have to send people to 16 different pieces and plans and parts and components, and lots of data in different places."
Instead, downtown needs a single document that instantly spells out the location of bike lanes, a future transit center or other kinds of development in the area "so that they (developers) know how to make good decisions about investing in downtown," Edmondson said. "We don't really have that kind of document and that kind of information in an easy manner."
Imagine Downtown followed the Downtown Improvement Plan of the early 1990s and preceded a report by an Urban Land Institute panel that made a series of recommendations to improve downtown.
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