The COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop numerous high-profile construction projects in the Pikes Peak region from making significant progress during 2020, and several remain on track to open their doors this year — though a few won't cut their ribbons until 2022.
Here's a look at the status of several of those projects, along with some key business expansions expected in the new year in the Colorado Springs area:
Online retailer Amazon's mammoth fulfillment center near the Colorado Springs Airport is on schedule for completion in summer 2021 with the hiring of at least 1,000 employees likely to begin about two months before it opens.
The 3.7 million-square-foot center in the airport's Peak Innovation Park, southeast of Powers Boulevard and Milton E. Proby Parkway, will ship customer orders for books, electronics, toys and other smaller items to the Colorado Springs area, across Colorado and to surrounding states. The five-story building will be the largest in Colorado Springs and likely the state's largest.
The building will include more than 2 million square feet of robotic-controlled storage of merchandise on four levels, said Nikki Wheeler, an Amazon spokeswoman in Denver.
Every Amazon fulfillment center delivers completed orders to a sortation center, where packages are routed to a delivery station or Amazon-owned Whole Foods store closest to the customer.
The Colorado Springs Airport is seeking approval for construction of a 279,000-square-foot sortation center next to an Amazon delivery station in Peak Innovation Park, which documents submitted to city planners have indicated will be an Amazon facility.
Site work recently began and architectural drawings filed with the city indicate construction of the sortation center to last about a year.
Plans also have been filed with the city for delivery stations inside a former Sam’s Club warehouse on South Academy Boulevard and on the site of the former Western Forge hand tool manufacturing plant on the Springs' northwest side. Although Amazon has not confirmed those projects, details included with both indicate they will operate as Amazon delivery stations.
The airline announced plans in October to operate 13 daily nonstops flights to Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix. "Demand for our new service has been really positive," said Southwest spokesman Dan Landson.
Construction will begin this month on ticket counters, gates, office space and other facilities at the Colorado Springs Airport for Southwest, said Greg Phillips, city aviation director.
Local officials had courted Southwest for nearly 20 years before the carrier reached out to the airport in September about expanding to Colorado Springs to put idle employees and aircraft to work. The discussions moved quickly with a $2.5 million package of private and public incentives that includes funds for marketing, construction and other startup expenses.
AEROSPACE SPACE WARFARE LAB
California-based defense and security research nonprofit Aerospace is building a $100 million research and development complex in Peak Innovation Park that will house a lab where the military and contractors will test ways to fight a potential war in space.
The lab, called the Space Analysis and Collaboration Center, is a collection of up to six conference rooms and a large auditorium where contractors and military officials can try out tactics, techniques and procedures they would use when fighting a war in space.
The lab will allow opposing teams and other groups of observers of up to 30 people, each in separate conference rooms, to simulate war games in space and come together in the auditorium to discuss the results.
The 90,000-square-foot building, which is on schedule to open in spring 2022, can accommodate 200 technical employees to be hired over five years and will be connected with the nonprofit’s 78,000-square-foot offices that opened in 2007.
Aerospace employs 240 engineers, scientists, analysts and cybersecurity specialists who provide technical expertise to U.S. Space Force, U.S. Space Command and other military commands on threats to U.S. space assets.
Contractors have finished the two stairwells and elevator shaft and are expected to start erecting steel in early to mid-January and complete the exterior and roof by summer, said Scott Gemperline, an Aerospace spokesman.
In other Peak Innovation Park projects:
• Denver commercial real estate investment firm Flywheel Capital plans to break ground on a 50,000-square-foot office building during the first quarter and complete it during the third quarter. The building would be part of a larger office complex called Peak Technology Campus, which would include 210,000 square feet of space that could be completed within two years.
• Planning for two hotels near the Colorado Springs Airport, on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to resume this month, said Jim DiBiase of Olive Real Estate Group in the Springs, who's a partner in the development. A 130-room Courtyard by Marriott and a similar-sized Residence Inn or equivalent Marriott brand would be built on 6 acres in the Peak Innovation Park.
PENROSE-ST. FRANCIS HEALTH SERVICES
Health care giant Penrose-St. Francis Health Services announced in late December it would soon begin construction of a $150 million, 72-bed hospital specializing in orthopedic and spine care on nearly 60 acres in the north-side InterQuest area.
Besides the hospital, which would include 10 operating rooms and open in January 2023, the site southeast of Interstate 25 and InterQuest Parkway is expected to house a medical office building and surgery center built by a group of orthopedic specialists, Penrose-St. Francis CEO Dr. Brian Erling said.
The site will be a third medical campus for Penrose-St. Francis and is expected to grow to rival the company's 195-bed St. Francis Medical Center at 6001 E. Woodmen Road.
Penrose-St. Francis also is in the middle of a $77 million project to build out 60 patient beds in unfinished space on the fifth and six floors of an expansion that opened last year at St. Francis Medical Center. Erling said half of the beds will be part of the hospital's intensive care unit, which has been nearly full in recent weeks from patients treated for the COVID-19 virus. The project is scheduled for completion in April 2022.
The Boldt Co., a Wisconsin-based construction and development firm, is developing the St. Francis Pavilion at the same time as the hospital expansion. The 75,000-square-foot, on-campus project includes a medical office building that is expected to open in July and include endoscopy services, an imaging lab, gastroenterology, otolaryngology, allergy/immunology and a cancer center.
Penrose-St. Francis must complete the InterQuest and St. Francis projects before it can begin a major makeover of its Penrose Hospital complex at 2222 N. Nevada Ave., Erling said.
UCHEALTH MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
UCHealth Memorial Hospital completed a sports medicine and orthopedic rehabilitation center last month and plans to begin construction this summer on a major outpatient complex on Powers Boulevard.
Grandview Medical Center, a $26 million, 65,000-square-foot orthopedic rehabilitation center, opened Dec. 7 on the campus of UCHealth Memorial's boutique Grandview Hospital near North Nevada Avenue and Interstate 25. The complex includes imaging, orthopedic services, sports medicine, offices for multiple medical specialists and a primary care clinic, UCHealth Memorial CEO Joel Yuhas said.
The hospital also signed a research affiliation with the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, which will bring sports performance research projects to the center this year.
UCHealth Memorial also plans to launch construction in May or June on its $105 million, 125,000-square-foot Eastview Medical Center on 24 acres northwest of Powers Boulevard and North Carefree Circle. The outpatient complex is expected to open in mid-2022 and include imaging, outpatient surgery, rehabilitation services and offices for a wide range of medical and surgery specialists serving fast-growing Powers corridor neighborhoods.
The hospital system also added 18 beds to UCHealth Memorial Central, 1400 E. Boulder St., to handle growing patient numbers and opened a primary care and sports medicine clinic in October at 1220 Lake Plaza Drive, Suite, sharing the location with the Colorado Dermatology Institute. The location is UCHealth's 14th primary care clinic in the Colorado Springs area.
ENT CREDIT UNION HEADQUARTERS
Ent Credit Union, southern Colorado's largest financial institution, has completed the exterior of its new headquarters, northeast of Interstate 25 and InterQuest Parkway and near the Great Wolf Lodge water park and resort.
Jeff Wilkins, Ent's vice president of strategic initiatives, said the 300,000-square-foot complex is on track to open in the summer. Completion of the exterior allows interior work to continue without interruption from weather.
Ent broke ground in October 2019 on the new headquarters, which has been designed to accommodate its rapid growth along the Front Range.
The $7.4 billion credit union, the largest in Colorado, plans to move its 600 headquarters employees to the building and adjacent parking garage, which will be able to hold up to 1,100 workers. The headquarters will house an Ent call center, consumer and mortgage lending, information technology, finance and accounting, human resources, member services, administration and executive leadership.
The new complex is expected to meet Ent’s needs for seven to 10 years, but the 25-acre site has room for two more buildings totaling 700,000 square feet that could accommodate up to 1,900 additional employees, if needed.
The complex more than doubles the size of the 125,000 square feet Ent now occupies in three buildings northeast of I-25 and Woodmen Road; the credit union owns two of those buildings and has agreed to sell them.
Developers of a 259-room, dual-branded Marriott hotel in the 400 block of South Tejon Street hit pause on their project last year — deliberately slowing its construction and pushing back its 2021 opening until early 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic's devastating impact on the hospitality industry.
Hotel rooms nationwide have sat empty for much of the year because of drastic reductions in business and leisure travel, while larger hotels saw meeting, conference and event business disappear.
"Most hotels are hanging on by their fingernails," said DiBiase, of Olive Real Estate Group. He's a partner on the hotel's development with Kevin Engelhardt of Hotel Operation Services in Monument and local general contractor Vince Colarelli. Hotel Equities, an Atlanta-based management company, also is a partner and will operate the property.
"It's so terrible," DiBiase said. "And our market's been one of the best performing hotel markets in the country. ... But even as well as we've been performing as a market, nobody's making any money. The hotels in this town just aren't losing as much money as everybody else."
DiBiase said he and his partners don't believe business travel will resume in earnest until 2022.
"And the business traveler is where you make your money," he said.
When it opens, the eight-story hotel will carry Marriott's Element and SpringHill Suites brands. Its amenities will include two restaurants, an underground parking garage, meeting space and an indoor pool and fitness center.
While the Marriott's developers delayed their project's opening until next year, a seven-story, 120-room Hyatt Place is expected to open in late summer at Nevada Avenue and Kiowa Street in downtown Colorado Springs.
The website for another new downtown hotel, the 80-space Kinship Landing at 415 S. Nevada Ave., shows it's taking reservations for mid-January.
Outdoor equipment, sporting goods and apparel retailer Scheels All Sports will open March 27, a date the North Dakota-based chain announced months ago and from which it hasn't wavered.
The massive 220,000-square-foot, two-level store — roughly the size of a Walmart Supercenter — will be the second for Scheels in Colorado and is being built in the InterQuest Marketplace retail complex, east of I-25 and InterQuest Parkway.
About 90% of the store's upper level is completed, while 60% of its lower level is done, said Cory Tweden, store leader for Scheels in Colorado Springs.
"Construction is going well," he said.
Scheels will employ 425 people, which includes 150 full-timers and 275 part-timers. The retailer still has about 200 part-time jobs and a handful of full-time positions to fill, Tweden said. About 50 of Scheels' full-time employees are relocating to the Springs from the chain's 28 other stores, including one in Johnstown, north of Denver.
"Some of it's career advancement, some of it they want to live in Colorado," Tweden said. "They all want to live in Colorado, otherwise they wouldn't be coming here."
Scheels will have 75 specialty shops within its larger store — such as biking, camping, fly fishing, golf, hunting, home décor and men’s, women and youth apparel — and training for employees who will work in those areas is going on nonstop, Tweden said.
"We really work hard to train out people to be experts," he said. "So we have a lot of training left to do before we can be ready to open the store."
Starting Feb. 14, employees will begin to "set" the store — putting up displays, stocking shelves and other duties to get the location ready for its opening the following month.
"In a four-week process, it basically goes from empty walls to fully stocked," Tweden said.
One of the area's top tourist attractions will reopen in May when the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway resumes carrying tourists and visitors along a scenic trek to the top of Pikes Peak.
The railway, which runs 8.9 miles along the side of Pikes Peak to its summit, has been closed since late 2017. After a period of winter maintenance, its owner, The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs, embarked on a complete reconstruction of the aging rail line. The $100 million upgrade includes a refurbished train depot in Manitou Springs, three new engines and nine new train cars.
Construction crews had laid the first rail for the new Cog Railway in May. By September, they were halfway finished and in October were 75% completed.
"We're closing in on the 100% mark," said Krista Heinicke, a Broadmoor hotel spokeswoman. "We are getting closer every day and it's still on schedule."
Tickets for the new Cog Railway are expected to go on sale in January at www.cograilway.com, while information about the project also can be found on the website and social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
The Broadmoor hotel is owned by the Denver-based Anschutz Corp., whose Clarity Media Group owns The Gazette.
Completion of the Pikes Peak Summit Complex on top of Pikes Peak, whose centerpiece is a new 38,000-square-foot visitor center that will more than double the size of a venue built in 1963, is anticipated to be completed by late spring, said Gerry Snyder, a senior project manager with general contractor GE Johnson Construction Co. of Colorado Springs. The project was launched in 2018.
"We're making good progress, especially on the inside," Snyder said.
Substantial construction that's already completed or is taking place on the visitor center's interior includes wall and ceiling framing, drywall installation, stone veneer work and the installation of elevators and electrical and mechanical systems, Snyder said. The building includes lower, main and plaza levels, with retail, dining and kitchen space, exhibit areas and open-air decks for viewing.
Progress on the visitor center's exterior has been weather dependent, given Pikes Peak's more than 14,000-foot elevation and the difficulty of working in frigid temperatures, high winds and snow, Snyder said. To ensure construction can continue, temporary plywood enclosures are being constructed to provide protection for crews working on the exterior, he said.
Before it opens to the public , Colorado Springs city officials say additional visitor center work will include placement of a plaque on an east overlook that will commemorate "America the Beautiful," written by Katharine Lee Bates after her 1893 visit to Pikes Peak; completion of a south road, guest parking lot and stairs to the Cog Railway platform; and demolition of the old Summit House visitor center.
DOWNTOWN STADIUM AND ROBSON ARENA AT COLORADO COLLEGE
A multiuse, 8,000-seat outdoor stadium that's under construction southwest of Cimarron and Sahwatch streets in downtown Colorado Springs will open to the public in April, said Nick Ragain, president of the Colorado Springs Switchbacks soccer team.
The stadium will house the Switchbacks, who are partnering on the project's construction with Weidner Apartment Homes of suburban Seattle.
The new venue will keep the name of the Switchbacks' current stadium on the Springs' northeast side — Weidner Field. Weidner is one of the nation's largest owners and developers of multifamily projects and plans roughly 1,000 apartments around the stadium site. Weidner's founder, Dean Weidner, grew up in Colorado Springs.
In addition to the Switchbacks, the stadium will host concerts, sports and other events.
The stadium will have a series of ribbon cuttings and opening events in April, Ragain said. The Downtown Partnership advocacy group also is expected to hold a First Friday art walk event at a portion of the stadium in April, he said; the venue's northeast corner and main entrance will feature a globe-like sculpture.
The Switchbacks' home opener will take place at the stadium in May, and talks are underway between United Soccer League and ESPN officials to have the event shown on one of the sport network's platforms, Ragain said.
At Colorado College, the Edward J. Robson Arena, an indoor venue that will be the new home of the college's hockey program, is on target for a fall 2021 completion, said Vinnie Mattivi, senior project manager for general contractor Nunn Construction in Colorado Springs.
The three-level, indoor arena will have about 3,400 seats for hockey, though it also will play host to other events.
The building's exterior is finished, and painting and other work is taking place on the lowest level that houses locker rooms and the hockey team's weight room, Mattivi said.
Drywall and plumbing are underway on the second or concourse level, where the public will enter the building and access the arena's main bowl seating. Construction crews also are working on mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems on the arena's upper or club level on the building's south end that will house suites, media and broadcast areas.
The foundation for an adjacent parking garage is nearly finished, and the garage's walls should begin taking shape in January, Mattivi said.
The stadium and arena are part of City for Champions, a series of projects designed to boost tourism in Colorado Springs and the state.