Two urban renewal projects that developers say would transform blighted portions of south and southwest downtown Colorado Springs into hotels, apartments, restaurants and the like have taken critical steps forward.
The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority on Wednesday recommended that the City Council declare 1.5-acres southwest of Tejon and Costilla streets as an urban renewal site. That recommendation was based, in part, on a consultant’s report that found deteriorated buildings, unsafe conditions and other evidence of blight on the property.
The authority also recommended the City Council approve an urban renewal plan for the South Tejon site, which spells out the goals and details of the redevelopment project.
A local development group — composed of commercial broker Jim DiBiase of Olive Real Estate Group in Colorado Springs, Kevin Engelhardt of Hotel Operation Services in Monument and Springs general contractor Vince Colarelli — has proposed construction of a Marriott-branded hotel on South Tejon. The site is a vacant lot and three buildings that would be razed.
Also Wednesday, the Urban Renewal Authority made the same recommendations to the City Council for nearly 82 acres in southwest downtown. The area is bounded roughly by Colorado Avenue and Cucharras Street on the north, Cimarron Street on the south, Cascade Avenue and Sahwatch Street on the east and Interstate 25 on the west. Blighted conditions also were found in the area, according to a consultant.
The U.S. Olympic Museum is under construction in the area, where Springs real estate company and majority land owner Nor’wood Development Group envisions a mixed-use development that could include apartments, restaurants and offices. The area includes America the Beautiful Park, but excludes most of the Denver & Rio Grande Western rail yard right of way.
The City Council declared a larger, 100-acre portion of southwest downtown as an urban renewal site in 2001, but little, if any, redevelopment has taken place in the area since. Nor’wood and the Urban Renewal Authority want the City Council to amend the 2001 urban renewal plan — removing the 82-acre section and establishing it as a new, standalone redevelopment project.
Creating the new southwest downtown urban renewal site is another key for the area’s redevelopment. As part of urban renewal projects, bonds typically are issued to finance road and utility work, sidewalk upgrades and other public improvements in the redevelopment area.
Those bonds are repaid over 25 years using increased property and sales tax revenues generated by new development in an urban renewal area. But 17 years have gone by without any redevelopment in southwest downtown, and backers of the new project want to restart the 25-year clock to make full use of their ability to borrow and collect revenue to fund public improvements.
The South Tejon and southwest downtown urban renewal proposals are slated to go to the City Council for review during the council’s workshop session Nov. 13.
The council then would formally consider the urban renewal designations at its Nov. 26 meeting.
At that time, the City Council must make another important decision regarding the fate of the projects — determining how much of the city’s 2 percent sales tax to set aside to fund public improvements in the urban renewal areas.
Under the state’s urban renewal law, similar revenue-sharing agreements — as they’re called — also must be finalized before Nov. 27 with other taxing authorities whose jurisdictions extend into the urban renewal areas, said Jariah Walker, the authority’s executive director. Those taxing authorities include El Paso County, Colorado Springs School District 11 and the Pikes Peak Library District.
For now, developers welcomed the authority’s decision to move the projects forward.
DiBiase said the eight-story, Marriott-branded hotel now is envisioned with 262 rooms, 4,000 square feet of meeting space, large suites to accommodate families or other groups and a two-level, underground parking garage with 224 spaces that will be open to the public as well as hotel guests. Other amenities include a restaurant and possible retail space.
In a best-case scenario, DiBiase said, the hotel would break ground around March 1 and open in January 2021.
Nor’wood Development Group has made presentations to the City Council in the past showing a multistory hotel, and a residential tower in southwest downtown, east of the Olympic Museum site. The museum — a tribute to the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic movements — is under construction and targeted to open to the public in 2020. It’s expected to help anchor the area’s redevelopment.
Nor’wood President Chris Jenkins said he had no imminent announcements about uses coming to southwest downtown; news might come in early 2019. But he said he’s encouraged by interest shown in southwest downtown and the rest of the city.
The Olympic Museum, along with America the Beautiful Park, a rebuilt I-25/Cimarron Street interchange, downtown trails and a bridge that will link the museum and park are helping to spur interest in the area, he said.
”All of those things, including knowing there is Urban Renewal endorsement and support and there’s a plan, these layering effects make that appetizing to others who are looking to invest in our community,” Jenkins said.