Colorado Springs is booming.
Each day seemingly brings plans for more restaurants, stores, shopping centers, housing subdivisions, apartments and redevelopment projects.
The Gazette tracks several such projects, though they've come so fast and furious in recent years that "whatever happened to...?" becomes a common question among many Springs-area residents.
Here's an update on some of those high-profile residential and commercial projects The Gazette has reported on in the past year or two and where they stand:
• Sears disappears: Evergreen Devco, a real estate development company with offices in Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, is tearing down the former Sears department store at the Chapel Hills Mall, northeast of Academy and Briargate boulevards in northern Colorado Springs.
Evergreen Devco, which has several commercial projects in various stages in the Pikes Peak region, plans to build a 300-unit apartment project on the Sears property, to be called Overlook Briargate.
The company announced its plans in 2020 and finalized its purchase of the Sears property in May. A few months later, it began an interior demolition of the former Sears store. Now, it's in the midst of razing the building itself, which was constructed 40 years ago.
The company expects to complete the demolition in mid to late December, said Robert Place, Evergreen Devco's multifamily development director for Colorado. Apartment building construction should begin one to two months after demolition is complete, he said.
The first apartments are expected to open in 2023.
"I can imagine to longtime residents, a landmark is disappearing," Place said. "But I certainly hope that everyone's pleased with the product we're putting up there. I really feel like it's going to rejuvenate a lot of the other retailers at the (mall)."
Financially troubled Sears closed its Chapel Hills Mall store, and another at the Broadmoor Towne Center on the city's south side, in March 2019.
• YMCA still looks to the future. In December 2019, the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region announced plans to build a new downtown recreation and wellness center.
The project — complicated and the largest the organization has ever undertaken — was delayed about six to nine months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Boyd Williams, the YMCA's president and CEO.
Still, the nonprofit is moving ahead with the project, albeit with changes, he said.
As envisioned two years ago, a new, three-story YMCA building would be constructed on the northwest corner of a block bounded by Nevada and Platte avenues and Bijou and Weber streets, Williams said. The YMCA owns the site and other portions of the block.
Also as announced in 2019, the new building would be topped by several stories of apartments that would serve as workforce housing — less expensive units for teachers, public safety workers and others who can't afford high-end properties.
The YMCA expects construction to begin in the second quarter of 2022, with a ribbon cutting about 20 months later, Williams said. That puts the opening in late 2023 or early 2024.
The YMCA's existing building would remain open to members during construction, but then would be torn down and the site redeveloped with still-to-be-determined new uses, he said.
Among project changes, the YMCA no longer is partnering with developer White Lotus Group of Omaha, Neb., Williams said.
Instead, the YMCA has joined with Scott Henry, a former White Lotus executive. Henry is a co-founder of Celadon Partners of Chicago, an affordable housing developer, according to the company's website.
When he was with White Lotus, Henry essentially was "the mastermind" behind the original YMCA project concept and the organization chose to stay with him when he went to Celadon, Williams said.
Also, while the YMCA and White Lotus two years ago envisioned commercial buildings of 82,000 square feet and 37,000 square feet elsewhere on the block, Williams said it's now premature to say what else the organization's project will include beyond its new building and the workforce housing component.
"Things are changed," Williams said. "Now we're with Celadon. So they're going to identify what other priorities for this community are needed that would supplement this project with the next phase. At this point, that has not been determined."
• What about Whataburger? The Texas hamburger favorite with a loyal following has announced it's coming to Colorado Springs, but its fans might have to wait a little longer to enjoy the chain's made-to-order burgers and other menu fare.
The area's first Whataburger is under construction in the InterQuest Marketplace shopping center, northeast of Interstate 25 and InterQuest Parkway on the city's far north side. It will be a short drive from the area's first In-N-Out Burger, the California chain with a following of its own, which opened southeast of InterQuest and Voyager parkways.
During a groundbreaking in August, BurgerWorks Colorado, the Texas franchisee that's bringing Whataburger to town, said it expected to open the restaurant by the end of 2021.
But a spokeswoman for Whataburger's corporate office now says via email that the restaurant won't open until early 2022; no specific date was available. The spokeswoman gave no reason for the timetable change for the restaurant's opening.
Robert Garcia, a vice president with Nor'wood Development Group in Colorado Springs and developer of InterQuest Marketplace, said he's been told Whataburger might open in February.
• American Furniture Warehouse eyes Powers Boulevard. The suburban Denver furniture giant, one of the state's largest furniture retailers, said this year it would build a 355,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse on 25 acres southeast of Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road on Colorado Springs' fast-growing northeast side.
The new location would be in addition to the 145,000-square-foot American Furniture Warehouse showroom and warehouse that opened in 1999 west of Interstate 25 and Fillmore Street in northwest Colorado Springs.
Initially, construction was envisioned to begin on the new Powers Boulevard location this fall, with a completion in fall 2022.
But Nolan Morrison, who heads real estate development for American Furniture Warehouse, said the project was delayed because of soaring construction material costs. That problem resulted from a pandemic-related slowdown or stoppage in the operation of lumber mills, manufacturing plants and other producers of materials used in construction, builders and general contractors have said.
"Construction materials just got to an all-time high," Morrison said. "It didn't make sense to build at the all-time high. By not building on this (original) schedule, we can probably save quite a bit of money."
American Furniture Warehouse now will look to start construction of its second location in fall 2022, and open probably in late 2023, Morrison said.
"We can't wait," he said.
• New development at busy Academy Boulevard corner. The southwest corner of Academy Boulevard and Galley Road on Colorado Springs' east side is going through a major change that will bring a national fast-casual restaurant to the site.
Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, the Louisiana-based chain, will build its fourth Springs restaurant at Academy and Galley, and last month completed a $2.2 million purchase of a nearly 1-acre parcel at the corner.
Patrick Kerscher, a vice president in the Colorado Springs office of national real estate firm CBRE, said Raising Cane's is expected to start construction shortly on its new restaurant, though an opening date isn't known. Kerscher represented property owner Dunton Commercial of Denver in the sale of the property to Raising Cane's.
In addition, a national convenience store chain plans to lease a parcel to the south of Raising Cane's where it will build a location, Kerscher said.
The convenience store chain and Raising Cane's, whose first Springs restaurant opened in 2019, will join In Self Storage, a Denver self-storage company that last year paid $1.5 million to purchase the nearby former Toys R Us building. In Self Storage remodeled the building and has opened a storage facility at the site..
"The traffic counts along Academy and Galley are very strong," he said. "The density of rooftops (in the area) is very appealing to retailers that require high volumes of customers per day."
The Academy-and-Galley corner became especially attractive after Colorado Springs city officials OK'd traffic upgrades in the area, Kerscher said.
A new right-in, right-out turn lane will allow access to the site from eastbound Galley, he said. At the same time, a left turn lane was added to allow traffic to access the site from northbound Academy.
"That changed the site from a destination retail user in Toys R Us to something that now can be convenient for fast food and fuel convenience-type users," Kerscher said. "That was the game changer on the site, the increased access there that was permitted by the city."
• More chicken on the way. Two national brands that specialize in chicken are moving ahead with expansion plans in Colorado Springs. A third, however, is still trying to scratch its way into the market.
Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A is proceeding with regulatory and construction approvals for the chain's planned demolition of a retail building on the south end of the Citadel Crossing shopping center, northeast of Academy Boulevard and Platte Avenue, said Dan Rodriguez, a vice president with the local office of CBRE, a national real estate firm.
The Casual Male XL clothing store, the last remaining retailer in the building, has closed, Rodriguez said. The retailer no longer has a store in the Springs, according to the chain's website. A Comfort Dental dental office, which also occupied the building, has moved elsewhere in Citadel Crossing.
In place of the retail building, Chick-fil-A will construct a new restaurant, according to plans the chain submitted this year to Colorado Springs city officials. The chain will own the building, but lease the ground underneath, according to Citadel Crossing developer Patrick Nesbitt.
Rodriguez said he doesn't know a timetable for the building's demolition and new construction.
Whenever Chick-fil-A opens, Rodriguez said he expects it to do big business because of the location's visibility along Academy and Platte and access to the shopping center.
"I think it's going to be a monster," Rodriguez said.
The chain had been looking at a handful of locations in the area for several years before it decided on Citadel Crossing, he said. Chick-fil-A also had closed its food court location this year at the nearby Citadel mall.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Wild Wings, also based in Atlanta, is continuing with plans for a new restaurant and sports bar as part of the First & Main Town Center, in an area of the shopping center southeast of Powers Boulevard and South Carefree Circle.
Buffalo Wild Wings had submitted a proposal to city planning officials in January 2020 that showed it would raze a former Mimi's restaurant at the site and construct a new building in its place.
The project was delayed, however, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Garcia, of Nor'wood Development Group, which built First & Main, the sprawling east-side retail complex with dozens of restaurants, big-box retailers, smaller stores and entertainment venues.
Nor'wood demolished the Mimi's building two months ago, and Buffalo Wild Wings now hopes to break ground on its restaurant this month, Garcia said. An opening likely would follow in 2022.
Buffalo Wild Wings officials didn't respond to requests for comment.
"It's definitely a positive," Garcia said of Buffalo Wild Wing's addition at First & Main. "They're a use that is unique to First & Main, being wings and kind of a sports atmosphere. We're excited about having that open up. It's a nice complement."
Another chicken concept, California-based El Pollo Loco, announced in February that it would expand to the Colorado Springs and Denver markets with as many as 20 franchised locations over the next five years.
At the time of its announcement, El Pollo Loco didn't have any franchisees inked and had no locations.
Last month, El Pollo Loco said it has signed two franchisees in Denver, one of which would develop four restaurants on the city's east side and the other that would open four locations on its west side.
But residents of the Pikes Peak region will have to head north if they want El Pollo Loco chicken; the chain still hasn't found a franchisee for Colorado Springs.
“Having recently signed two separate agreements for eight total restaurants in Denver, we're continuing to speak with prospective franchise partners to help expand our footprint into Colorado Springs as well," Brian Carmichall, El Pollo Loco’s chief development officer, said via email.
• Homes coming to the former Springs Ranch Golf Club. Colorado Springs-based Classic Cos., one of the city's largest real estate developers and homebuilders, has launched development of the Greenways at Sand Creek on the site of the former 200-acre Springs Ranch Golf Club on the city's east side. The housing project site runs east of Tutt Boulevard, between South and North Carefree circles, with a portion extending north of North Carefree.
Classic proposed the Greenways at Sand Creek in 2019 after Springs Ranch Golf Club's former owner sought to retire and get out from what he said was a golf course with dwindling player interest and high maintenance costs.
Classic's proposal to redevelop the golf course with upward of 900 single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums received the city's OK in 2020, which followed opposition from many nearby residents. A Dallas real estate company also plans a 330-unit apartment complex on the south end of the Greenways at Sand Creek site.
To prepare the property for residential development, Classic this year demolished a clubhouse on the property. It also renovated and remodeled a former golf course maintenance facility that will house a new home sales center and construction operations for the Greenways project.
Home sales recently began for an initial 40-acre portion of the Greenways at Sand Creek, which is being developed north of North Carefree Circle. The area will be developed with 121 single-family, ranch-style homes; no two-story homes will be permitted in the initial area being developed as part of a commitment that Classic made to nearby residents.