A year after announcing grand plans for a new transit center, project consultants and Colorado Springs city staff told the City Council on Monday they expect ground to break on the project in 2025.

A public-private partnership will build the new transit center that Chief of Staff Jeff Greene said would be a "major highlight of our community" and could also combine office space, apartments or a hotel. The city has long needed to replace its existing transit center at East Kiowa Street and North Nevada Avenue, and building an updated facility will create a central multimodal transportation hub that could also spur economic revitalization downtown, officials have said.

The new project could be built at Nevada and Pikes Peak avenues on a parking lot owned by major developer Norwood Development Group, which will be a project partner. A cooperation agreement between Mountain Metropolitan Transit, the city's parking enterprise, the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority and Norwood Development Group states Norwood will have "the exclusive right to develop the private improvements" at the site.

A project schedule presented Monday shows officials expect to finalize the public-private partnership agreement sometime in 2024. Once the project's final design is completed around early 2025, officials plan to start construction that year. Construction could take at least three years, according to the staff presentation.

downtown transit center proposed site

The proposed site of the city's new transit center would be at Nevada and Pikes Peak avenues. (Courtesy of the city of Colorado Springs)

Councilman Bill Murray said the project "looks like a boondoggle," and criticized early plans for the center as the "worst (he's) seen in years." The proposed location at Nevada and Pikes Peak, he said, is the wrong place to build it.

"What you're proposing today is taking what we have agreed is not functional across the street from this City Hall, and moving it across the street, and making it nonfunctional on the other side of City Hall. ... That is not ... the place to put the transit center," Murray said. "... Hopefully the next council will have common sense to throw this whole thing out and force you to start over at a right location with the right design."

The city's municipal election will be held April 4. Four of the nine City Council seats are up for grabs this spring, which could affect how the council votes on the final project plans. Voters in April will also select Colorado Springs' first new mayor in eight years.

022823-news-transit center 2

People get off and change buses at the Metro Transit Center in downtown Colorado Springs on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. The new transit center could be built at Nevada and Pikes Peak avenues on a parking lot owned by major developer Norwood Development Group, who will be a project partner. (Parker Seibold, The Gazette)

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Murray said the transit facility should be built farther down, near the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Weidner Field, where existing railroad exists. It would also be near the city's top location choice for a possible Front Range Passenger Rail stationΒ β€” a vacant lot south of the Olympic museum.

Colorado Springs Public Works Director Travis Easton said the city conducted a study in 2017 that assessed nearly 30 possible sites for the new transit center.

Councilwoman Yolanda Avila lauded the project, saying it was critical for the city.

"It's so important as a city to have a transit center to be much more robust. I want to make sure that as we're looking at the new council coming in that ... the baby doesn't get thrown out with the water," Avila said. "We've landed on a place. Let's move forward. We can't let ... (perfection) be the enemy of the good."

City engineer Ryan Phipps told the council design work on the new transit center will begin next after the city selected international architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, which has several locations in the United States, to design the project.

SOM has worked on similar projects including the Gateway Station in Charlotte, N.C., the 30th Street Station district plan in Philadelphia and the All Aboard Florida station in Miami, Phipps said. SOM was also involved in a lot of the redevelopment around Union Station in Denver, he said.

Mountain Metro Transit continues working with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which has committed funds for the project, on creating an agreement with the city to accept those funds, Phipps said. The agreement with the state transportation department will build the foundation for a joint development agreement with the Federal Transit Administration that will provide federal funds for the project, he said.

Project officials have also started a coordinated effort with Colorado Springs Utilities to relocate aging gas, water, sewer and downtown electric lines that run through the middle of the proposed project site and must be moved to build the facility. That process remains ongoing, Phipps said.

Reporter

Breeanna Jent covers Colorado Springs City Hall. She has previously covered El Paso County government and worked as the editorial assistant for the Pikes Peak Newspapers. She joined their sister paper, The Gazette, in 2020.

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