As the city of Colorado Springs again prepares to accept proposals for a new user and operator for the city-owned Westside Community Center, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department is pledging to keep residents’ desires in mind.

City representatives will discuss goals for this bidding cycle at a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the community center, 1628 W. Bijou St.

After neighbors objected to the large westside center, a former elementary school, possibly being turned into apartment complexes or other for-profit businesses when the city first released a request for proposals in November 2020, the department has “heard clearly from the westside community that it is a priority that the Westside Community Center remains a community center,” manager Kim King said in a news release.

“We absolutely agree and are committed to making that happen,” she said.

The center has become a central hub for the historic westside, with community gardens, a playground, and leased space for programs and services for children through senior citizens.

Offerings have included a food pantry, a senior meals’ program, a preschool, counseling offices, recreational and educational classes, theater performances, fitness coaching, health clinics, an African-American museum and other opportunities. 

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But in considering the property’s reuse, city staff had said the existing format might not be the best fit, as the neighborhood's demographics are changing from older to younger households.

That has produced more than a year of opposition.

City staff hopes that the new operator will reduce maintenance costs and other expenses of the three-building property, while continuing to offer activities and support to the neighborhood, King said.

The request for proposals will post on Oct. 15 on ColoradoSprings.gov, with responses due by Nov. 5.

Multiple organizations are allowed to join together to operate the facility, King said.

Applicants of top interest will “maximize the use of the facility’s spaces through a business model that introduces revitalized and innovative programs and services,” she said.

A team that includes staff members, the department’s advisory board and residents will evaluate the proposals, she said.

The Center for Strategic Ministry, a nonprofit affiliate of Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, has been in charge of the facility since 2010.

The organization handles building upkeep, provides volunteers for some programs and organizes leasing for programs and activities.

The contract expires Dec. 31.

The city announced on July 2 that it had failed to reach an agreement with top applicants, which included a charter school and the YMCA.

Since the first request for an operator was released nearly a year ago, the city has set aside $1.375 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding toward prioritized capital improvements at the campus, King said.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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