Change in the Southeast is happening. While running for office and being elected in 2017 as the City Council District 4 representative, there were so many areas in our district that were crying out for TLC. One of the areas of concern was our lack of connectivity because of deteriorating or nonexisting sidewalks, road and bridge conditions, as well as inadequate transit. There was also little appetite for economic development and support. The stage was set right after my election in 2017, and we began improvement implementation during 2018. Considerable projects were accomplished with nonprofit, private and public partnerships. I am so excited to share some of the highlights of 2018:
• RISE (Resilient Inspired Strong and Engaged) is a coalition of SE community leaders and nonprofit organizations. With grant funding from the El Pomar Foundation, we were able to create a position for a SE community outreach coordinator, Joyce Salazar. Ms. Salazar serves as a central point of contact for receiving and disseminating information. The coalition initiates and hosts many community activities.
• The Transforming Safety bill, which reallocated money from the Department of Corrections into the SE community, brought even more momentum for change. The SE has been granted an award of $2 million a year for three years. In 2018, $1.95 million was disbursed to organizations and non-profits that help with life skills, education, job training, and employment. Accion was chosen as a responsible agent to manage $500,000 for this first year by awarding very low-interest business loans for persons in SE that would not be able to secure a loan through traditional means.
• The Colorado Health Foundation awarded $1 million based on the findings of the Urban Land Institute to create “Healthy Places.” A third of this will be held by Pastor Ben Anderson’s Solid Rock Community Development Corporation Development Corporation to initiate the groundwork for the SE HUB ( in planning stages at the Mission Trace Center at Academy and Hancock. The HUB would bring affordable housing, small businesses, and economic development to one centralized location of underused real estate, and connects the community further). Two-thirds of this will be held by El Paso County Health for implementation of the SE HUB.
• The Homebuilders’ Association continues to support our students in Harrison District 2 by expanding their classes in construction to include all students desiring to learn trade work. Students are constructing homes from start to finish and are able to use their skills for minor repairs in their homes.
• The City Public Works has aggressively moved on sidewalk construction and road repaving. We are receiving our fair share of the citywide construction in District 4. More and more ADA ramps at intersections are also being installed.
• Parks and Recreation, with the support of the RISE Coalition, will begin the new design for Panorama Park after receiving input from residents this year.
• We were awarded a key federal opportunity zone, which tracked number 2 and is at Academy and Fountain, which has the promise of a wonderful economic development project.
• We also have city opportunity zones. The Economic Development Department has been diligent in applying for grants for SE. Mission Trace Center and Pace Bally Plaza were recently awarded $50k each with matching grants for façade improvements, which provides an influx of $200K for the improvements.
• Fifteen minute transit frequency was added on the number 1 and 27 bus routes, after advocating for funding during the budget markup session for 2018.
• We broke ground on the new Sand Creek police substation at 950 Academy Park Loop.
It’s been an honor and pleasure to serve my beloved District 4 and the rest of the Colorado Springs community. Our amazing residents have worked diligently, and I appreciate all the support we’ve received from the city, the county, foundations and nonprofit organizations. We look forward to 2019 with the completion of the Sand Creek Police substation, the façade improvements, and more work on sidewalks and roads.
We’ll begin two designs on bridges, one on Airport Road east of South Academy. The other bridge is at Circle and I-25 near Harrison High School. This is extremely exciting since there will be students who will serve as ambassadors to receive and disseminate input from the local community.
We will continue to apply for federal funding for the South Academy Boulevard and Hancock Expressway gateway. We will continue to increase our transit frequency and routes. We will look to attract a grand economic development project. We are looking forward to affordable housing complexes. We hope to finally get surveillance cameras installed at Deerfield Hills Community Center.
From our family to yours, have a magical holiday season.
Yolanda L. Avila is a Colorado Springs City Council member representing District 4.