Yolanda Avila Wednesday, February 1, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

It’s time to dive into the promise of sharing our economic vitality with southeast Colorado Springs. Thus far we have only dipped our toes with minor grants towards economic projects. It’s time for a big splash.

We need to think on a grander scale to raise up the southeast.

It is imperative that we remove the barriers and obstacles that prevent our residents the same quality of life as the rest of Colorado Springs. Residents of the southeast have life spans of an average of 16 years less than the rest of the city. Temperatures are 6–8 degrees warmer in the southeast. The list of inequities continues.

Right now, we have a Federal Opportunity Zone east of Academy from Airport Road where the old Sam’s building is to Fountain Boulevard where the Nazarene Bible College. This is right in the middle of District 4.

We either take advantage of this or continue letting the area deteriorate as it has been doing for the past 30 plus years. Let’s honor the spirit of this Opportunity Zone by allowing our residents to drive the development forward. Our community vision is one of mixed-use purposes such as retail with shops, green spaces, parks, and murals produced by southeast artists that reflect the character of this community. We also envision a venue for music and gathering spaces, including affordable housing. And yes, perhaps a children’s museum, which many other Colorado cities have but is lacking in Colorado Springs. It’s crucial to revitalize without gentrifying and displacing our residents who are the essence of this community.

Additionally, there are other tools such as the Urban Renewal Authority designation. To date, the URA board has failed to designate an URA in District 4. The justification for this is that investors and developers do not want to invest in southeast. It is short-sighted to only consider the largest financial return on investment. It’s easy to point the finger at a community that has had its opportunities stripped away incrementally. We challenge investors and developers to look at the long-term benefits for the entire city and a public purpose that will have a return tenfold in the quality of life of not only the district, but the entire city.

The secret is out. Our residents and community leaders of the southeast are ready to roll up our sleeves and work hard to take back our neighborhoods. And in doing so we don’t only contribute to our community but give back to the entire city.

We are now poised to take advantage of these economic tools and become a model not just for the whole state but the entire nation.

Council member Yolanda Avila represents District 4 in Colorado Springs.

Councilmember Yolanda Avila represents District 4 in Colorado Springs.

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