During last week’s Downtown Development Authority meeting, DDA chair Merry Jo Larsen expressed what appeared to be pent-up frustration with the authority’s lack of progress on developing plans for its property in the center of downtown.
“All we do is talk; we talk, talk, talk since 2011, with nothing,” she said. “We’ve got a summer ahead of us and we have got to do something.”
The “something” is a series of four workshops to develop plans for moving ahead, including scheduling dirt work. At one point, Larsen slammed the gavel on the table, when somebody suggested an alternative.
“We’re setting these meetings,” she said.
The first meeting was on Tuesday, the rest of the meetings are at set for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26, March 12 and 26 in city hall.
Larsen was reacting to the two-hour meeting during which the board tossed around ideas, among them, constructing a temporary park, estimated to be $250,000, as a stopgap until a developer comes forward.
To that end, Larsen, Tanner Coy, the board treasurer, and Sally Riley, the city planner, reported results of a meeting with Walt Harder, who developed O’Reilly Auto Parts and the Dollar Tree near Gold Hill Square. “We talked about multiple housing,” Larsen said.
However, with encumbrances such as drainage issues, the cost to develop the land will be difficult, she said. “Walt recommended an event/outdoor recreation space at this time,” she said.
In a letter written to the DDA and read by Coy, Harder emphasized his recommendation for a park that could include a dog park, baseball field and entertainment venue. In the letter, Harder cited the advantage of being only 20 minutes away from Colorado Springs while advising the board to include ample parking at the site.
To present ideas for a park, Coy invited Drew Stoll, landscape architect with Great Outdoors Consultants and co-owner of Great Outdoors Adventures, to show slides of Colorado projects, including the park in South Main in Buena Vista. Stoll was receptive to helping the board develop plans for the land.
But the board affirmed its position that, eventually, the land would only be developed through the free market’s private sector.
While U.S. Highway 24 has become a negative for the city, a report to the DDA by Riley, the planner, opened up possibilities, albeit, in 10 years at the earliest.
“We see the congestion, the discomfort the highway provides to our community, the businesses and our beautiful environment, so we have submitted, to the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, a request for a planning study on Corridor D,” she said,
Corridor D begins south of Walmart and would end at the hospital; the route was the subject of an effort to design a bypass in 1993, she said, adding that the city is fourth in line for funding from PPACG for a Planning and Environmental Linkage Study.
City manager Darrin Tangeman sounded hopeful. “The study will help move the project (for a reliever route via Corridor D) forward; it is there and being discussed, possibly being funded in 2019 with additional dollars available,” he said.
Before the meeting wrapped up, Carl Andersen, owner of Andersen Enterprises, walked up to the podium. “I would caution against spending $250,000 to create a temporary park that would create emotional attachment that would then be another stumbling block to development in the future,” he said. “When the situation is right the money will be there and somebody will develop it to what will be the best use at that time. A workshop is going to be very important on this.”