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The Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Colorado Springs has a blank white wall on the northeast corner of the building Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. Could the wall be a canvas for a giant mural? (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Looming large on the west side of downtown is a giant blank wall that city planners didn't expect to linger, but nevertheless is now a familiar sight to those taking in views of Pikes Peak from Acacia Park. 

The blank wall is the back side of the Hilton Garden Inn, a 10-story hotel at Bijou Street and Cascade Avenue that was greeted with much fanfare in 2019 as the first newly constructed hotel downtown in 40 years. 

Colorado Springs Planning Manager Ryan Tefertiller said the city allowed the blank wall, in part, because the owner of the building was planning to redevelop the neighboring Majestic Building on Bijou Street and that adjacent high-rise was expected to largely block the wall. 

"Obviously, that hasn’t happened to date," he said. 

The wall was also allowed because it sits on the eastern property line and a limited number of openings, such as windows, are allowed on that side of the building to help prevent the spread of fire to the adjacent structure, he said. Still, buildings can have different materials and patterns to break up blank space and the city advocated for those, but the owner was not supportive of those changes because they would be wasted once the redevelopment of the building to the east happened, Tefertiller said. 

Building owner Slawek Pietraszek said the start of redevelopment on the Majestic Building site is likely years away and he would be open to a mural or art installation on the wall if the city was open to paying for it. Hilton doesn't always allow permanent changes to buildings, like murals, but exceptions are possible, he said. 

"I want to do something because I don’t like it myself," he said. 

The Downtown Partnership's Art on the Streets program did explore an art installation for the building, a projection of moth, but determined it was too expensive and the project was abandoned, Tefertiller said. The city is open to a new art installation to help fill the expanse, he said. 

"We fully support working with art groups and the property owner," he said. 

The city cannot make Pietraszek change the blank wall because the city approved that design, he said. 

The building is not representative of what other large high rise buildings planned for Colorado Springs will look like, Tefertiller said. Even though the city code for downtown gives developers quite a bit of flexibility regarding the upper levels of buildings, particularly if they don't face the street, the downtown master plan calls for an iconic skyline and city planners encourage 360-degree architecture, he said. 

"We push quite hard, especially for high quality materials," he said. 

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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