P.E.O. Chapter House main building.jpg (copy)

The P.E.O. Chapter House main building, which is where the former Stratton Park bandstand was located. The city is buying house and the 8.48 acres of property surrounding for $2.3 million.

The Colorado Springs City Council voted Tuesday to buy a new park on the southwest side that is envisioned as the home for a new Asian heritage center. 

The board voted 7 to 2 to spend $2.3 million to purchase 8.48 acres, known as Stratton Park, along west Cheyenne Road. The purchase represents a return to the property's past because around the turn of the century, the area was a park and featured a bandstand and pavilion.

The Philanthropic Educational Organization, a nonprofit that supports education opportunities for women, took ownership of the property in the 1960s and is now selling it. 

The Colorado PEO selected the Golden Lotus Foundation, the group proposing the heritage center, to purchase the property initially after the nonprofit outbid the city by $100,000, city officials said during a meeting Monday. The PEO received other higher bids but selected the Golden Lotus Foundation because it intends to use the property for educational and philanthropic purposes, said Britt Haley, the city parks design and development manager.

Haley said the city and the foundation have come to an agreement that would allow the city to purchase the property and control it, while the nonprofit would raise funds to remodel an existing building into a heritage center that would include a museum and build a Chinese-style tea house. 

The center is envisioned as both an educational and a social gathering space for "people to eat, drink and be merry and shop," said Florian De Castro, who presented high level plans on behalf of the foundation Monday. 

Most council members were enthusiastically supportive of the project and its potential. 

 "I really believe this is a class A project," Councilman Bill Murray said Monday. 

De Castro said the foundation intends to build a place where Asian individuals can find community and educate others about their culture. In addition to indoor areas, the group envisions a walking trail that would highlight Asian art and botanical gardens from different cultures, such as a Japanese rock garden and an Indian-style garden that could be built around the existing pond. 

"Our vision is to provide additional education regarding what is Asian as best we can," he said. 

The largest Asian groups in Colorado include the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian and Filipino communities, De Castro said. 

Councilman Dave Donelson raised some concerns about the project Monday because the city is purchasing the property with the predetermined expectation it will be an Asian cultural center. He voted against the project along with Councilman Mike O'Malley on Tuesday. 

Haley framed the agreement as an opportunity for the city to host a cultural experience that it couldn't fund on its own. 

"We often struggle at the parks department when we have an operational need. ... We do often look for partners to run those special events areas," she said. 

Once the area is developed, the city would likely be responsible for maintaining outdoor areas and the nonprofit would be responsible for maintaining and operating the indoor spaces. Even though the nonprofit is investing in the buildings, they will remain under city ownership, Haley said. 

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

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