Despite enduring a few rude hecklers, Mayor John Suthers must have had fun on Thursday. He had the privilege of delivering the State of the City address at The Broadmoor Hall. We doubt any mayor in the United States this year gets to deliver more positive cultural and economic news about any large city.
Suthers grew up in Colorado Springs and has seen it transform from a small town of about 40,000 people to the 39th largest city in the United States with a growing population of 480,000. It puts us right behind Kansas City, Missouri, and above Miami. We will continue moving up the list quickly as people move here in droves. They are doing so because the city is an attractive, enviable place to live and getting more so by the year.
Signs of successful growth are everywhere, and no one could travel to the mayor’s speech without seeing them. Cranes tower above future buildings, including what will soon be the country’s preeminent museum honoring the American Olympic movement in the hometown of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. While entering The Broadmoor Hall parking garage, attendees witnessed construction of a major Broadmoor addition to facilitate the rapidly growing Space Symposium that convenes each year a city known as the nation’s hub of military space operations.
“On the basis of objective criteria, including affordability, job market, net migration and quality of life indicators, including health care and education, Colorado Springs has been ranked in the top 3 best places to live in the United States by U.S. News and World Report for two years in a row and that a broad survey of Americans throughout the country by that same magazine indicates for the second year in a row, Colorado Springs is the most desirable city in America to live,” Suthers proclaimed.
Suthers enumerated multiple examples of public and private investments that are creating jobs and other opportunities throughout the city, including projects launched by the City for Champions initiative. Those include:
• The aforementioned Olympics museum.
• The William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center, under construction on the UCCS Campus.
• A downtown outdoor stadium, with construction beginning next month, surrounded by a new residential, commercial and retail center developed by Colorado Springs native Dean Weidner and his company Weidner Homes.
• A downtown indoor arena, in collaboration with Colorado College, with construction beginning next month.
• A new Air Force Academy Visitors Center and surrounding retail development just off I-25.
“It is a credit to former Mayor Steve Bach and many, many others, too numerous to mention, that these City for Champions projects are becoming a reality,” Suthers said.
Another public-private development, not associated with City for Champions, will result in a new view-friendly state-of-the-art summit complex at the top of Pikes Peak. To help transport visitors, the Broadmoor is investing about $100 million to in a new Pikes Peak Cog Railway that should begin operations in 2021.
Hospitals are adding campuses and President Donald Trump just announced the continuation of U.S. Space Force, based in Colorado Springs. The city is adding 120 new cops and 36 more firefighters. Construction crews citywide are improving roads, just as the state works to widen the I-25 link between Colorado Springs and Denver.
The City Council, the mayor’s office and the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners are working together like they seldom have before.
As the famous one-hit-wonder Timbuk 3 says, “things are going great, and they're only getting better.”
Alas, not everyone gets to enjoy the ride. Physics teaches us all actions have equal and opposite reactions. Economic and cultural growth are not physics, per se, but the principle seems to apply.
“Our booming local economy has led to increasing rents and housing costs, making the issue of affordable housing a very real one,” Suthers said.
Indeed, on the day Suthers delivered heaping helpings of good news we learned of the city’s cost of living surpassing the national average. Great places to live tend to become expensive, as demand increases for homes and other goods and services. Keeping Colorado Springs great will mean keeping up with demand, so ordinary people can live in this extraordinary place. We want to be an attractive city; not an exclusion zone accessible only to the rich.
“The City Council and I will use all of the tools in our toolbox to facilitate the expansion of affordable housing in Colorado Springs,” Suthers said.
That’s good news, but the private sector should not leave this challenge entirely in the hands of local government. Entrepreneurs, builders, developers and investors should see the need for affordable housing as an opportunity to profit in return for advancing the common good.
Those of us fortunate enough to live in Colorado Springs are enjoying good times, but we should never take them for granted. Maintaining good times means doing the hard work of continuing to improve. It means caring for others as we care about ourselves. Let’s keep growing, investing and building a city in which all can flourish if they try.