Joanne Colt of Giuseppe’s Old Depot Restaurant, says customers are reluctant to make reservations because of the proposed relocation of the downtown bus station.

Tentative plans to relocate the downtown bus station are already crippling one business economically, even though the proposed renovation would not be complete until 2010.
Joanne Colt, vice president/owner of Giuseppe’s Old Depot Restaurant, said she already has customers asking if the business is leaving. Customers don’t want to commit to having rehearsal dinners and other events in the banquet hall when they are unsure the space will be available at a future date, she said.
The city is considering moving the bus station from the corner of Nevada Avenue and Kiowa Street to the old depot site on Sierra Madre Street, behind the Antlers Hilton. The goal is to create a transportation hub that would be used by city buses, Front Range Express (FREX) buses and potentially a high speed rail.
Colt said that if the city’s dream of a mass transit hub were to become reality and if Giuseppe’s were to close, Colorado Springs would loose sales tax, and 80 to 100 employees would be out of a job.
“I don’t think they are looking down the road,” she said. “It is more a case of tunnel vision.”
Dr. Don G. Schley, a member of the citizen’s transportation advisory board and the Construction Specifications Institute, said he is in favor of heavy rail, but it is premature by decades. “We don’t have the infrastructure in place to do heavy rail,” he said.
Giuseppe’s is the core business of a fine development, he said, and “putting a bus station where Giuseppe’s is, it is just creating more urban blight.”
Kenneth and Harlan Ochs own the old depot buildings and are waiting to see how City Council decides to proceed.
“The City Council was maybe going to make a decision by early this summer, but we haven’t heard anything,” Ken Ochs said. “If they approve it then we will sell it.”
Still, nothing would happen overnight. “It would be three years before they’d convert the building,” Ochs said.
Liz Bevington, co-owner of Lark II, a gift shop that has been diagonal to Guiseppe’s for more than 20 years, said she wouldn’t be happy if the transporation hub is approved.
“Even if they didn’t want this building, we still wouldn’t want to stay with all the bus fumes,” she said. But relocating would involve a lot of work and be expensive. And finding a similar location might not be that easy.
“Our customers like the parking here and we wouldn’t have the amenities anywhere else,” Bevington said.
Lynn Wangerin, owner of Gifts of the World, said her business has been at the Old Depot Square for 30 years. Her feelings about the transportatio hub are mixed.
“It is great if it’s a train and bus station,” she said. “But if they don’t get federal funds, then it is just a bus station,” she said. Like Bevington, Wangerin said she would leave if the city simply moves the bus station.
Marilee Utter is president of Citiventure Associates in Denver, and she is working with Colorado Springs on development around the transporation hub.
“It is not just about moving a bus station,” she said. “It is about using public investment in transportation.”
She said nothing is imminent.
“They (businesses) may have to move and they may not,” she said. “We are trying to get commercial development around this. In three years, part of them might want to move and some not.”
Utter said that there are four proposed concepts for the site: putting the buses west of depot and building a pedestrian bridge over the tracks, building south and north of the depot using the Colorado Avenue viaduct, putting the buses north of the depot using joint development with houses and offices and placing the buses south of Cucharras Street.
Joan.Johnson@csbj.com