Look around you, not always in the most obvious places, and you’ll see some very positive signs of a developing trend in the Pikes Peak region.
For starters, check the downtown alley going north and south between Cascade Avenue and Tejon Street. Already, one block of alleyway has been spruced up and resurfaced between Bijou and Kiowa streets, providing a better setting for the art galleries and other businesses with access.
In days ahead, work on that alley will continue, eventually creating three upgraded blocks in an aggressive effort to create new gathering places.
Already, a few businesses have been proactive, such as The Mezzanine club behind 20 N. Tejon and Couture’s Bistro Alley Lounge farther north, with more in the works.
You’ll also find other funky new places downtown, such as French Fry Heaven on Tejon, Bella’s Bistro bakery on Bijou and, coming soon, the Bingo Burger on Tejon. For weeks, lunch-goers have converged on the Skirted Heifer on Tejon for its gourmet burgers.
Then, of course, there’s the new business at 141 Manitou Ave. in Manitou Springs — Maggie’s Farm, the first store selling recreational marijuana in El Paso County.
In just its first week, Maggie’s Farm was crushed by nearly 500 customers a day, not counting hundreds more daily who decided not to wait in line and instead would come back later.
Those establishments, and others like them, aren’t catering to the 50-and-older population.
They’re thriving, and hoping it’s a long-term run of success, thanks to the support of the region’s younger adults — largely the 21-to-49 crowd, though that higher age number has been inching upward (it once was 35, then 40).
That demographic, mostly defined as the Millennials (born in the 1980s and later) but also including many from Generation X (born 1966 and later), should be the No. 1 target for any effort to revitalize Colorado Springs.
If you’re older (mostly Baby Boomers, which would include me), you need to accept that fact and embrace it. Instead of trying to reshape the city and region just to satisfy us, we have to adjust our thinking and give the 21-49 folks what they want.
Instead of trying to reshape the city and region just to satisfy us, we have to adjust our thinking and give the 21-49 folks what they want.
[/pullquote]That also includes more possibilities for places to live downtown, which are taking shape with a good handful of affordable apartment and condominium complexes in the works.
It’s all about building a new mindset. Those of us in the 50-and-older ranks have to realize that the younger adults don’t want to be saddled with a big mortgage and a hefty car payment (thanks in no small part to college loans). They want many choices when they go out to eat, drink, shop or play. Many would rather spend a few hours hiking in Red Rock Canyon or biking off the beaten path than watching TV at home.
And yes, more than a few of them want to patronize that Maggie’s Farm in Manitou.
Obviously the jury is still out on whether recreational marijuana will continue to be available in El Paso County.
Already, there’s an issue on the November ballot in Manitou that would disallow recreational/retail pot stores. But if the first one produces a noticeable tax windfall for Manitou and doesn’t have a negative impact on area crime, the result actually could be the opposite — more interest in pressuring Colorado Springs to follow suit and allow retail stores.
This isn’t just about marijuana, though. Even if the presence of recreational pot stores in our midst is only temporary, the need for appealing more to the younger adults won’t change.
It has to involve many different facets. Some, like the project to enhance alleyways, can be done quickly and inexpensively. Others will take longer.
Another major step will be providing more mass transit, with bus service to and from areas with heavy residential concentration (apartments).
This might sound like a huge undertaking, but that’s not the case. Adding more buses, routes and hours could happen far more quickly and cost-effectively than, say, building a light-rail service.
The more we can do, on every possible scale, to make younger adults want to live and stay here, the better our area’s chances will be of attracting and keeping companies in the years to come.
Some might say this theme is starting to sound like a broken record, because we’ve talked about it before in other ways. The answer to that is simple: We have to continue harping on it, because this is the best path for Colorado Springs toward a future renaissance.
Beyond that, the sooner we can have more elected leaders (especially for City Council, with an acceptable salary) from the 21-49 age group, the better.