Recently, the Business Journal obtained a grant for an unusual purpose — to bring together everyone this newspaper has recognized through the years as our Rising Stars, formerly known as “40 Under 40” honorees.
Along with the invitation to a reception that took place Thursday night, we asked everyone to address one question: “If you had $1 million, what would you change/add to Colorado Springs?”
Some responses were predictable, many would cost more than $1 million but still were admirable, and others stood out as being good advice for community leaders.
With that, here are selected samples from the answers received:
Kathleen Owings: Create a fabulous Walkplatz along Tejon Street so that citizens could eat and drink, hang out with family and friends without having to worry about traffic. They could walk around and enjoy the shops and restaurants. This would be a wonderful place for gathering throughout all seasons. They are very popular in Germany and could create a real hub for activity and socialization.
Chris Blees: I would launch a sports-focused accelerator.
Amy Dinofrio: Transportation so that we can operate more like Boulder. Stop losing festival events like the Hot Air Balloon Festival. Help homeless, and homeless animals.
Lisa Tessarowicz: I’d invest it in local small businesses and startups. Or I’d fund an ad campaign to change how people view our community. Or I’d fund rising professionals who want to run for local office.
Peter M. Maiurro: I would gather a lot of other people with $1 million and invest in affordable residential real estate downtown and continue to develop the cultural assets, retail assets and community assets in downtown.
Daisy McConnell: Bring a whitewater park to America the Beautiful Park and Monument Creek. Light up the Martin Drake Power Plant downtown with projections of light (colors, artist commissioned images). Pilot light-rail program between Pueblo/Colorado Springs/Denver.
Susan Woessner: Fully fund city services, civil servants, parks/recreation; effective and reliable public transportation; bring a music venue downtown; fund schools and early education programs.
Carrie Simison: World-class, accessible bicycling opportunities (road, mountain, cross, day-to-day transportation).
Michael Suggs: That’s not enough to fund a major project so I wouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel. I would give it to one of our region’s best nonprofits (i.e., Discover Goodwill) already doing great work in our community. How about $10 million? I would find a compassionate and yet effective solution to the homeless problem that exists downtown. Did you say that I get $100 million? I would fund the events center portion of the City for Champions project. I would use the balance to start a venture capital/angel investment fund focused only on job-creating, Springs-based companies.
Eva Pearce: I would host a park party. It would be a shuttle service going all thru Colorado Springs for one weekend to all small, middle and large parks. That way people can hop on shuttles to explore and play in parks they never knew existed. Have different organizations at the larger parks with music and activities to show how they can be used. Money would be used to market the routes, create maps, rent shuttles and plan activities.
Mary Coleman: I would lead an initiative to turn downtown Tejon (between Platte and Colorado) into a walking mall to increase pedestrian traffic and community engagement in our downtown area.
Brian Colvert: Push for regulation that would limit sprawl and force developers to redevelop and infill.
Hannah Parsons: I’d provide seed money for as many startup businesses as possible. Retailers, restaurants, tech startups, etc. I’d also provide expansion funds for existing businesses to take it to another level.
Julie Hill: I would invest in more proactive business structures that get the homeless off the street and working. Taking from models found in Boston and other northeastern cities, there would be no questions asked, only the opportunity to work, with other resources at hand for education, support, etc.
Amanda Mountain: I’d back a slate of progressively minded fresh thinkers to City Council and run a mayoral candidate to help change the culture of Colorado Springs by radically altering for the better the current political climate of small-mindedness and anti-progress.
Aaron Briggs: I would give a building to an artist.
Megan Bell: An outdoor water park for families.
Cyndi Parr: I strongly believe we need one accessible, affordable, community theatre venue in Colorado Springs, similar to the Arvada Center in Denver (an arts center at night and a business convention center in the day).
David Siegel: I would seed a fund and hopefully raise another $10-20 million to create a foundation to invest strictly in risky/innovative projects in Colorado Springs. The projects should be exceptional in nature, demonstrate unprecedented community impact, and spur further private and public development.
Jill Webb: I would create a NON Profit Collaboration Center that would provide back office and support services; accounting, marketing, event planning, business services, etc., allowing more donated dollars to support their mission.
Rhett Brengarth: Completely transform downtown. There is no draw for the community to come downtown outside of work. This needs to change. When we look at thriving peer cities the one commonality is their downtown. City for Champions is a start, but it will also take companies to operate downtown and mid- to large-size companies looking to move downtown. It has to be a mix of commercial and residential to draw people to the downtown.
Abby Laine Sienkiewicz: Restore City Auditorium.
Todd Karl: My changes would probably require $1 billion. I’d make Tejon a pedestrian mall from Vermijo to Platte. I’d buy the parking lot east of the Antlers and build a downtown baseball stadium on the site called El Pomar Park. And I’d hire someone smarter than me to address and eventually eliminate the vagrancy problem downtown.
Jessica Gladney: I would use this money as a one-for-one grant for projects in Colorado Springs that the citizens care about. Citizens could get municipal bonds for as little as $100 for whatever project (from a list) that they choose. For every dollar a citizen puts forward, we would add another to the project. This would add buy-in and a sense of community responsibility to the improvement of our city.
David Kunstle: Pedestrian area on Tejon with permanent vendor/market stalls.
Samantha Bruner: I would reinstate the downtown trolleys.
Kristy Milligan: A million things: complete the Legacy Loop and allocate resources to a more robust transit system; develop incentives for downtown renaissance; pay City Councilors a livable wage to attract talent, just to start.
Jessica McMullen: I would make sure City for Champions gets off the ground with a bang. I would see City Auditorium redone and promoted as the great piece of history it is. I would get our Children’s Museum and the Science Center off the ground — Ideally either co-located or next-door neighbors — and in a perfect world aligned location-wise with the Space Center near/in downtown.
Clarissa Hobson: I would donate it to several selected nonprofits to help stabilize their general operating funds so that they can continue the critical work they do in our community.
Chelsea Hixson: An east/west highway.
Carrie McKee: I’d enhance our community’s 211 Information and Referral program to be more of a one-stop shop for ALL kinds of needs. It’s primarily used to get utility and rental assistance, find food pantries or seasonal needs (school backpacks, Christmas presents for kids, free immunization shots) but it could be dramatically expanded to include regional after-school programs, summer camp options, internship and fellowship opportunities, and additional training / job training / continued education connections.
Lisanne McNew: My answer has changed from what it might have been a few weeks ago. I would take this money and put it into The Mezzanine run by The Colorado Springs Conservatory. I believe this is the future of CS. I say that not just for what it will bring to CS and the region, but for what it means and signifies. When I have attended any of the amazing performances, I am amazed at the amount of talent we have here and the talent we can attract.
Donna Nelson: I’d invest in City for Champions so that citizens could take the worry that tax dollars will be spent off of their chests. I’d also spend a small portion on research to really find out what local businesses need to be more successful and how we could better attract more businesses to our city. We desperately need more jobs to improve our economy and attract more young professionals.
Jenny Stafford: It would likely cost more than $1M, but a dedicated, paved bike trail that connects neighborhoods outside of downtown for purposes of recreation and transport (look at Summit or Pitkin counties), not bike lanes. A free-standing pediatric hospital (much more than $1M). More interesting, well-priced restaurants that are family-friendly and aren’t chains or downtown.
Megan Harmon: Better solutions to get homeless people back into homes/jobs. Resources that are more akin to getting them back to self-sufficient vs. handouts. Better teen and youth centers designed specifically for displaced youths that are places they want to be.
Stanton L. Kensinger: Downtown infrastructure.
Believe me, there are plenty more where these came from — so perhaps we should figure out a way to make some of them happen. n CSBJ