As we prepare for a new mayoral administration in Colorado Springs, along with (hopefully) a more cooperative City Council and new guidance at the Regional Business Alliance, the timing looks good for business, civic and political leaders to coalesce in support of fresh, aggressive and ambitious ideas.
Please take note that I didn’t say “new” ideas, though certainly those could surface in a reinvigorated atmosphere. It’s just that we already have a working list of promising possibilities, so it would make sense to start there.
We don’t pretend that the Business Journal should set the agenda, but it does seem appropriate to share some thoughts on specific priorities.
• Downtown housing. Yes, there has been progress, and it’s encouraging to see the Blue Dot Place rising up on South Nevada Avenue. As we’re reporting elsewhere in this issue, other projects in the works are beginning to sound much more specific — not just dreams that might happen someday.
But with so much other development moving forward with the Catalyst Campus and the Public Market, city leaders can’t simply hope for the best and watch from the side.
The time has arrived for the city to play a more active role in cultivating a downtown housing boom. That means removing any obstacles or regulatory impediments that might delay or scare off investors from pursuing plans for housing complexes in the city-center area.
The new mayor can become a key player, initiating contacts and discussions with everyone — and we’re definitely talking about a growing group — even considering a downtown housing project. Somebody needs to drive the train, creating solutions and synergies, and the mayor can do that.
• City for Champions. Even the projects with considerable established momentum, led by the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, haven’t produced the kind of noticeable progress we were led to expect heading into 2015. Also, there’s the uncertainty of whether the downtown stadium and event center will become reality — or be discarded, at least as part of the Regional Tourism Act package.
Again, this is where changing leadership can lead to a fresh start. There’s a rising sense that if this municipal election produces a new Council majority determined to cooperate with the mayor, Regional Business Alliance and others, then all the important players can work toward making decisions, setting realistic timelines and going from there.
My guess is that the next serious conversations might begin with considering options for the stadium and event center, realizing that to continue as part of C4C, any revision still would have to meet the pre-established state guidelines and remain in that same general location.
But those conversations have to commence soon.
• Thinking big. Lots of ideas are taking shape for Colorado Springs, such as plans for a science center, children’s museum and new Pikes Peak Summit House. Once again, the next mayor should feel fortunate that those projects already have made some progress, which could accelerate with the right nurturing and backing.
But that shouldn’t be the end of the ideas for now. When people with credibility come up with proposals, we have to give them serious thought.
For example, longtime local Realtor Vince Rusinak is pushing a “Proposed Companion Project to Pikes Peak Summit House.” Rusinak’s idea, as he has documented, first came up in 1910 — yes, 105 years ago, when the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek Aerial Tramway Company was formed with the idea of providing transport between Old Colorado City and the Cripple Creek mining district. So it really isn’t “new” at all.
Rusinak proposes high-speed aerial tramways or gondolas transporting visitors to the summit as an additional alternative to the Cog Railway and the Pikes Peak Highway. With the likelihood of more tourists lured to a larger, modernized Summit House, the option of an “aerial people mover system” (Rusinak’s term) could be incorporated into developing plans.
One of Rusinak’s thoughts was simply to transfer the City for Champions stadium and event center portion into his Pikes Peak aerial transit plan, but that can’t happen.
It could, however, become a new submission for state funding in the future. Or, as Rusinak suggests, the city of Colorado Springs could pursue a feasibility study and go from there.
Who knows, perhaps the trams or gondolas could follow the general path of the Pikes Peak Highway, with towers and cables not covering a different area.
The good news is that nobody is saying Vince Rusinak’s suggestion is crazy. And that’s the kind of environment Colorado Springs needs: no bad ideas, none too big, some more feasible than others.
And a lot of people determined to create a better future.