For nearly two decades, we’ve watched as Gold Hill Mesa has developed across its setting south of U.S. 24 between Eighth and 21st streets, where gold processing took place long ago.

The ambitious infill development project, a planned community of more than 200 acres with unobstructed views of Pikes Peak to the west and downtown Colorado Springs to the east, began taking shape with construction of the first homes in 2006.

Of course, the Great Recession soon altered Gold Hill Mesa’s timeline. But today, nearly 160 single-family homes and more than 110 multi-family structures have become reality, following the plan for a convenient, walkable, modern (prewired with high-speed fiber optic cable) neighborhood that includes a central community center.

One element of Gold Hill Mesa’s concept, however, hasn’t come to fruition. From the start, residents were assured that at the right time, commercial development would become a major part of the equation. But the poor economy delayed that timeline for turning dedicated space on Gold Hill Mesa’s north side (closest to U.S. 24) into a healthy mix of stores, restaurants and other businesses.

About three years ago, we began hearing hints that Gold Hill’s commercial segment was coming closer to reality.

This now stands as arguably the only possible option for much-needed, substantial commercial development in west Colorado Springs.

There were big rumors for a while, suggesting that a national chain grocer (Whole Foods?) might anchor a new shopping complex. That was not the case, but the idea of a supermarket with a local, sustainable philosophy always has been part of the vision.

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Now, as reported by CSBJ writer Cameron Moix on page 10 in this issue, city leaders approved classifying 70 acres of Gold Hill Mesa as an Urban Renewal zone. But this isn’t just about appealing to Gold Hill’s residents anymore.

Given the lack of other options, this now stands as arguably the only possible option for much-needed, substantial commercial development in west Colorado Springs. The area, including just about everything south of Fillmore-Fontmore street and west of Eighth Street, surely would have to be a target for many specialty stores, not to mention restaurants and bars, all capable of luring consumers from throughout the Westside and even up Ute Pass.

But the anchor could be some kind of trendy grocer, perhaps a Sprouts or similar store. And the timing might coincide well with the new Interstate 25/Cimarron interchange, which will be fully completed in late 2017.

Granted, the commercial plans for Gold Hill Mesa will create new challenges for civil engineers, since 21st Street in particular will be affected.

But from what we’ve heard, ideas for creating convenient access and smart infrastructure have been in the works for some time. One possibility might be construction of multi-level parking into the hillside on Gold Hill’s north side, taking care of potential (and past) erosion while also avoiding an unattractive vertical parking structure.

The best part is that Gold Hill Mesa’s developers appear on the verge of finally moving beyond years of rumors and uncertainty to the reality of an actual commercial project.

That’s good news for Gold Hill Mesa, good news for the Westside and good news for Manitou Springs and the rest of western El Paso County.