Last Saturday at King Soopers, I ran into an acquaintance. He’s about my age, a Colorado Springs native and a guy who has been deeply involved in our community for decades. His mom was a teacher at Colorado Springs High School when I graduated in 1958.
“Hey, John!” he said.
“Hey, Dave — so what are you doing?”
“Same thing you’re doing,” said David Jenkins. “Doing Saturday morning shopping like a good spouse.”
So we kidded each other as old guys will, talked about cycling and staying fit in our 70s and eventually ambled down different aisles.
Jenkins is a community-minded man with an exemplary family who is arguably the most powerful businessperson in Colorado Springs.
With his son Chris, he’ll determine the future of downtown and of the Jenkins-owned 18,500-acre Banning-Lewis Ranch.
Power comes to those who can create value, who can pull buildings out of the ground or convert speculative properties into revenue — producing assets. Jenkins has done exactly that.
Father and son are not swayed by the perceived wish lists of young professionals or by airy notions of the public good. They could afford to do rankly speculative deals, but that’s not their style. Alone among local developers, David Jenkins has remained liquid in good times and bad.
In the boom-and-bust real estate economy that has characterized Colorado Springs for decades, he’s been a shrewd and careful buyer.
An example: In 1994, Jenkins bought the Plaza of the Rockies building at Tejon and Colorado Avenue from the bank that had foreclosed on the building’s former owner.
Built in the 1980s on land that was part of a designated urban renewal area, the original developer insisted that the city sweeten the pot by narrowing the Tejon Street right-of-way. As a perceived quid pro quo, the developer included a public indoor skating rink on the street level of the building. It became a popular downtown amenity.
City residents believed that the rink was as permanent as the street narrowing — but Jenkins knew better. If there was any such understanding, it didn’t survive the foreclosure. During the next year, he undertook an $800,000 renovation of the building, deep-sixing the ice rink and replacing it with 42,000 square feet of office space on two floors.
Skating enthusiasts protested bitterly, but Jenkins had transformed a downtown white elephant into a profitable urban property.
With his son Chris, he’ll determine the future of downtown.
Five years later he built the 13-story South Tower, which includes the popular Nosh restaurant on the ground floor, as well as space for the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. Jenkins made a great deal and the community benefited from his acumen as well.
So what’s next?
Here are some guesses.
• Pikes Peak Place. That’s the property description of a contiguous 60,133-square-foot vacant parcel bounded by Nevada Avenue, Pikes Peak Avenue and Weber Street. In 2010, Chris Jenkins told the Business Journal that plans for the construction, a mixed-use residential and retail high-rise were on hold, thanks to the recession. Jenkins said that he still hoped to move forward on the project in the near future — “maybe five to 10 years from now.”
Five years and counting, Chris.
• Southwest downtown. Nor’wood Development Group (the Jenkins’ company) gave the Olympic Museum a 1.7-acre site for the building at Vermijo and Sawatch streets, thereby enhancing the development potential of surrounding ground, much of it owned by Jenkins’ interests. You can bet that the donation came with a commitment to develop and improve adjacent parcels, though. Dick Celeste and the grandees of the U.S. Olympic Committee are not about to build their “iconic” structure amid a sea of dilapidated warehouses, cracked sidewalks and derelict railway sidings. Rumors are that an announcement might be coming in a few weeks.
Besides Pikes Peak Place and southwest downtown, Jenkins’ interests have patiently assembled several large downtown properties. One such assemblage is a 103,877- square-foot parcel bounded by Nevada, Vermijo and Weber. It includes an empty 1963 medical office building at 209 S. Nevada and a 1937 apartment building at 210 S. Weber. CSBJ/Independent employees might prefer that development occur elsewhere, since Chris Jenkins lets us park our cars on a lot next to the Independent building at 235 S. Nevada.
Parking or not, I’d love to see a 20-story building rise next door. Who knows, it might even have a Starbucks — no more three-block winter walks for the morning cuppa!