This rendition by Altitude Land Consultants shows that the school’s playground will become the Lincoln Center parking lot.
This rendition by Altitude Land Consultants shows that the school’s playground will become the Lincoln Center parking lot.

Starting Oct. 14, John Rodgers will transform Lincoln Elementary School into Lincoln Center, an Ivywild-like development, on North Cascade Avenue. Rodgers expects retail establishments to open for business between March and April next year.

Ivywild is a former elementary school on South Cascade Avenue that developers turned into a neighborhood business hub.

At 2727 N. Cascade, Lincoln Elementary School sits on 3.04 acres, now surrounded by a chain-link fence and “No Trespassing” signs. In 2013, Colorado Springs School District 11 closed the school for budget reasons. The building is now 67 years old.

D-11 still owns the former school and land; however, the district has a tentative date of Oct. 14 to close on the sale of the property, said Devra Ashby, public relations director with the district. The approved price is $875,000.

The owner of Peak Commercial Properties in Colorado Springs, Rodgers wants to improve the neighborhood, rescue the closed building from blight and enhance the business community in Colorado Springs. Businesses leasing space there will be locally owned, with the possibility of two Denver-area tenants, he said.

He anticipates spending between $1 million and $2 million to remodel the building.

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Business interest

“We have a significant amount of interest from tenants wanting to lease a portion of the building,” Rodgers said, after taking nine prospective tenants on a tour. Already, area brewer Local Relic announced plans to lease space there.

Other space likely will be occupied by an Italian restaurant, a coffee shop that will roast its beans on-site, an architectural engineering firm, a hair salon, an American bistro-style restaurant that “wants to take significant space,” and his own Peak Commercial, Rodgers said. “It’s a full-blown community center.”

He did not release the names of the businesses because the contracts are still in negotiation.

An area bank, also unnamed, has agreed to provide favorable terms for potential tenants that need business loans, Rodgers said.

“Within 30 days [of closing], it should be about 70 percent pre-leased,” he said. “We’ll start construction [of the parking lot] the day of closing.”

Initially, Rodgers and his silent partner considered using the building for document storage. However, Ivywild’s success and a query of area residents and businesses showed “there was enough demand for it to become a community center,” he said. “Ivywild helped. Its success made our jobs easier.”

Most of the tenants have approached Rodgers, he said, instead of being recruited. “We have not started marketing,” he said. “Next week, we will.”

He does not have a set advertised cost for space rental. Instead, he is negotiating contracts.

“Our goal is to make sure we get the right people. If that means ‘being more generous’ to get the right people, we’ll do it,” Rodgers said.

The project

The former Lincoln School sits on land bordered by Tejon Street and Cascade Avenue and by Tyler and Polk streets. The building has 42,327 square feet in total. Interest in the project has “taken off,” said John Olson, director of urban design at Altitude Land Consultants, working for Rodgers on Lincoln Center.

The development allows 35,000 square feet to be used in a combined mix of office space, commercial, civic and housing.

While residential is allowed on the property, none is planned at this time, Olson added.

Initial plans include 6,305 square feet reserved for a restaurant and outdoor dining, 3,138 square feet of retail space and 10,438 square feet for office space.

A benefit of leasing at Lincoln Center involves using the restrooms already in place. Typically, a tenant would spend up to $30,000 to install restrooms and the HVAC to support them, Rodgers said.

The school gymnasium and auditorium are still available for lease, Rodgers said.

“The gymnasium would be a phenomenal site for a gymnastics or a cheerleading company. The ceilings are higher than 20 feet and there are no columns,” Rodgers said.

Olson surmised the gym could be devoted to “personal improvement services,” such as yoga.

Other business, timeline

Local Relic is the first business to announce its intent to occupy space at Lincoln Center.

The former playground will be replaced by a parking lot, slated to be completed by November, with exterior upgrades following shortly after, Rodgers said. Tenants will begin construction with the intention of occupying their suites by January, he said.

The neighborhood has “a lot of good history and is close to downtown, Colorado College and UCCS. And it’s close to the Legacy Loop,” Olson added, referring to the continuous hiking and bicycling trail being finished around the downtown area without crossing a thoroughfare.

“We’re right next to Penrose Hospital, CC, UCCS,” Rodgers said. “Customers are right there.”

“I believe it will be fully occupied by mid-spring. I think it’s going to move pretty quickly,” Olson said.

“The goal [for the developer] is not to have a suburban strip mall,” said Peter Wysocki, Colorado Springs planning and development director, in a briefing to City Council on Sept. 22. “This will prevent blight before it starts.”

Wysocki and Olson presented the project to Council. Council unanimously approved the concept plan and rezoned the land from R-1 elementary school to a Planned Unit Development.

The development has one more step before it is finalized: The city planning staff must approve the development plan.

Lincoln Center

Established: 2015

Owners: John Rodgers and partner

Size: 35,000 sq. ft. on 3.04 acres

Cost: $875,000 to buy; $1M-$2M to renovate