Colorado Springs is one step closer to redeveloping a segment of the North Nevada Avenue corridor that has long been seen as a struggling transition between the city’s thriving north and its bustling downtown.
The city unveiled the draft of the North Nevada Avenue Plan during an open house Tuesday evening at the Mortgage Solutions Financial Expo Center at 3650 N. Nevada Ave., which lies near the center of the project area that spans from Fillmore Street to Garden of the Gods Road.
The event was the last in a series of workshops and forums at which the city sought public input from area residents and business owners about their hopes for the area.
“Since July 2016, the city of Colorado Springs has been conducting a community involvement process to create a plan that will result in continued investment in the North Nevada Avenue corridor,” said Krithika Prashant, senior communications specialist for Colorado Springs in a recent release. “Community round tables, an online survey and a series of four community workshops have generated the involvement of over 825 residents.”
The draft details the city’s recommendations for overlay zoning and highlights opportunities for investment by interested developers. The end goal, according to project officials, is to revitalize the 2.5-mile zone between the city’s Old North End neighborhood and the North Nevada Corridor Urban Renewal Area, which includes University Village Colorado, a major shopping center across the street from UCCS.
“We’re trying to develop a community-driven plan that identifies a way to redevelop the area in a way that the community wants,” said project manager Nina Vetter. “I think that’s huge.”
Vetter said the area currently has little to no infrastructure to support safe and effective transportation. One of the primary objectives of the plan is to change that by investing in better roads, street-scaping, new trail connections and public transit.
“It’s not walkable, it’s not bike-able and there are a lot of traffic issues,” she said. “So it has its challenges, but it is in a great area with a great corridor and there are a lot of great things we could do here.”
If the city purchases the old Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe Railway right-of-way that runs along North Nevada Avenue between Jackson and Lee Streets (a bid was placed months ago), Vetter said the track could also fit into the equation and become an additional thoroughfare for multi-modal transit. (See story about trolleys on North Nevada, page 9.)
“We’re making a commitment to transportation and infrastructure in the area,” she said.
The groundwork for the plan was laid by a commissioned market analysis of the area that came after then-Mayor Steve Bach designated the area as an Economic Opportunity Zone. The analysis recommended creating a master plan and creating opportunities for hotels, a pocket park and residential developments along the corridor.
Vetter said now is the most opportune time to act on those findings, because of the recent creation of the National Cybersecurity Center, the rapid growth of UCCS to the immediate north of the project area and the overall health of the local economy.
“We’re trying to encourage the market to be redeveloped,” she said, adding that the city is adamant about making updates to the area without the use of heavy-handed tactics such as rezoning and eminent domain.
“We have committed not to use eminent domain to carry out the plan,” she said. “We’re trying to incentivize redevelopment … but we’re not going to be forcing anyone out.”
Through the planning process, the city has subdivided the project area into three zones — north, central and south — and has started to make redevelopment recommendations for each based on their unique features.
Because of the proximity of the northern section to UCCS, the plan highlights investment and redevelopment opportunities pertaining to the creation of a mixed-use hub, multi-family housing and a hotel to cater to the growing student population.
For the central portion of the project area, the plan highlights opportunities pertaining to high-density residential redevelopment and mixed-use commercial development that will serve the future Cybersecurity Center.
The plan also highlights investment and redevelopment opportunities for the southern end of the project area — surrounding the intersection of Nevada and Fillmore — and focuses on the re-purposing of old buildings for new mixed uses, the redevelopment of several commercial sites, high-density residential prospects and the creation of a city transit hub.
Christopher Fagnant is president of Qualtek Manufacturing at 4230 N. Nevada Ave., which his parents have owned since July 2000. Fagnant said he and his family have worried about the possibility that rezoning in the area could lead to Qualtek “most likely being kicked out.” Still, he is optimistic about the proposed changes.
“We’re excited about the redevelopment of the corridor and the connection of University Village to the Old North End,” he said. “I would love to see public transit make more sense up and down Nevada, and I would love to see it become a walkable corridor. I would love to see it transition to more of a business-friendly and inviting community.”
Vetter said it has been encouraging to see participation from local residents and business owners.
“Without that, this wouldn’t be able to happen,” she said.
While the big picture of North Nevada Avenue’s future is beginning to crystallize, the details of how the city will implement redevelopment remains largely unknown.
The plans will go to the Colorado Springs Planning Commission next month and get approval from city council in the spring.
After that, Vetter said discussions of funding and implementation should begin.