Remember this song from the great Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! that made its debut on Broadway in 1943?
“Everything’s up-to-date in Kansas City
They gone about as fer as they can go…”
That’s not Colorado Springs! We’re lunging into the future, laying the foundation stones for a vast new city that will stun the world. It’ll have verdant parks, uncrowded parkways, world-class museums, suburbs that will extend to the Kansas line, downtown skyscrapers that will rival Pikes Peak, real estate prices that will make us all rich and the lowest utility rates in the country. Best of all, we won’t need new taxes — our city is gathering speed, attracting Millennials, fostering innovation, creating jobs and building for the future.
It’s easy to be dismissive and cranky, but these are exciting times. As a community, we’re engaged in multiple significant initiatives that will shape the Colorado Springs of 2050. Many of us may be suffering from issue fatigue; there’s too much going on to pay attention to all this stuff. So we trust that the mayor and city council are doing their jobs, and that business-oriented organizations such as the Housing & Building Association, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and the Convention & Visitors Bureau are looking after our interests. Maybe so, but I suspect that they’re similarly overwhelmed. So here are a few things to monitor.
Banning Lewis Ranch. If all goes as forecast, development of the property will be steady, sustainable and ultimately profitable for the city. We don’t yet know the complete details of the revised annexation agreement, but it may be one better suited to the Colorado Springs of 1980 than that of 2050. The question: Can a city of a million residents rely on sales taxes to fund and maintain another 17,000 acres of car-dependent suburbs? Such a city will be subject to drastic revenue fluctuations during recessions, exacerbating our city’s normal boom-bust cycles. It’s interesting that the city has apparently agreed to shrink the right-of-way for the proposed Banning-Lewis north-south parkway by more than by a third, therefore assuring future traffic congestion and precluding light rail service.
The Comprehensive Plan. The “process” plods along, as the city tries valiantly to involve residents in the new plan’s creation. Unfortunately, it’s inside baseball. Love them or hate them, we’re all absorbed by the president’s tweets, but the comp plan? It’s dense, bureaucratic, full of awkward legalese and will impact every business in the city.
Southwest downtown. Like Banning Lewis, the future of this hundred-acre urban renewal area is largely in the hands of one man — Nor’wood Development Group’s Chris Jenkins. Worst case scenario: The Olympic Museum only attracts flies, the proposed stadium/events center dies on the vine, development stalls and the downtown renaissance comes to an end. Best case: Everything works out, southwest downtown becomes the Shanghai of Colorado and Jenkins is elected governor!
Historic Preservation Plan. The existing plan, adopted in 1993, doesn’t do much to protect and enhance many historic buildings and neighborhoods. The process for creating a new one is intended to “Provide content for an ongoing conversation of historic preservation that will leverage limited resources to educate, plan and survey additional resources throughout the city.” That’s what the planners say, and hopefully the plan will revive the long-stalled attempt to designate much of the Westside as a city-certified historic district.
North Cheyenne Cañon Master Plan. Much to the dismay of neighborhood activists who fought against the Strawberry Fields land swap, the city is now calling for a sweeping redo of the 2003 plan. The plan has already been discussed this year in a couple well-attended community meetings. The draft plan will be presented March 6 at Cheyenne Mountain High School. The city claims that the status quo is untenable, and that preservation of the natural environment may require drastic changes, such as restricting automobile access. Like Greta Garbo, Cañon residents just want to be left alone.
And if the prospect of attending all these important meetings seems depressing, cheer up: TheatreWorks is presenting Oklahoma! at the Ent Center for the Arts from Feb. 15 to March 11. And here are some lyrics that might be better suited to our city.
“Oh what a beautiful mornin’
Oh what a beautiful day
I got a beautiful feelin’
Ev’rything’s goin’ my way.”