downtown Colorado Springs

PlanCOS, the city’s first update to its comprehensive plan since 2001, is intended to provide a framework for decisions about future growth and development.

A public draft of the plan was released last week, and the city is asking business professionals to review the draft and give feedback.

The plan sets out a vision and goals for the city in six thematic areas: 

  • Vibrant Neighborhoods
  • Unique Places (growth, demographics and land use)
  • Thriving Economy
  • Strong Connections (transportation)
  • Renowned Culture
  • Majestic Landscapes

“No one single element can create a great city,” Colorado Springs Planning Director Peter Wysocki said at a launch event June 25.

Wysocki said certain topics will be of more interest to some people than others, but he hopes business people will take a look at the ideas expressed in the plan.

Tim Seibert, vice president of Nor’wood Development Group and a member of the steering committee, said even small business owners can find value in the plan and can give valuable feedback.

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“It really helps them understand how their vision might marry up with city’s vision,” Seibert said.

The Thriving Economy section is one of the plan’s unique features; relatively few cities with comprehensive plans focus in such detail on that area.

Thriving Economy, Chapter 4 of PlanCOS, begins with this vision statement:

“[The city] fosters an environment of inclusivity and economic diversity by attracting an innovative and adaptive workforce, advancing existing and targeted industry clusters, investing in quality of life, supporting our military, and expanding our sports ecosystem as Olympic City USA.”

The plan defines a thriving economy as one “that offers diverse and well-paying jobs, along with a strong educational and workforce training system that effectively prepares our residents for these opportunities.

“Although the attraction and retention of well-paying and sustainable jobs is the essential and foundational lynchpin for a thriving economy, this Plan also recognizes that relatively lower-paying jobs will be associated with and support this base,” the plan states. “Therefore, a city and economy that thrives overall, needs to have places, housing, transportation, and services that meet the needs of citizens across our economic spectrum.”

Key strategies for achieving a thriving economy are:

  • Nurturing cornerstone institutions, target industries, spinoffs, startups and entrepreneurship
  • Expanding high-quality infrastructure and technology
  • Creating amenities to attract new businesses and residents.

The plan recognizes the importance of “our traditional and anchoring economic bases starting with our military, and all of its related sectors, including technology and cybersecurity,” but also acknowledges “the importance of never being complacent, especially when it comes to our part in creating a business climate that supports economic diversification, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic inclusion.”

The plan presents “State of the City Snapshots” in Appendix A, one of which captures the current state of the city’s economy.

Jobs are abundant in military-related fields, cybersecurity, health care and the sports ecosystem, the plan states, and health care, military employment and defense spending, tourism, sports and outdoor recreation will continue to be important segments of the local economy. 

While Colorado Springs currently is seen as the top U.S. city in terms of concentration of cybersecurity firms, the city will face increasing competition with cities like Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Washington, D.C. for top cybersecurity talent.

That underscores the importance of amenities such as walkability, good transportation, livability, housing, parks, cultural attractions and other amenities to lure young, skilled professionals.

It also indicates the importance of strengthening the downtown area.

“Downtown Colorado Springs is well positioned to become a significant economic hub,” the plan states. “There is an emerging live-work-play lifestyle in downtown Colorado Springs which is not yet well-known.”

The plan predicts that the economy will continue to evolve over the next 20 years, “with less emphasis on traditional long-term employment with fixed hours and more need for office space that nimbly adapts to changes in technology and market demand.”

Based upon the current snapshot, projections for the future and input from thousands of citizens through surveys and public events, the plan states five goals for achieving and maintaining a thriving economy:

Goal 1: Build on our quality of place and existing competitive advantages.

Goal 2: Diversify the local economy by fostering a range of business types and sizes.

Goal 3: Continue and initiate regional coordination and partnerships focused on economic development and shared fiscal sustainability. 

Goal 4: Focus on productively developing and redeveloping areas already in, nearby, or surrounded by the city in order to preserve open spaces, maximize investments in existing infrastructure, limit future maintenance costs, and reduce the impacts of disinvestment in blighted areas.

Goal 5: Become a Smart Cities leader in applying innovative technology in ways that enhance the City’s ability to better manage our facilities and services and improve our overall quality of life.

Each goal has specific policy prescriptions and applications, including updating zoning codes to enable flexible development.

PlanCOS contains a lot of well-organized information about the city in an easily accessible form. As presented on the city’s website, it is easy for citizens to navigate through the themed sections and to submit comments through green comment buttons.

That is what Wysocki, Seibert and other Springs leaders hope business people will do.

“Taking time to read it provides an understanding of the future and how they can be part of that,” Seibert said. “Those small insights can make the plan better and more adaptable, which is what we hope for this plan.”

Find out more about PlanCOS and how you can become involved in the July 6 edition of the Business Journal.