Mayor delivers fourth State of the City address

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John Suthers
John Suthers

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers delivered his fourth State of the City address at The Broadmoor hotel Sept. 21.

Reflecting on milestones from the city’s past, the mayor repeated the theme that citizens today are building the history of future generations.

“The issues, decisions, actions and opportunities for leadership we discuss today will become part of the history of Colorado Springs for those generations that follow us,” he said.

The mayor pointed to the city’s recent rankings in “U.S. News & World Report,” which, this year, ranked Colorado Springs as the second-best city in which to live and as the country’s most most desirable city, adding “subjective assessments” have been replaced with “objective metrics.”

The city has also made it to the top of lists in quality of life, affordability and its economy.

“As result of unprecedented levels of public and private investments, Colorado Springs has taken it’s place among the great cities in America,” Suthers said.

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The mayor summarized infrastructure projects that continue thanks to the passage of the road infrastructure ballot issue 2C in November 2015 which is expected to collect $250 million over five years.

The third season of repaving since the issue passed wraps next month and about 700 miles of road is expected to have been redone, as well as 467,000 linear feet of curb and gutter and 3,226 pedestrian ramps in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under the mayor’s tenure, voters also approved a stormwater fee that ensures the city’s ability to pump Southern Delivery System water and free up general fund dollars that will allow for the hiring of 120 police officers and 32 firefighters over the next four years.

The mayor focused next on the economy, emphasizing that more than 23,000 jobs have been created in the city since June 2015, equating to about 7,300 per year.

“Wages are climbing at the same time,” Suthers said.

The posted median salary for Colorado Springs is $77,050, outpacing Denver at about $76,000 and the states average of around $73,000.

Cyber- and health care-related jobs are in high demand, the mayor said.

Suthers also discussed the booming real estate market, pointing to the Banning Lewis Ranch annexation agreement approved by city council which will facilitate construction of a third of the city’s developable land.

The mayor also talked about the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, which is currently under construction, as well as the recent announcement that a sports and event center would be built downtown by the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC soccer team and Weidner Apartment Homes. Colorado College is also building a downtown sports and events center.

The sports ecosystem in the city has reached close to a half-billion dollars in impact annually, the mayor said.

The mayor then focused on higher education, explaining there are about 40,000 students in the region and the higher ed institutions, combined, account for nearly $2.2 billion in economic impact.

Attention was then turned to Colorado Springs Airport which, in 2015, reached a low of 600,000 enplanements. The mayor said to expect 900,000 enplanements when 2018 draws to a close.

Increased flights also correlate with increased tourism, which the mayor said continues to break records and that, “no less than 22 hotels or motels are under construction or in planning stage,” in Colorado Springs. Hotel occupancy rates in June exceeded 91 percent.

The mayor also offered his appreciation to the state for expediting the construction of a toll lane between Monument and Castle Rock, an stretch often referred to as “The Gap.”

Ground was broken on that project three weeks ago.

Suthers also discussed the need for more affordable housing in the city, adding several projects are underway, to include Copper Range to the city’s east, which will offer 240 income-restricted units, as well as 180 units expected at Traditions at Colorado Springs near the intersection of Powers and Dublin boulevards.

“But we need to step up the pace,” he said, offering a goal of creating 1,000 affordable housing units per year over the next five years.

The mayor also discussed the “difficult balancing act” surrounding the law, homelessness and public safety and commended Colorado Springs City Council for banning camping near the city’s waterways. He added that there’s a need for doubling the 300 low-barrier beds currently available at Springs Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army.

The mayor concluded by saying, “Little London has grown to be among the best cities in America to live, work and play. It’s a tribute to our predecessors that even after 147 years and a population of almost a half million people Colorado Springs is the most desirable city in America to live. Our job is to ensure it remains so far into the future.”