Major roadwork is in full swing at the south end of Nevada Avenue, town-
homes have sprung up and sold out around Ivywild, new retailers and restaurants are thriving, and the southernmost part of the avenue is about to “come alive” with new development.
At the other end of Nevada, the struggling Kmart at Fillmore Street is long gone. In its place, a 60,000-square-foot VASA Fitness center is almost complete, giving the rundown corner site the shot in the arm it needs. The remaining 45,000 square feet of the old Kmart will be filled by the city’s first dine-in movie theater — RoadHouse — and The Rail Yard Entertainment complex.
The two ends of Nevada Avenue, which served as the main route to downtown Colorado Springs and Denver until Interstate 25 bypassed it in the 1960s, are being transformed by the makeover of the Fillmore corner and the development in the South Nevada Urban Renewal Area.
This week, the Business Journal takes a look at the latest developments, and the impact they’ll have on Colorado Springs.
Roadhouse & Rail Yard
Kmart anchored the aging Fillmore Marketplace at 3050 N. Nevada Ave., limping along in its final years before it closed for good in April 2018. The building has stood empty since.
“Geographically the old Kmart site is ideal as it compares to other movie theaters in the area — central and easy to get to,” RoadHouse Cinemas Director of Operations Scott Cassell said.
In that space, Arizona-based RoadHouse will build 12 luxury dine-in theater auditoriums with leather recliners and seat-side service, a full-service bar, scratch kitchen and bakery. The cinema will run new releases and throwback classic movies while serving Colorado craft beers and wines, locally made gelato, keg root beer, and bottomless bowls of non-GMO popcorn.
Between VASA Fitness and RoadHouse, The Rail Yard will focus on what RoadHouse President Josh Snider calls the “fun, social atmosphere of a sports bar and gaming.”
Designed as a social hub for events, parties, group gatherings and date nights, The Rail Yard will boast a huge gaming arcade with prizes — “similar to a Dave & Busters concept,” Cassell said — as well as a sports bar, outdoor patio and “duckpin” bowling.
RoadHouse will employ about 150 people, full- and part-time, at the site, which Cassell called a “sweet spot” between University Village, UCCS and I-25.
“RoadHouse chose Colorado Springs for its third site because it offered several opportunities,” he said. “The company wants to be primarily in smaller, secondary markets, and the Springs doesn’t have a dine-in theater. RoadHouse is also impressed by the city’s strong economy and growing industries such as tourism, its weather and quality of life and the friendliness of its people.”
The old Big Train Family Restaurant on the northeast corner of the Fillmore Marketplace site will be demolished to make way for a hotel, and an additional 13,400-square-foot retail strip center is proposed for another part of the site.
“It’s exciting for that Kmart property to become something else,” said Tammy Fields, Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC’s senior vice president of economic development. “That’s a big property — I think it will encourage other development right there in that corridor. When something larger like that starts to happen, then it can be catalytic.
The segment of North Nevada Avenue from Austin Bluffs to I-25 — which encompasses University Village — “has really flourished,” Fields said, “but south of Austin Bluffs to Fillmore, we’ve seen that kind of struggle.”
The redevelopment of Fillmore Place, along with the expanding National Cybersecurity Center and Exponential Impact tech accelerator at 3650 N. Nevada Ave., will drive new infill in the area and boost Colorado Springs’ appeal by rejuvenating areas that “are maybe not all that attractive,” she said.
While the old Fillmore Place is not technically in an urban renewal area, Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority Executive Director Jariah Walker said, “our hope is that what they’re doing there will generate energy for some other stuff going in around it.”
Walker said the Urban Renewal Authority wasn’t involved in the project, although they had talked to the owners of the property in an effort to persuade them to be part of an urban renewal area (designed to regenerate blighted blocks and neighborhoods). But they preferred to reuse the existing building, without the requirements that attend an urban renewal designation.
“If they were to demolish it and build new then that triggers a whole different set of requirements, so they wanted to keep the exterior the way it was,” Walker explained. “But it’s cool to see something going in, in an area that frankly was, ‘What’s going to go here? We can’t just have an abandoned Kmart sitting there.’ And it speaks to our market, that somebody came in and said, ‘Man, this is a fantastic corridor, let’s gobble this up so we can get in here.’
Farther north on Nevada, University Village is in an urban renewal area, and the Urban Renewal Authority sees the rest of the North Nevada corridor as an area where it could potentially get involved, giving “close attention to build-outs and how everything connects,” Walker said. “It’s an area that’s ripe with a lot of opportunity, no doubt about it.”
At Nevada’s south end, three developers — Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli, Danny Mientka and Walt Harder — have been working with the Urban Renewal Authority to transform the blighted area south of Ramona Avenue and the long-neglected Cheyenne Creek.
They’ve been remaking South Nevada for two years and, until now, most of Mientka’s work has been invisible to passersby. But that’s about to change.
“[Danny Mientka’s] bonds are now being issued, so he’ll be able to use that funding to build the project that he had promised the URA that he would build a while ago. … ,” Walker said. “Now that Danny’s cleared for takeoff, you’ll really see that southern chunk of the west side of Nevada — behind the McDonald’s, behind the Wells Fargo — you’ll really see that development come alive.”
Mientka’s project, Creekwalk, is a key piece in the urban renewal area.
The 61,700-square-foot shopping center will sit on approximately 11 acres, stretching from Ramona Avenue south to East Cheyenne Road, boasting a mix of restaurants, retail shops, a new trail connection and public plaza.
The bond issuance is “a huge step … it’s going to really flesh out that west side,” Walker said. “He’s going to be a major game-changer to that area, there’s no doubt about it.
“His project is very complicated,” he added, “but now that he’s got it to where he can start, we’re very excited and looking forward to moving forward.”
The funding also means The Equity Group can proceed with the first of its off-site public improvements — undergrounding the electrical lines on the west side of South Nevada Avenue. The Equity Group’s other major off-site projects include streetscaping on both sides of South Nevada Avenue between I-25 and Cheyenne Road, and the widening of Cheyenne Road.
The city’s South Nevada Avenue Improvements Project, which started in June, is rebuilding the center median between Navajo Street and Ramona Avenue to create left-turn lanes to Navajo Street and the new shopping center on the west side of Nevada Avenue. The inside lanes of Nevada Avenue are closed in both directions for the duration of the project, causing congestion.
“The road stuff is always challenging, but we really will see a huge benefit to the flow through there with the new traffic signalization,” Walker said, “and then Cheyenne Road will be widened as well, with the turn lane into [the Creekwalk site] so it doesn’t back up the flow of traffic going through Cheyenne. That’ll be a critical public improvement too, moving forward.”
Ray O’Sullivan, development manager for the Guadagnolis’ Ivywild Development company, said all the stores in their new 8,088-square-foot retail building on South Nevada Avenue, north of the Creekwalk site, are already successful.
“We just polled all four retailers and to a person, they think it’s among the best stores in their chain for the region,” he said. “And I know, just from talking to the other developer, that Chick-fil-A exceeded their expectations by about 50 percent and the Natural Grocers doubled or tripled their sales from their old in-line space they were in.”
The 19 townhomes in the first phase of the Guadagnolis’ Canyon Creek Townhomes, on Cheyenne Boulevard, have sold out. For the second phase, they’ve closed on the construction loan and are “ready to roll,” expecting to break ground in about six weeks.
The Guadagnolis will also build a 140-room branded hotel — “they’re deep in negotiations with a major chain and we’re very close to an announcement,” O’Sullivan said — and three apartment projects. They’ll build two 25-unit buildings at Brookside and Navajo streets, and a 35-unit building at Mount Washington Avenue and Metzler Place.
Plans for the Guadagnolis’ building at 1515 S. Tejon St. are “not 100 percent finalized … but should take shape in the next few months,” O’Sullivan said.
“We have basically six projects [in the urban renewal area] and three of them are done and three are in the works, so we’re really happy about everything,” he added. “We probably could have done it a little quicker, but the market’s kind of come our way too — interest rates and rents.
“I would say it’s exceeding our expectations. We’re really thrilled with the results so far.”