“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” — A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
We can all agree that 2020 was the worst of times — a year of such challenge and devastating loss. Throughout our city and our Downtown, our independent small businesses continue to confront an existential crisis, exacerbated now by the bleak of winter.
As we welcome 2021, with vaccines on the horizon, we know better times are ahead. But even in the midst of a pandemic, Downtown reached historic achievements last year.
• The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame opened to national and international acclaim.
• Construction continued on Weidner Field and Ed Robson Arena, slated to open this year.
• More than 20 storefront businesses opened, surpassing 2019 levels.
• Three hotels are under construction, bringing more than 450 new rooms to the city center.
• The Mae on Cascade, Casa Mundi and the Pikes Peak Lofts opened, bringing more than 200 new residential units to our city center.
• PikeRide bike share expanded to the Westside, and ridership more than doubled from the year prior.
• Developers bullish on Downtown filed plans for projects that will add hundreds more apartment units to fulfill pent-up demand.
• The board of Colorado Springs Utilities voted to rapidly decommission the coal-fired Drake Power Plant and point the city toward a clean energy future.
That’s an extraordinary year by any measure. There is so much positive force within our Downtown to buoy our hopes, entice investors and lure new residents.
But we’re not cheering yet. As Downtown is poised to experience its best days ahead, we must ensure that our small businesses are not left behind, so they, too, can reap the rewards of our years of planning and investment that have taken us to this point.
As we look to this year ahead, Downtown Partnership remains guided by our Experience Downtown Plan — a bold vision with actionable tactics. For 2021, our efforts are honed to ensure our city center emerges from the pandemic stronger, wiser and with resilience.
• Our longstanding primary goal to increase residential options Downtown is more relevant than ever — as more people call Downtown their home, our independent shops and restaurants will benefit from their loyal patronage.
• A Downtown lifestyle and welcoming environment continue to be economic drivers — that’s why we’ve stepped up our focus on improvements to the public realm and built environment, our historic Downtown parks, streets and even alleyways. This is paired with equal attention to our social and cultural environment — fostering a place of creativity and innovation.
• Connectivity is essential: convenient multimodal transport options, improved streetscaping with safe pedestrian pathways, wayfinding signage, links to the Legacy Loop, and thoughtful planning that stitches together the nodes of activity Downtown — from the stadium to the arena, from Catalyst Campus to America the Beautiful Park. There’s much to do in this realm for a more walkable, safe, connected experience for everyone — and it remains an area of focus for us.
• And finally, continued support for small businesses most deeply impacted by the pandemic is paramount. Our Downtown family of organizations accomplishes this through grants, loans, technical support, marketing initiatives and more, yet ultimately we rely on our community to shop and dine at and patronize Downtown’s small businesses.
We can and are building a city center unlike anywhere else in the country: a lively, eclectic, humming urban environment that’s seamlessly connected to unparalleled natural beauty and outdoor adventures.
We asked a lot of everyone in 2020, reminding you how when you shop and dine locally you make a big impact. In fact, for every $100 spent at a local shop or eatery, $70 remains in our community, supporting public improvements and schools, roads and parks, as well as sending more business to other local companies; that same amount spent at a chain retains only about $40 locally.
Local, state and federal assistance has been and remains essential for the recovery of industries most impacted by the pandemic. But our city can truly shine — and rebound more quickly — through the grassroots efforts of citizens to keep supporting local in the months ahead. Oh, and to continue wearing masks in public, to reduce the spread of the virus until all people can be vaccinated. With your commitment — with the passion, grit and unwavering support of everyone for our Downtown and all our city’s local shops and restaurants — Colorado Springs can and will emerge from this historic crisis as an exemplar of strength, tenacity and ingenuity.
President and CEO, Downtown Partnership