No Man’s Land study to begin, will include ‘urban renewal’ element

       A multi-state engineering firm with a Colorado Springs office has been hired to do a technical planning study of the “No Man's Land” between Red Rock shopping center and the Highway 24 interchange at Manitou Avenue.
       The selection of Nolte Associates Inc. was made official at a Manitou Springs City Council meeting Feb. 21. “They approved it, so we're ready to go,” said Kitty Clemens, director of Manitou's Economic Development Corporation (EDC). The $82,500 analysis is scheduled to continue through August, according to Mike Hussey, the project manager for Nolte.
       Part of the effort will involve an “urban renewal” element that will “identify potential uses for the area,” he said. “It may be that some existing uses would remain. This is not a total redo. It's an analysis of the highest and best use.”
       Before the Nolte team gets started, there will be a meeting, to which all the “stakeholders” will be invited, Clemens said. The idea is to obtain input from property owners, business people and any others who may want to know what the study will involve.
       The date of the meeting has not been set, but will be sometime in late March, Hussey said. There will be another public meeting as the effort nears an end this summer, as well as a discussion before Manitou Springs City Council, he added.
       Clemens said Nolte, which also has Colorado offices in Denver and Fort Collins, was chosen over another bidder on the project, based largely on the company's “succint presentation” and its experience doing similar work in other communities.
       Nolte will hire a subcontractor for much of the data-gathering effort, Hussey said.
       Asked what would happen after the research effort ends, Clemens said, “We have no plans after that, because we don't know what the outcome of the research will be.”
       She added that any resulting upgrades by Manitou Springs would have to be within its city limits. But information from the study will be available to other entities. Both the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County have jurisdiction in different places along the avenue between Manitou Springs and about 33rd Street, and departments within both entities are considering strategies to implement improvement projects.
       The roughly 1 ½-mile segment has been nicknamed No Man's Land chiefly because of the low level of public investment to date - most prominently the lack of sidewalks most of the way. Although the most typical businesses there are older motels, some private improvements have been occurring, including regular upgrades/expansions at Chuck Murphy's Garden of the Gods Campground and the new Comfort Inn (formerly Alpine Motel) being constructed at Manitou Avenue and Crystal Hills Boulevard.
       The study is being funded with a 90 percent grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and a 10 percent match from the City of Manitou Springs. Getting the grant required a finding of “blight” in the study area, based on the public improvement shortfalls.

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