Home Page

June 25 gathering to commemorate Wes Colbrunn, financial guru of OCC revitalization

       Did you ever wonder who Colbrunn Court is named after?
       It was Wes Colbrunn, a financial specialist whose part in Old Colorado City's major revitalization during the late 1970s and early 1980s was so revered that after his death several local business people got the city to change the name of the single-block roadway from the originally platted “Court Street.”
       A ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of his passing is planned by his family and friends Saturday, June 25 at noon. The location will be the grave in
Wes Colbrunn is second from left in a photo from 1978, with Colorado Governor Richard Lamm (right) and Dave Hughes (left). The man third from left (unidentified) was from a reenactment group organized around the memory of the 1st Colorado Volunteer Infantry Regiment that won the 1862 battle of Glorieta Pass, according to Hughes.
Courtesy of Deborah Trissel
Evergreen Cemetery, where Colbrunn (also a World War II veteran) was buried after dying of cancer at age 59 in 1986. He had actually been fighting the disease for the preceding seven years, according to his daughter, Amy Canale, who was 16 when he died.
       “He was very industrious,” she recalled. “Even when he'd come out of chemotherapy, he would go right back to work. He was very dedicated to the people he was trying to serve in Old Colorado City.”
       The ceremony will feature the placement of a new headstone and a chance to speak for those who knew him. “It will be kind of informal, and I'd like to make it joyous. Anybody is welcome,” Canale said. “Then we'll probably convoy to La Baguette [a restaurant in Old Colorado City], which was one of the first loans my dad did.”
       Dave Hughes, known as the ramrod of the revitalization effort, talked about Colbrunn in his recent article for the March 2016 West Word newsletter, published by the Old Colorado City Historical Society. Hughes' article lists numerous people he worked with in those days, and Colbrunn's name is at the top.
The intersection of Colbrunn Court and Colorado Avenue is seen in an early-morning view, looking southeast, with 24th Street in the far background at left. Wes Colbrunn, the street's namesake, is credited with steering the financial aspects of the Old Colorado City revitalization.
Westside Pioneer file photo
Hughes writes: “Wes had been a banker and small-business owner (a restaurant) in St. Louis. He had lost his restaurant during the social upheavals there, moved to Colorado Springs and was working in a bank.
       “But he was attracted to historical preservation and small business and knew bank lending practices.
       “About that time, I met with Jack Lance, from the Small Business Administration (SBA) in Denver. There was no SBA office in Colorado Springs. I asked him whether an SBA-guaranteed bank loan could be coupled with a HUD block grant loan for the same small-business venture. He said he knew of none in the U.S., but he couldn't see anything wrong with it. I communicated that to Wes Colbrunn, handed him the SBA papers for its rules and conditions, we huddled and he said, 'That will work.'
       “Out of that came the nonprofit Old Colorado City Development Company, with Wes as its director, which arranged over 35 owner-occupant business and building acquisition loans, with the added condition that the new owner had to preserve the historical architecture of his building.”
       Don Bates, now retired, had an insurance company in Old Colorado City for more than 50 years, before selling it two years ago. During the revitalization, he worked with Colbrunn, Hughes, Norm Clark, Gene Brent and others.
       Bates described Colbrunn as “the key to this entire thing. He was the one who would go in and say to a man who owned a business or building, 'If we had a loan for you at 3 percent - and in those days the average loans were 7 and 8 percent - for a 30-year period with a zero or very, very minor down payment, would you be interested in redoing your building?'
       “And we had an architect who would draw a generalized plan [for their property renovation] at no cost to them. Our spiel would be, 'If you're not willing to do this, would you be willing to sell it to someone who would, or would you do that and rent it to that individual?' Our whole purpose was to retain the individually owned and operated businesses. And to this day, if you stop and think about it, we don't have any chain operations for about six blocks, which is absolutely amazing.”
       The business upgrades also bolstered city involvement that resulted in major public improvements that can still be seen, including the brick pavers, landscaping and public parking lots.
       For more information on the ceremony for Wes Colbrunn, call Amy Canale at 480-685-1217, or e-mail her at acanale@avadistribution.com.
       (See guest column by Dave Hughes about the history of Court Street/Colbrunn Court and adjoining Bancroft Park.)

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/11/16; Community: In Memoriam)

Would you like to respond to this article? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)