Kum & Go opposition heats up
Workshop invitees talk design while those uninvited hit the streets
While an invitation-only workshop went on inside July 29, close to 60 people marched outside in a non-violent protest against a 24-hour Kum & Go convenience store and gas station that's proposed next to the Old Colorado City Historic District.
The two-hour workshop was intended as a brainstorming session, moderated by Ryan Tefertiller of City Land Use Review, between store representatives and groups that he had asked to come because of their ongoing involvement in Westside community issues.
Although Kum & Go has not yet made a formal submittal to the city, this was its second meeting to discuss the plan, in which the national chain would buy about two acres owned by Goodwill on the south side of West Colorado Avenue's 2300 block. The historic district, consisting chiefly of retail stores and restaurants, is between 24th and 27th streets.
A neighborhood meeting June 27, open to the public, included a straw vote that revealed opposition from nearly all the 75-some people on hand.
Initially among those who were not invited to the workshop was Sue Spengler, who had started a petition against the project (it now has more than 1,000 signatures). However, as a Westside resident, she convinced the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), one of the invited groups, to include her as part of their contingent.
Before the workshop started, she sent an e-mail to all the people in her online petition list to come to Bancroft Park. There, she joined them as they lettered slogans onto signs.
Standing on a park bench, Spengler explained her goal, which was for the sign-bearers to walk over to the 2300 block and consider more localized, far-reaching possibilities for the space.
Examples of signs were “Preserve Historic OCC,” “Support Our Local Arts and Craftspeople - Stay Local,” “Bakery, Community Arts, No Gas Station” and “Don't Kum, Just Go.”
However, as the meeting progressed, with Spengler inside, the walking became a protest - continuing even during a 20-minute rainstorm - on either side of the block. A chant of “No Kum & Go” could be heard, and some sign-bearers even occasionally pressed the pedestrian button to stop traffic at the Goodwill light or walked outside the electronically activated door to the meeting room so the door would open and the chants could be heard.
“I can't control what people do,” Spengler said afterward. “They weren't disrupting the meeting.”
As announced beforehand, no decisions were made at the workshop, although an unofficial consensus seemed to form behind the idea of “flipping” Kum & Go's standard design, in which the gas pumps are in front and the store in back. Another part of that suggestion was to have its storefront moved up to the sidewalk - to match Old Colorado City's historic buildings.
But this would go against Kum & Go's intent to “keep the fuel away from the neighborhood,” observed company real-estate development representative Kolby Jones, referring to the homes along Cucharras Street, just south of the Goodwill property.
An overall workshop desire was to make the Kum & Go development more historically compatible. One suggestion, from Jan Doran of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO), was to design it like a “stagecoach stop.”
Jones said the company was there to listen, and Tefertiller said that “everything is on the table.” Kevin Barber, an architect working with Kum & Go, also noted that the company's flexibility includes colors and bricks; he also described several design differences that he said would make the Old Colorado City site different, for example, than the recently built facility on East Fillmore Street (pictured in the July 25 Westside Pioneer). The differences he listed were the stonework, outside light fixtures, awnings and windows.
However, Kum & Go made it clear during the workshop that Kum & Go likes its basic layout, with a 5,000-square-foot, rectangular building footprint, curved roof over the entryway and cash register positioned to give employees full visibility to the store interior as well as the pumps. Also, Jones said, the gas canopies need to be 18 feet high so as to leave room for larger RV's.
Asked if the store could go in without pumps, Jones said all of the chain's 440 stores have them.
In answer to a Spengler question as to other locations where Kum & Go has made historically related accommodations, Jones mentioned Conway, Arkansas and Idaho Springs, Colorado.
A Westside Pioneer check afterward found that the Conway store, which opened this year near the University of Central Arkansas, featured a change to match the campus brick color.
Idaho Springs City Ad-ministrator Cindy Condon told the Pioneer that (similar to Old Colorado City) its site was close to a historic district and a Carnegie library. With that in mind, “our planner asked them to not do the standard building they normally do,” she said.
Accommodations included the type of brick and a “shed roof” effect in keeping with the district's mining-town-style. “They basically did everything we asked them to do,” she said.
In a photo, the Idaho Springs store, built in 2009, looks smaller than the Old Colorado City design, and it is. According to Megan Elfers of Kum & Go, it “was built prior to our 5,000-square-foot layout and is 3,400 square feet.”
The only prepared presentation by citizens at the workshop came from long-time Westside civic leader Dave Hughes and Old Town artist/muralist Jason Baalman. Their plan includes changing the type of brick on the building and paint color for the gas canopies, paving with tinted instead of normal concrete, putting a garden area on the southwest corner and erecting a stone-masoned wall (three feet high) topped by wrought iron (another three feet) around the property. The wall would incorporate artwork “depicting various scenes and stories from the history of OCC,” their write-up states.
Hughes was not officially representing the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS), but noted that he is a member and added to Jones that “we could make a deal with you” for the store to sell the OCCHS' books. The society's museum/bookstore is only open part-time, but their publications would likely sell more rapidly in a store that's open around the clock, Hughes said.
Afterward, Spengler said she doesn't think that the type of store design really matters. She emphasized that she's not opposed to Kum & Go as an entity, but believes that in such a key location it would be a negative. “I see this property as a tipping point in Old Colorado City history,” she said. “We can go the way of urban revitalization with a community gathering space or the way of corporate America where everything is the same. This will open the door for things like that.”
Welling Clark, president of OWN, spoke up for the sidewalk-edge Kum & Go idea at the meeting, along with Dave Van Ness, executive director of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group. However, the OWN board has voted against a Kum & Go in that location, based on compatibility issues, and Clark said afterward he hopes to find an alternate location farther west, in a roughly half-mile of the avenue that has no gas stations now (between the 7-Eleven at 30th Street and the Loaf & Jug by Manitou's highway overpass).
As for his stance as city planner, Tefertiller said in an e-mail after the meeting, “I've told the Kum & Go representatives that their project will need to be harmonious and compatible with the Colorado Avenue corridor and the adjacent residential uses. At this point in the process (pre-application stage) I'm giving them the opportunity to submit something that addresses those criteria. It is during my formal review that I may make more specific suggestions on ways they could improve their project and meet the criteria.”
Westside Pioneer article