‘Stakeholders’ not shy in first meeting to fix No Man’s Land

       The first “stakeholders” meeting in a study on how to upgrade the area nicknamed “No Man's Land” produced a plethora of proposals Aug. 6 at the Westside Community Center.

Lisa Bachman (rear, yellow blouse) a member of the consultant team, leads the discussion on community values at the first stakeholders meeting for what's being called the "Westside Avenue Action Plan" - a study to decide how to fix what's become known as "No Man's Land" west of 31st Street on Colorado Avenue.
Westside Pioneer photo

       A gathering of close to 50 people, including government officials and members of the Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig (FHU) consultant team, had no shortage of suggestions within each of two consultant-prescribed categories: Community Values and Corridor Issues.
       The geographical scope takes in the Colorado/ Manitou Avenue corridor between 31st Street and Manitou's Highway 24 interchange. FHU has named the study the “Westside Avenue Action Plan: Gateway to Revitalization.”
       No decisions were made at the meeting - the study still has nearly 10 months to go - but numerous comments on values were in the vein of slowing traffic down, making the area prettier and offering pedestrian/bicycle amenities.
       Regarding corridor needs, a recent area visit by government officials (the “charter committee,” the study calls them) had produced a number of comments. They identified deficiencies in such aspects as sidewalks, crosswalks, drainage, trail connections, utilities and traffic flow, and these were posted for all to see. People at the Aug. 6 meeting did not object to any on this list, but added to it such comments as the need for economic development, directional signing and annexation.
       The latter was not intended to be part of the study, but the current multi-jurisdictional situation - in which the south side of the avenue is mostly in the county and the north mostly in the city east of the Manitou city limits - causes a variety of problems, based on meeting comments. Barry Grossman of FHU said afterward that “annexation is not part of our scope; however, we do realize it's an issue and we wanted to acknowledge that.”
       Also not included in the study's scope is a new name for the area to replace “No Man's Land.” Wanting to get away from that negative connotation, FHU named its study “Westside Avenue,” but possibly because most meeting attendees look on “the avenue” as traditionally meaning the entire length of it from Manitou to downtown, most speakers at the Aug. 6 meeting still referred to the study area as “No Man's Land.”
       There is no current process specifically geared to rename the area.
       The next step in the study is a “community open house,” open to the public, to include “presentations, input and Q&A,” according to the “Westside Avenue” project schedule. This is to occur later this month, the schedule indicates, but a date is still tentative, Grossman said after the meeting.
       Although anyone could attend and make comments, the stakeholder meeting was intended as more than a regular public meeting because the idea was to get feedback from people close to the area, such as business owners and residents. Other stakeholder meetings will be scheduled in the fall and winter, based on current plans.
       One of the speakers was Mike Crepeau, a motel owner who has been pleading for public upgrades in that area for two years or more. With its location between two historic districts (Manitou and Old Colorado City), “this is a great opportunity for something unique,” he said.
       Joe Rebeiro, the police chief for Manitou Springs, expressed confidence that improvements would attract people or investors to the area. “Build it and they will come,” he said.
       The study is being funded with a $300,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to El Paso County. If an extension of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) passes in the November election, one of its high-priority projects is implementation of improvements that are to be identified in the “Westside Avenue” study.
       For more information, call 629-7566 or go to the website: westsideavenueplan.com.

Westside Pioneer article