3-day 'assessment' seen as first step toward unified Old Colorado CitySept. 22, 2018
An "assessment" of Old Colorado City's future Sept. 17-19 will not lead to any immediate action, but Jonathan Neely, who initiated the consultant-aided
“What we have now is an opportunity,” said Neely, who chairs the committee for the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Maintenance District (SIMD) and initiated the effort. “What I think we need to do is to get together on a quarterly basis.”
A time frame for the next get-together has not yet been determined but could happen around the end of October. “The leaders [of those groups] stopped by at the end of the meeting and said they were agreeable to it, that we need to keep this up,” Neely said.
A similar tone was voiced by Katherine Correll, the lead for the consulting firm, Downtown Colorado Inc. (DCI), as what was titled the "Old Colorado City Corridor
DCI is to continue working with Old Colorado City. The term, “initial findings,” was used to describe the company's comments and recommendations coming out of the Sept. 17-19 event.
The assessment concept emerged over the past few years as SIMD meetings have revealed desires or needs for various public improvements, sought by OCC businesses or by the city. Some future projects, such as replacing underground utilities and storm drains or rebuilding the roadway width/design and sidewalks, could run into the millions of dollars.
Old Colorado City is typically viewed as the historic commercial district straddling Colorado Avenue between 24th and 27th Streets. But some people use that title to define more of the avenue (for example, 21st to 31st) or the older Westside as a whole, including residential neighborhoods.
DCI was hired by the SIMD, using $15,000 from its budget. As identified by DCI, the four main OCC groups are the SIMD (which works with City Parks to maintain/enhance public improvements in the three-block area, using a tax on its
Other entities in the mix are the Old Colorado City Historical Society, which has a museum/bookstore at 1 S. 24th St.; and the Old Colorado City Carnegie Library, a branch in the Pikes Peak Library District, at 2418 W. Pikes Peak Ave.
Invited by Neely, all of the above had representatives for at least part of the three-day assessment. Coordinated by DCI, the effort included an OCC walk-through and small-group meetings all three days, as well as commercial and residential public-input sessions Sept. 17
Lack of awareness of Old Colorado City as a specific place was one issue that DCI flagged. As an example, of the roughly five-member DCI group itself, two of them (both from Manitou Springs) said they had not previously heard of Old Colorado City. So that was one DCI suggestion: installing extremely prominent signage, such as arches over roadways (for example, 26th Street off Highway 24) , to proclaim the location.
A key Old Colorado City issue, which locals have argued back and forth for several years, is whether or not to “neck down” avenue traffic lanes between 24th and 27th streets from four lanes to two. City Transportation has been interested in that as well. DCI backed the reduction concept, which is intended to slow traffic and thus help businesses.
The DCI options, unlike what the city was talking about three years ago, would not include bike lanes, which would allow
Two-lane opponents, often residents from nearby neighborhoods, have feared traffic jams that could push traffic to side streets. Manitou Springs, which necked Manitou Avenue down to two lanes through its downtown over a decade ago, is often cited as an example of gridlock.
A transportation study for Old Colorado City, funded by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) two years ago, resulted in data that Neely cites in defense of a neck-down. For example, he said, with two lanes a car on the avenue traveling from 21st to 31st would need only seven seconds more than now, even in peak traffic, “which would be pretty negligible.”
As for bicycles, DCI comments suggested signage guiding cyclists to use side streets (such as Cucharras Street or Pikes Peak Avenue, which parallel Colorado Avenue), installing more bike racks and in general taking steps to let riders feel they're welcome.
In any case, because making any Old Colorado City infrastructure changes permanent would be expensive - in terms of redoing curbs and sidewalks - DCI suggested that a logical step might be to experiment with a neck-down on a temporary basis, perhaps for events in the future where people could see how traffic was affected.
When it comes to projects that would be costly and require city cooperation, Neely's belief - supported by DCI - is that a unified position from Old Colorado City groups would be more effective when approaching city staff or City Council.
The city would appear to have a financial incentive to preserve Old Colorado City. Using El Paso County Assessor's Office data, recent Westside Pioneer research into the area bounded by 24th Street, Pikes Peak Avenue, 27th Street and Cucharras Street revealed that its properties have a total market value of more than $31.8 million.
Other DCI assessment inputs included:
- Findings of strengths and weaknesses of Old Colorado City (see charts on this page).
- A recognition that many residents and business owners are concerned about vagrants/homeless people causing problems and affecting community safety.
- Acknowledgement of needed improvements in terms of handicapped access, sidewalk failures and excessively high curbs on the north side of the avenue.
- Recommendations to have more user-friendly alleys, cleaner dumpsters and, in general, “fill under-utilized space with activity.”
- Proposal to use Cucharras Street for “creative industries, funky art and makerspace.”
- Suggestion to seek more funding, possibly by creating another government district (with taxing powers) that could help implement and fund improvements.
- Displays of colorful urban design features used in other cities.
Public feedback was sought during the assessment. People who did not attend can also offer ideas through DCI's online survey at this link.
Westside Pioneer article