Above: Downtown Colorado Springs has pockets of restaurants, attractions, and art. The Imagine Downtown Master Plan Update project seeks to connect and add to these pockets through infrastructure changes to the downtown and surrounding area. Top and far left photograph by of Emily Kim. Above photograph by Richard Forbes
On Tuesday night, Colorado Springs residents from across the city gathered to hear about and provide input on the Imagine Downtown Master Plan Update project. This is the second of two phases of the project, which the Downtown Development Authority of Colorado Springs initially adopted in 2009 in partnership with the City of Colorado Springs.
The night began with an hour-long presentation put on by the project’s designers MIG and P.U.M.A., during which the firms described the proposed infrastructure changes for downtown and the surrounding areas. Audience members were then allowed to ask questions and propose both changes and additions to MIG and P.U.M.A.’s design.
The plan tackles the city’s problematic infrastructure, specifically vacant lots and alleyways, wide streets that are challenging for pedestrians to get across, and lack of accessibility to bikers, according to Chris Beynon, Principal at MIG and the main presenter.
The vacant spaces, which comprised 55 percent of the project’s total study area, significantly contribute to the disjointedness of downtown Colorado Springs. This forces visitors downtown to either unnecessarily drive several blocks between attractions or walk through unattractive or traffic-heavy areas.
As currently proposed, the Imagine Downtown Master Plan Update project would narrow many two-lane streets, including Bijou and Kiowa, into one lane, move the transit center and replace it with storefronts and restaurants, increase the number and size of bike lanes, and connect downtown attractions like the forthcoming national Olympic museum, America the Beautiful Park, and Tejon Street.
In addition, MIG and P.U.M.A. are working with Colorado College’s campus master plan and President Jill Tiefenthaler to bridge the gap between the proposed downtown and campus renovations like Tutt library, the new ice arena, and new natatorium. In doing so, MIG and P.U.M.A. hope to attract CC students to downtown Colorado Springs after graduation.
“We’re shooting for nothing less than the best mid-sized downtown in the country,” Beynon said. “Now, we can just wish for it but rather have to strategically and tactically get there.”
To do so, MIG and P.U.M.A. will utilize a market-based approach to look at the national and local dynamics of downtown areas.
“We are seeing a convergence of trends that are favorable to the revitalization of downtown areas,” Erica Heller, Vice President of P.U.M.A., said. “We want to capture that energy by prioritizing investments that will make that happen.”
Heller continued to explain that the age groups that most favor vibrant downtowns are millennials and baby boomers. With about 26 percent and 37 percent of Colorado Springs residents included in the baby boomer and millennial generation respectively, the necessity for an attractive downtown area is crucial. This demand is further bolstered by the city’s attempts to increase tourism and the related revenue.
The root of the problem stems from Colorado Springs’ relatively low population density. With only 2,368 people per square mile—a population density less than half that of Denver—the focal point for people should be the downtown.
For Colorado Springs, though, the combination of an unstructured downtown and other major city centers like the Briargate shopping center, detracts from the downtown’s ability to across the board attract both city residents and tourists.
“We need to fix these parts of Colorado Springs for both our residents and our visitors,” Beynon said. “This is our opportunity to create a city and downtown worthy of the scenery around us.”