Taking on the revitalization and renewal of downtown Colorado Springs is what Beth Kosley was made to do. As the executive director of Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, Kosley does a little bit of everything.
She oversees financial operations, manages a staff of six full-time employees, and coordinates a myriad of projects that volunteer boards and committees want to execute. Kosley was nominated for Women of Influence by Chuck Murphy of Murphy Constructors of Colorado Springs.
Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs began in 1997 as a broad-based group of interested citizens, major landowners and property owners, urban planners, civic organizations, city representatives and developers who work to “revitalize, redevelop and renew” downtown Colorado Springs.
Its predecessor was Downtown Inc. “We use the Downtown Action Plan, a document approved by City Council in 1992, as our guide, a planning tool,” Kosley said. “We try to have representatives from every sector of the community.”
Heading Downtown Partnership is like a full-time volunteer gig. Among Kosley’s business affiliations is the Marion House Task Force, a group that looks at methods to provide services to people in need, but methods that do not enable panhandling or loitering. The task force is close to wrapping up its work. “We agree the soup kitchen should expand, but not as large as Catholic Charities originally wanted it to. Catholic Charities has agreed to share the responsibility of providing food service with other agencies spread throughout the community,” she said. “We’re working on a new system that involves putting meals out for people in different locations, not just this one.”
Kosley’s interest in the homeless population of Colorado Springs doesn’t end there. She put together SAFE Downtown, a task force to look at the problem of aggressive panhandling.
“We worked with the police on an anti-aggressive panhandling ordinance and a stronger loitering ordinance. We also worked on the realignment of police controls over certain hours of the day,” Kosley said. “We’re about to go into more discussions to decide whether the things we’ve done are working yet.”
She sits on the board of the Colorado College Business and Community Alliance, an organization that tries to bring about symbiosis between business partners and the college. “The organization represents different players from the business community who work with staff and faculty to bring programs to the community,” she said. “We try to help the college be recognized as a facility the community can use if they want to take advantage of lectures or concerts.”
Kosley sees Colorado College as the north “anchor” of downtown, an important neighbor to include in her continued effort to make the area more appealing to residents and visitors alike. The board has expanded to 20 and meets during the school year-three times in the fall, three times in the spring.
“This alliance is one way we have of making that relationship stronger,” she said. But it’s the DADA Project that might be closest to her heart.
In 1999, voters passed a tax increase for capital improvement projects, one of which was Confluence Park. DADA sets aside an “artist’s district” in the southwestern area of downtown next to the planned Confluence Park-which stretches along Monument Creek and I-25, from Cimarron Street to the Colorado Avenue bridge.
Part of the 1992 Downtown Action Plan was devoted to how the area also might be suitable for a farmers market. Kosley decided to combine the two ideas into sort of a “culinary arts-performing arts-visual arts” area.
“One of the best things we could do to get the project financed was to create affordable housing next to this area. We’ve nearly completed a finance plan to put up a six-story building that’s financed in part by low-income tax credits,” she said. “A former gas utilities building will become artists studios and a farmers market. The project is really coming online.”
Art and music are particular interests of Kosley’s. With a bachelor’s degree in art from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in art history from Penn State, Kosley has a longtime appreciation for art. She sits on the Colorado Springs Chorale Board, and is a member of the choir for the Historic Community Congregational Church of Manitou Springs.
“I put a fair amount of importance on our involvement with cultural groups in the community. Music and art enrich my life; it’s a way of continuing to challenge your mind as well as express yourself,” Kosley said. “Music is a lifelong education that we all have access to, thanks to community choirs and church choirs. We have a lot of music and art in the city, which is great.”
Another component of the Downtown Action Plan is a downtown convention center, which has been on the drawing board for about three years, but also has been the subject of some controversy.
Through the Chamber of Commerce, a coalition task force was formed to develop a funding plan that corresponds to the city’s feasibility study. “It’s a huge project. The funding plan includes the downtown business improvement district contributing a special assessment toward this finance plan, which is pretty novel,” Kosley said. “Not too many business improvement districts are getting involved in that kind of thing.”
To get more locals downtown, Kosley was instrumental in the downtown shuttle, which has been up and running since July. “All of this relates back to the goals set forth in the Downtown Action Plan. We knew that at some point downtown would benefit from a free shuttle system. The time was finally right.”
Downtown Partnership sponsored a $2 million federal grant and worked with Colorado College, the city Transit Authority and its own committee to select the bus design. “It’s an all-electric, contemporary looking bus,” she said. “It’s totally green, and by ‘green,’ I mean totally environmentally friendly. We bought five to keep the loop going all day long. Ridership has been over projection for early in the year.”
Kosley is uniquely qualified for her position, which she earned during a national search. For eight years, she was executive director of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a statewide technology assistance center that worked with communities to put together revitalization and strategic plans. Before that, she worked for Bloomsburg Revitalization Inc., a similar organization to the local one, in a Pennsylvania college town.
Kosley received her real estate broker license from Pikes Peak Community College last year. She said she respects the late Julie Penrose “for her time, she was extremely visionary.”
Kosley is married to David and has one daughter, Sam, 32, and one stepdaughter, Elspeth, who is a senior in high school.
She said her greatest professional accomplishment is heading the Downtown Partnership.
“The organization has become more credible, and is able to work with our elected officials more effectively to get things done.”