Laying the foundation for a renaissance

Filed under: Opinion |

North Nevada Avenue was once the gateway into Colorado Springs from the north.

Today, 40 years after completion of Interstate 25, the corridor is still busy. But it falls short of modern standards for roadway configuration and traffic management, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, pedestrian amenities and a unifying character.

In 2004, the city and the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. identified the stretch of North Nevada Avenue between the I-25 interchange and Austin Bluffs Parkway as one of three hubs of future economic development in Colorado Springs (the others are the downtown core and the airport business park).

In particular, the EDC noted the area’s proximity to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. UCCS is the fastest growing institution in the state education system and is poised to become a center of biotechnology and space research.

The city has a number of plans and projects to revitalize the area. They range from intersection improvements that will be under construction by this fall to large areas eligible for incentives that will last for 25 years or more. Here is a rundown on five projects in the area.

I-25 interchange at North Nevada Avenue

This project is one element of the state project to widen I-25 from North Academy to Circle Drive (COSMIX). The city is contributing some money, but most of the $60 million cost will come from TRANS bonds that voters approved in 1999. Construction will last roughly from fall 2005 through fall 2007.

North Nevada Avenue Corridor Improvement Plan

This planning document will cover Nevada Avenue from the I-25 interchange south to Lilac Street (just south of Fillmore Street).

The final document will specify desired improvements to pedestrian and traffic mobility, aesthetics and landscaping to be made in conjunction with any redevelopment along North Nevada Avenue.

It is being created with participation from corridor property owners and the public. The plan does not relate to any particular construction project and has no construction budget. Planners expect to present the document to City Council this fall.

Intersection at North Nevada Avenue and Austin Bluffs Parkway

This project will add through lanes and turn lanes, and improve the safety and capacity of the intersection.

Its $4 million cost will be paid by the Rural Transportation Authority (RTA), which is collecting a 1 percent sales tax authorized by voters in November 2004. Construction is expected to take place from fall 2006 through summer 2007.

North Nevada Avenue Urban Renewal Area

This developing economic hub comprises 390 acres between UCCS and Monument Creek, from the I-25 interchange south to Austin Bluffs Parkway.

We hope to revitalize deteriorating infrastructure and encourage private investment in a mixture of uses, better conditions for pedestrians and vehicles, and other public improvements.

Market conditions will determine the timing and extent of private investment in the area. Our staff estimates that each new tax dollar generated by development and invested in infrastructure in the area will generate five dollars of private investment.

North Nevada Avenue Revitalization Strategy Area

The Revitalization Strategy Area will extend from the interchange at I-25 southward to Lilac Street.

We hope to earn the federal designation by the end of the year. Thereafter, our Planning Department will be able to direct federal Community Development Block Grant funds into the area for sidewalks, curbs and gutters, street lights and traffic signals, and other public improvements.

Also, the designation will assist businesses in the area to secure low interest federal loans from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Lorne Kramer is manager of the City of Colorado Springs.