Taking Exception: Why Academy Blvd. plan works

Filed under: Opinion,Print | Tags:,

By Dave Munger and Stephannie Finley

As major stakeholders in the Academy Boulevard Corridor Great Streets project, we disagree with the Business Journal’s Feb. 4 opinion article Academy Boulevard Plans Need to be Reworked; particularly with its premise that this corridor should not be made a focus of community re-investment over the next decades.

The Academy Boulevard Great Streets project is a first step toward repurposing and revitalizing a segment of Academy Boulevard that has seen significant decline in the past few years. The study team has used the Great Streets concept (www.greatstreets.org) to take a fresh look at how best to revive this six-mile segment of Academy Boulevard by implementing incremental improvements.

As representatives of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO), we applaud the city’s efforts to thoroughly study and recommend transit, roadway and land use alternatives as a catalyst for revitalization that could positively impact 60,000 residents within the corridor and the hundreds of businesses that call the area home.

In 2007, Colorado Springs City Council designated the segment of Academy Boulevard between Maizeland Road and Drennan Road a Mature Redevelopment Corridor. In 2008, the city formally assumed roadway jurisdiction from the state and thus became more directly responsible for the future of this key community artery. With or without a long-term vision, the city will be faced with major transportation-related construction needs within this corridor as well as ongoing requests from developers and business owners in response to the continuously changing market. Having a comprehensive plan in place will assist both the community and businesses in responding to future needs and circumstances.

The study team has undertaken this project with significant input from residents, business owners, major employers, property owners, commercial real estate brokers and developers who have a vested interest in the outcome of this study and recommendations that could lead to phased improvements in an area that deserves a second chance.

Without the collaborative effort of city government and the private sector, this corridor will likely see continued deterioration to the detriment of the surrounding neighborhoods. We must take phased steps to revitalize this segment of Academy Boulevard by encouraging mixed-use development that in turn encourages motor vehicle traffic flow, pedestrian movements and the use of reliable and convenient public transit options.

We understand, and support, the need to ensure our community has a strong central core, and that effort is being led by the Downtown Partnership. However, we know that our action, or failure to act, with this segment of Academy Boulevard will redefine how our community protects its fiscal base by comprehensively addressing the needs of existing businesses and neighborhoods. It will become a model for future revitalization efforts. To completely shelve the recommendations of this study without further action would be a disservice to the people who call this area home and to the hundreds of small business owners who depend on area residents for their livelihood.

In a recent issue of Urban Land, redevelopment expert Karen L. Gulley wrote, “…corridor revitalization is about reconnecting to surrounding neighborhoods physically, socially, and economically — making them relevant and desirable places for the community.”

We have the opportunity, and the obligation, to reconnect neighborhoods and encourage a unique and vibrant business atmosphere that will serve as a community example for decades to come.

Dave Munger is President of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations. Stephannie Finley is President of Governmental Affairs and Public Policy for the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.