Westside residents say that when Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs leaves Old Colorado City for new offices on Garden of the Gods Road in the Spring they’d like to see mixed-use development, food stores, apartments, a convention center – or all of the above take its place.
Goodwill representatives held a meeting on Oct. 26 to gather neighborhood comments about possibilities for the 3.25 acres it owns, including buildings that occupy the full north and south sides of the 2300 block of Colorado Avenue, as well as a building on Cucharras Street and a smaller block of property on Pikes Peak Avenue.
Residents gave suggestions and voiced concerns.
David Hughes, a long-time Westside resident, historian and preservation activist, advocated for a small convention center that could host smaller businesses, military groups and out-of-town organizations.
“I firmly believe someone could stand to make a lot of money on a small center,” he said.
Others said they prefer a mixed-use development with a blend of retail and office space on the ground floor with lofts or apartments above.
Andrea Barker, an architect with HB&A Architects, led the discussion about what could take Goodwill’s place.
She said edevelopment of the area is close to her heart because she worked at one of the Old Colorado City shops when she was young, and loved the feel of the historic district.
“We’d go past these Goodwill buildings and I always felt like they weren’t the most aesthetically pleasing and didn’t really fit with the character of the community here,” she said.
Because the land is adjacent to the historic district and just a block from Bancroft Park, it’s prime for redevelopment, Barker said.
Goodwill President Karla Grazier reminded residents that Goodwill has no control over who buys the property or what the buyer will ultimately do with it. But the organization wanted to give residents a forum where they could air their ideas.
Those ideas as well as residents’ concerns will be included in a marketing package for the property.
“It made sense to understand where the neighborhood was coming from,” said Jim Spittler, the broker with NAI Highland Commercial Group who will market the property for Goodwill. “It’s going to be important to potential buyers to know what the neighborhood would support.”
He said it’s not a given that a new buyer would choose to tear down the old Goodwill buildings.
“That’s one of the visions in marketing it,” he said. “But we’re in a very difficult market and all the options have to stay on the table.”
The parcels on the north and south sides of Colorado Ave. are zoned for buildings as tall as 45 feet or about four stories and allows multiple uses, including retail, office and even multi-family dwellings.
The land on Cucharras Street is zoned to allow light industrial uses along with several other commercial uses, including multi-family housing. Buildings heights of 40 feet would be allowed.
Another small parcel on Pikes Peak Avenue is zoned R2, which allows duplexes.
Barker said that if a larger development were built parking areas could be incorporated either underground or stacked adjacent to new buildings.
Whatever the future holds, maintaining the spirit of the community is a priority, residents said.
“Downtown is just downtown with a bunch of tall buildings,” said Emily Dante, an Old Colorado City resident. “There’s not the sense of community that’s here. I don’t want them to just come in and build buildings. I hope profit doesn’t oversee our vision for our community.”
She said she’d like to see other nonprofits move in to fill the space Goodwill leaves.
“For someone to come in and build three floors of lofts on top of retail, that’s not our vision or it’s not my vision for our community,” Dante said. “We’re a quirky bunch.”
Another resident, Mark Cunningham, disagreed. He said he’d like to see development and recommended apartments.
“There’s a market for rental housing in Old Colorado City especially modern rental housing,” he said.
Meeting attendees were asked to vote about preferences and mixed-use development and a food store were the overwhelming choices
One resident suggested a Whole Foods grocery story with lofts above it.
Residents also favored bed and breakfasts, multi-family housing, restaurants and public assembly space, recreation, cultural and health care facilities.
Things that were on the “no” list included a drug and alcohol detox center, automotive business, mini-warehouses, manufacturing and funeral services.
Goodwill begins moving its 166 employees into its new space on West Garden of the Gods Road near the new El Paso County offices in the spring. About 30 employees who work with the county on its low-income energy assistance program have already made the move.
The El Pomar Foundation is footing the bill for Goodwill’s new location, which Goodwill will lease from the foundation for five to 10 years before El Pomar donates the building to Goodwill.