Symbolic new beginning for downtown

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For years, Colorado Springs has waited for the next grand addition to our downtown, a true pillar to inspire and enhance more development for decades to come.

Would it be a high-rise, with offices and/or condominiums, adding fresh and modern architecture to the city center? Would it be a convention center, another event venue, a museum, perhaps a baseball stadium, or something else?

Last weekend brought the answer. Hundreds of invited guests from the Springs’ business and social scene shared in the moment Saturday night, flocking to the grand-opening celebration of the Mining Exchange Hotel — or Wyndham Grand, if you read the retro-style vertical sign at the corner of Nevada and Pikes Peak avenues.

Everyone had followed the story of hotel owner Perry Sanders and his slow, costly but determined efforts to convert the historic, century-old building — once home to the nation’s second-largest stock exchange — into a small (117 rooms) but high-class hotel with all the amenities. There had been a soft opening earlier in the summer, and the adjoining Springs Orleans restaurant (after an ill-fated debut as Il Postino) had been building a local clientele for more than a year.

But this was the first chance for the community to see the whole complex in all its grandeur, from the ballroom and expansive lobby, to the stunning open alley that already has a New Orleans-esque feel, to the second-floor party/event room that opens out onto a large balcony overlooking the alley.

Sanders already had poured tens of millions into the project, but he was smart to spare no expense on this celebration. There was no program, because that wasn’t needed. Just all kinds of food, drink, music and happy people connecting in a new way.

We all know the value of first impressions, and this one couldn’t have been more positive. Suddenly, in just one night, one could see how the Mining Exchange has all the ingredients to become an immediate, major player on the downtown scene. People and groups will want to have their smaller and mid-sized parties, receptions, special meetings and luncheons there.

Also, the many larger outdoor community events that have been magnetized further west, spreading out from the corner of Cascade and Pikes Peak avenues and including the parades down Tejon Street, now should have an additional nucleus. And as the years ahead inevitably bring more new ideas and innovations, big and small, to downtown, the Mining Exchange can’t help but benefit.

In the meantime, though, we can’t take it for granted, assuming visitors to Colorado Springs will guarantee the Mining Exchange thrives for the long term. In truth, its success depends on all of us making sure to patronize and enjoy it ourselves. This is a huge business undertaking, a high-stakes gamble by Perry Sanders that the city will flourish in years to come. Now it’s up to us to prove we’re worthy of such a wonderfully preserved jewel.