Old Colorado City braces for Kum & Go’s large invasion

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Ever visit a Kum & Go? They’re to convenience stores what Costco is to retailers. They’re big, efficient and customer friendly. Pumps are widely separated and easy to access. The stores are spacious and welcoming, offering fresh pizza and pastries, and many locally sourced products.

The privately owned Midwestern chain has entered the Colorado Springs market with a vengeance, with eight stores already in the city, and one in Monument. The company plans to have 20-25 locations in the region in the near future. In fact, they’ve just contracted to buy a couple of rundown commercial buildings not far from downtown, demolish them and put up a sparkling new Kum & Go for the convenience of all.

So what’s not to like? It’s not about the store — it’s about the location.

Now owned by Goodwill Industries, the proposed Kum & Go site covers nearly the entire city block bounded by West Colorado Avenue, 23rd and 24th streets, and Cucharras. That’s at the gateway to Old Colorado City, the restored Victorian commercial district that narrowly avoided the wrecker’s ball 30 years ago.

Now a National Historic District, Old Colorado City is literally irreplaceable. By definition, no Victorian commercial structures have been erected since Jan. 22, 1901, when the “Old Queen” breathed her last. Benighted property owners in our city’s once-resplendent downtown ripped down iconic Victorian buildings such as the former Antlers Hotel and Burns Opera House during the 1960s, but Old Colorado City still stands.

It has been a lively, vibrant place for the past three decades. Locally owned wine bars, restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, jazz bars, art galleries and other small retailers occupy storefronts along Colorado Avenue and down the side streets. It’s been a success — but the area needs some upgrading.

Consider Manitou Springs, which has transformed a dowdy downtown into a sparkling gem. Private investment has gone into the restoration of existing buildings and the construction of compatible new ones, complemented by publicly funded streetscape improvements.

The result: more businesses, more visitors, pedestrian traffic, tax revenues, more jobs, higher property values. It’s called a virtuous circle, which can’t occur without close collaboration among government, businesses, residents and property owners.

Can Kum & Go be part of such a process?

“We want to expand and extend the concept of Old Colorado City,” said County Commissioner Sallie Clark. “Kum and Go is the right project in the wrong place.”

The Goodwill properties have been on the market since 2011. At a public meeting during October of that year, neighborhood residents asked Goodwill to find a buyer who would redevelop the site as an extension of Old Colorado City.

Apparently, no such buyer came forward.

The concept plan for the site calls for 10 gas pumps and a 5,000-square-foot store. The company has informally proposed a brick façade for the store to make it more compatible with the neighborhood.

Motorists along Colorado Avenue currently are served by four convenience stores/gas stations, located at 15th, 21st, between 27th and 28th, and at 30th — not to mention Rudy’s at U.S. Highway 24 and 31st. That would seem enough to serve the market, particularly since there are four more on Uintah Street just a short drive north of Colorado.

Kum & Go’s higher-ups don’t care. They know how to dominate markets, and it’s reasonable to assume they expect to win. But they may be in for a fight.

“It looks like something in a strip mall, not an historic district,” Clark said. “I’m just disappointed that Goodwill would look at this from a monetary standpoint. And I have some real concerns about traffic pulling in and out in an area that we’re trying to make as pedestrian-friendly as possible.”

Before construction can begin, Kum & Go’s proposal must jump the usual hoops, starting with public meetings, then the Planning Commission, and eventually City Council.

It’ll be a classic fight, pitting local residents and businesses against the cold-eyed professionals of a national chain. And Westside leaders have begun their campaign. Last week, board members of the Organization of Westside Neighbors voted unanimously to oppose the project.

Land-use matters are the exclusive purview of City Council. Will a majority vote to let the market rule, regardless of neighborhood impact? Or can they help craft a better solution? You can be sure that Mayor Steve Bach and Clark are privately chortling over the political dilemma facing the pushy new kid on the block who represents the Westside on Council.

Will he stick with core conservative principles, or will he vote with the majority of his constituents? He can’t win.

Welcome to the real world of city politics, Keith King.

16 Responses to Old Colorado City braces for Kum & Go’s large invasion

  1. seems like it could cause many similar business out putting more people out of work and out of business. It does seem like a good project in a wrong place. Id ask the city to reject this one.

    greg m
    July 1, 2013 at 8:41 am

  2. I think that its progress to include a modern service station in that area.I don’t see how it will affect the businesses or character of the area since fuel is not something unique to the city center experience, I feel that improved fuel service will bring in more people. I use Diesel – it’s not easy to find in the area now.

    Jens Moller
    July 1, 2013 at 10:11 am

  3. Please build a few along 24 north of Constitution Blvd and into the Falcon area. Also, please extend Dublin Blvd, Stetson Hills Blvd, Barnes and North Carefree out to highway 24. We need more access to highway 24 please… :)

    Brian
    July 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm

  4. Ignore trademark name issues for the moment and ask this: Would the motor vehicle department approve a license plate with that name?

    Roma Jo
    July 1, 2013 at 2:21 pm

  5. What exactly does it mean when they say the “pumps” will be widely separated? I would hope there are also dividers or little booths.

    Angus
    July 1, 2013 at 4:15 pm

  6. Location, location location – this is the wrong one. However, if the big guns win, why not stipulate that the gas station looks historical/nostalgic. Make the attendants wear uniforms indicative of a 1940′s/1950′s gas station. Sell candy and sodas from that era. Maybe even have one pump that where an attendant actually puts gas in your car. Make it fit it with the surroundings and feel of old CC. We don’t need another eyesore.

    Janine
    July 3, 2013 at 9:08 am

  7. Why not have a discussion with the higher ups and Kum & Go in regards to WHY they want this area preserved and see if Kum & Go will “restyle” their store facade even more than normal to make it aesthetically pleasing in keeping with the “charter” that Old Colorado City wants to maintain rather than just reject it wholeheartedly?

    Karen
    July 3, 2013 at 11:51 am

  8. Should be a classic zoning issue….I’d vote to deny the permit BUT…Goodwill Industries should be compensation for a “taking” of some of the value of its personal property.

    Ben Miller
    July 3, 2013 at 11:54 am

  9. I think Kum & Go stations are great. They not only provide great service, a large variety of items inside their stores but they also have provided JOBS for people in this state. What’s worng with that? Nothing. I like the idea of this location and believe they should continue to build in different locations in Colo Spgs, Monument, Old Colorado City, etc… Keep up the great work Kum & go.

    Taves
    July 3, 2013 at 11:55 am

  10. I grew up in the c-store business and oversaw 8 of our locations back home. My dad in the board if NACS for 7 years and both of us would attend many national events.

    I can tell you with with a lot of love for Old Colorado City, but with 10 years in the biz that all of the concerns expressed are rather unfounded. With exception it’d be nice to have something else in there but it simply doesn’t match up to the needs of places like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc….

    Reality is Kum & Go is a fantastic addition to the area and vet community minded. They are one of the top 10 chains to watch in that industry. At that level spotless bathrooms, stores, and outside are a focus. Better yet, they are proven to improve sales. Go into a 7-11 or any other cstore in town and they’re unkept, univiting, and an eyesore.
    They also do market research and don’t randomly pick locations.

    Would a museum to say the hillclimb or Tesla be better? A Trader Joe’s? An artist market or indoor farmers market? It would be nice. But at I believe $2.8 million for the property and it being on the market since 2011, it’s not right to ask Goodwill to wait much longer. Even if the building is paid off, there is no doubt significant expense for them to keep it any longer. Money that is better spent helping them with their mission which is to help those in need in Our region.

    Experience has taught me many times in our family business that people will fight against you to put in a store or expand it, however we ran a fantastic operation inspired by places like Kum & Go. Those the most vocal against us became our best supporters in just a few months. I feel the same will happen when Kum & Go opens.

    Jon Severson
    July 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm

  11. We could use the spit and polish that the Kum and Go folks probably have and it would be nice to have more retail and less industrial space.

    Having said that, WE ALL KNOW THIS IS THE WRONG WAY TO GO!

    You don’t put a shiny bumper sticker on an old Ferrari just because you have a bad paint job. You keep it clean and save up until you have the dough to repaint.

    Manitou wasn’t polished overnight and we won’t be either. We’ve come a long way and we business owners are doing it organically by slugging it out every day.

    Let’s help the good folks at Goodwill sell their joint but turn it into another cool spot for OCC locals and visitors. Maybe some warehouse lofts, an indoor local mall, a skating rink, or anything Mom and Pops and fun and cool.

    Randy Fair
    July 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

  12. I’ve started an online petition, which will be given to Goodwill, Kum & Go, and our city officials. Please feel free to sign it and, more importantly, pass it on. I would like at least 500 signatures before giving it to them.

    I’d like to encourage Goodwill to wait a little longer, let the word get out that there’s a great historical property for sale, and see what other buyers might surface…

    I have nothing against Kum & Go, and I have no doubt they truly are “the best convenience store” as they said in the meeting, but this is simply the wrong location…. in the end, it’s 10 gas pumps.

    Thank you for your consideration. Here is a link to the petition:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/goodwill-city-council-and-planning-commission-kum-and-go-stop-the-sale-of-goodwill-s-property-in-occ-to-kum-and-go

    sue spengler
    July 7, 2013 at 10:16 am

  13. Kum & Go is fine and adding one to the edge of the OCC historic district is fine. But this is a huge waste of an amazing property and I just can’t believe our city’s developers lack the vision, creativity or cajones to build the multistory mixed-use project neighbors told Goodwill they wanted to see in that location when the nonprofit hosted a meeting about it more than a year ago.

    Amanda
    July 10, 2013 at 6:59 am

  14. This project is massive, out of place and unwanted. I was at the public meeting a couple of weeks ago and was so happy to see that in a room of about 80 people only one raised their hand in favor of this addition.
    I saw the revised renderings, showing a brick facade. Unfortunately just a brick facade does not say or support the heritage of Old Colorado City. Fitting in to the historical atmosphere of OCC is much more complex than that. And I believe it is much more important than just adding brick. The renderings resembled a Powers Ave super store. Even if the architecture was modified to look “Victorian” who in their right mind would want to bring the volume of business that 10 pumps will bring to a quite little corner of the neighborhood. I share the alleyway one-half block away, and my bedroom window faces the alley. I know that there will be a substantial increase in noise pollution and light outside my sanctuary, all day and night. And it will be permanent! That saddens me!

    I will stand and fight however I can against this project and its disruptive potential, including a letter to Sallie Clark and Mayor Bach.

    Douglas Rouse
    July 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm

  15. This will be a passionate fight, for sure! It’s a classic case of property rights vs. community rights/preferences. I live just a few blocks away, so I have a dog in the fight – as do we all on the West Side. That said, both Douglas and Jon are right, so it’ll be a real dilemma for policymakers.

    John Hazlehurst
    July 10, 2013 at 3:56 pm

  16. I don’t think Goodwill will be seriously ‘needing’ any donations for a good bit of time.

    What million dollar amount is the property bringing in?

    Why not training classes?

    Small studio apartments to springboard folks back into the working world?

    No, Goodwill CEO and topside folk need the $$$ and bonus $$$.

    Ciao.

    Ima Doner
    July 11, 2013 at 9:39 am