Last fall, I moved to Boulder for my first year at the University of Colorado. After 18 years growing up in downtown Colorado Springs, it was my first experience being from “elsewhere.”
Although I didn’t think of myself as having a particularly strong allegiance to Colorado Springs — I was eager for a change of scene — I soon found myself avidly defending my hometown and trying to free it of its reputation as hyper-conservative sprawl lacking anything “cool” or “hip” for a young crowd.
In defending my childhood home, I’ve realized that Colorado Springs may be a good place to lead a young, urban lifestyle. While it is true that downtown needs more housing available for a wider range of income levels, living in downtown Colorado Springs is significantly more accessible than in other urban areas of the Front Range.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a city condo a block away from the Tejon corridor with Monument Valley Park as my backyard. Such an ideal setting would be reserved for the very wealthy in downtown Denver.
Our entertainment is also accessible. Downtown’s biggest events and attractions — countless park concerts, festivals and parades, the Jack Quinn’s running club and Colorado College’s endless activities — are essentially free. Downtown dining is delicious but affordable, and our coffee shops could easily rival Denver’s or Boulder’s.
Downtown Colorado Springs also benefits from its characteristic small-town feel, which allows for an urban lifestyle with the added benefit of a recognizable community. I rarely walk down Tejon without seeing people I know at a restaurant patio or wandering through the Poor Richard’s complex.
Local musicians playing in downtown shops are often friends or former classmates. As a Palmer High School graduate, my school community is intertwined with the downtown culture.
The school itself is unique, too. Rarely are “inner-city” schools nationally ranked. I received an excellent education two blocks from my home and in the heart of an urban area, and at a public school, no less.
While I am a committed urbanite, I also value downtown Colorado Springs’ unique proximity to open spaces. Not only is the city ringed by an extensive trail system, Red Rocks Canyon provides excellent hiking within a 10-minute drive. This balance of urban living and access to mountain trails is hard to find in other metropolises.
Downtown Colorado Springs is an excellent place to be young, and now is the time to celebrate this. As UCCS grows, someday possibly overtaking Boulder as the largest University of Colorado location, Colorado Springs will only get younger and “cooler.”
This will add to the current youthful energy that nearby Colorado College brings to downtown. Our city may soon become a destination for my age group. Its vibrancy and popularity among young Coloradans will mirror Boulder’s, but without that city’s inaccessibility.
Downtown Colorado Springs is on the verge of various exciting changes. The proposed City for Champions plans, if completed, will undoubtedly spur development that fills many of downtown’s current gaps (such as housing, car-free transportation, and a grocery store).
These gaps are certainly tolerable, as my wonderful experience growing up downtown proves.
Any improvements in downtown amenities will make Colorado Springs an even better option for young people. Downtown will benefit from various other, smaller improvements.
Curbside Cuisine food trucks, the new summer busker program called Sidewalk Stage, and proposed alleyway renovations will make downtown more attractive to my generation.
Downtown’s strong leadership and support from city government, along with a growing interest in pedestrian-centered living, could catalyze changes that make our city’s center an even better fit for my age group.
Moving away from Colorado Springs has made me even more thankful for my urban childhood, made possible by living in downtown Colorado Springs.
While I hope to have the opportunity to spend time in many urban settings, and I can’t know where I will end up, I include my hometown as a place where I would strongly consider settling someday.
Molly Graber is an incoming sophomore at the University of Colorado, studying economics, math and geography. She is a summer intern at the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership.