These days, you don’t see many public protests beyond polarizing social and moral issues. When such a demonstration does occur, you’ll often see such gatherings downtown — at City Hall, Acacia Park or somewhere guaranteed to provide maximum exposure.
You don’t regularly see neighborhood protests, with residents and business owners united on a hyper-local issue.
That’s what took place on July 29 in Old Colorado City, when upwards of 100 people gathered, made their own signs and then displayed them for the afternoon rush-hour traffic on Colorado Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets.
It apparently hasn’t mattered that Old Colorado City residents oppose the idea.
Their mission was simple — convince the Iowa-based Kum & Go chain not to pursue locating one of its supersized gas and convenience stores there.
Of course, Kum & Go has every right to purchase that property on the south side of Colorado Avenue, a former Goodwill Industries work center and donation collection site, though rezoning is required. It’s not as if the Goodwill structure has had historic significance or value. And with Goodwill having moved, no other buyer has stepped forward with money and/or a redevelopment plan.
But to put a Kum & Go in that spot, a 24/7 operation with plenty of lights and business, arguably isn’t a good match for Old Colorado City’s charming collection of small businesses and the nearby residential area. Also, if residents or visitors have the need, there already are multiple options along Colorado Avenue — 7-Elevens at 15th and 30th streets, an Alta store (formerly Farm Crest) at 21st and a Valero Corner Store at 27th.
This is not against Kum & Go, which has targeted Colorado Springs and chosen some excellent locations, such as Fillmore Street east of Nevada Avenue and in Monument east of Interstate 25. Also in the works are Kum & Go stores on 21st Street south of U.S. 24, and on Nevada Avenue south of downtown.
Unlike those other sites, the one in Old Colorado City could disrupt the economic equilibrium for blocks in every direction.
It apparently hasn’t mattered that OCC residents oppose the idea. Most are from lower-income households, and the business owners battle every day to stay afloat. But now they have powerful allies: County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who built her political career on being a Westside activist, and her husband Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors.
Both have come out strongly against the Kum & Go in OCC, and Welling Clark sent a powerful letter this week to Mayor Steve Bach, City Council and the planning commission outlining the opposition, saying Kum & Go “does not further the Westside’s longstanding urban revitalization and heritage tourism plans.”
That’s just the first salvo, pleading for a “productive and workable solution.” At some point, you’d figure Kum & Go would realize it’s not welcome in Old Colorado City. That was actually the goal of the July 29 demonstration, simply asking Kum & Go to focus elsewhere.
If this goes much further, it could turn ugly, especially if the Clarks and Mayor Bach remain diametrically opposed. It’s exactly the kind of conflict that we don’t need with so many other sensitive issues on the table, from stormwater to the Regional Tourism Act.
And rest assured those residents who protested on July 29 will not be going away.