First step taken in revitalization of downtown Colorado Springs City Auditorium block

By Rich Laden Updated: March 23, 2018 at 9:20 am • Published: March 22, 2018 0
photo - City Auditorium block (Photo via www.csura.org)
City Auditorium block (Photo via www.csura.org)

An effort to revive an urban renewal project for downtown's City Auditorium block has cleared an initial hurdle, after a consultant found evidence the site is blighted and therefore eligible for redevelopment.

The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority this week approved a draft report by DSC Consulting of suburban Denver, which found a half-dozen examples of blighted conditions on the City Auditorium block. State law requires at least four of 11 examples of blight be present before a site can qualify as an urban renewal project.

Among other conditions, DSC found deteriorated or deteriorating structures; a defective or inadequate street layout; and unsanitary or unsafe conditions on the block, bounded by Nevada and Pikes Peak avenues and Kiowa and Weber streets.

The blight finding was no surprise.

The Colorado Springs City Council already designated the auditorium block as an urban renewal site in 2006. Redevelopment proposals at that time never materialized, however, after the Great Recession came along a few years later.

Last summer, developers proposed a new urban renewal project for the block - effectively discarding the previous designation in favor of a new one.

The blight finding was the first step. Next, a consultant will prepare an urban renewal plan for the property, which spells out new land uses.

The Urban Renewal Authority then would be asked to approve the plan and endorse a new urban renewal concept for the block. The City Council would have final say on the urban renewal designation, which could come in four to five months, said Jariah Walker, the Urban Renewal Authority's executive director.

The urban renewal designation allows increased tax revenue generated by new development on the property to be used for street, sidewalk, utility and other public improvements at the site. Using public money to fund the upgrades serves as an incentive to woo developers to invest in downtrodden areas.

In past redevelopment projects, the Urban Renewal Authority has issued bonds to pay the upfront costs of public improvements. Increased sales and property tax revenues from the redevelopment are used to pay off those bonds.

An urban renewal designation provides a 25-year window for the issuance and repayment of the bonds. Since 12 years have passed since the previous redevelopment plan was OK'd for the auditorium block, developers want to restart the urban renewal designation so they can have a full 25 years of the financial incentives.

Nor'wood Development Group, arguably Colorado Springs' biggest and most active real estate developer, owns roughly the south half of the block. A preliminary plan proposed several months ago by Nor'wood showed a pair of multilevel buildings with office, residential and commercial uses.

A & A Enterprise of Colorado Springs, controlled by Pueblo hotel developer Amin Ashwin, has proposed a seven-story, 120-room Hyatt Place for the block's northwest corner.

The City Auditorium, which opened in 1923, is owned by the city. New revenue from the block's redevelopment could provide funding for auditorium upgrades such as roof work, Walker said.

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