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Grand Avenue neighbors defend their mountain view


It has been condemned as an eyesore and a blemish, but whatever you want to call it, the proposed Cliff House West project is big. So big, in fact, that if approved and built, it could block or obstruct the view for residents of Grand Avenue in Manitou Springs.

The proposed redevelopment of the Wheeler House property at 36 Park Ave. has undergone various design changes. The latest proposal built around the historic old Wheeler House was submitted to the Manitou Springs Historic Preservation Commission on June 4, and more than two dozen residents showed up to voice their opinions, starting with Grand Avenue homeowner Julie Wolfe.

"The proposed building is terribly incompatible with what we have going on here in our neighborhood," Wolfe said. "The mass and height have a dwarfing effect on the existing homes around it. It's very much a fortress effect. You lose the feeling that you're in a residential neighborhood."

Several others, many of whom also live or own property on Grand Avenue, echoed Wolfe's concerns. The proposed addition would be built between Park and Grand avenues, potentially obstructing the view of downtown and the mountains from Grand, which many residents said would negatively affect their property values.

Others went so far as to claim the new development would damage the character of the entire city.

"I think that Manitou is one of the jewels of Colorado," said David Chorpenning, who owns property adjacent to the proposed construction site. "I think it has maintained its historic and residential character and this artistic, healthy feel. This project goes directly against the character of the community, and would undermine the history we've worked so hard to preserve."

David Beers, another Grand Avenue homeowner, said the developers have shown little interest in working with the community or trying to adjust plans to fit Manitou's personalty.

"What we ask of development is that it stay consistent to the character of the community," said Beers. "With this project, there's been little interest in doing that."

The issues in question are the hotel's proposed height, which exceeds HPC guidelines, as well as its close proximity to the street and the traffic that it would generate in the neighborhood, which already has problems with congestion.

Grand Avenue resident Dennis McEnnerney also raised safety concerns.

"For the entire neighborhood from Grand Avenue to the north, there's only one way in and out, and that's on Cañon Avenue near the post office," he said. "If they're having a big function, unloading trucks and blocking the street and there's a big fire or something, how do we get out?"

Actually, neighborhood residents seem fairly united in their support for the Cliff House and cognizant of the tax revenue that the hotel addition would bring. However, the general feeling, as McEnnerney said, is that "development of this kind would undermine exactly the same aspects of Manitou that make it attractive as a tourist destination."

"I'm definitely in favor of redeveloping the Wheeler House," said Chorpenning, "but I think it needs to be done in a historically sensitive way. We have the guidelines. The rules are right there, and they're there for a reason. I don't see why they're so hard to follow."
Mike Alberti

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