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Grand finale

The colossal Cliff House West finally gets the OK



Even if everyone wasn't totally happy, they were probably relieved it was over.

After two years of meetings, bickering and compromise, Manitou Springs City Council gave its final three stamps of approval Tuesday night to plans for the swanky Cliff House West hotel, an off-site extension of the AAA Four Diamond Award-winning Cliff House. The plan won the support of all councilors except Shannon Solomon, who voted against it.

The addition, which features 79 guest rooms and suites, bringing the Cliff House's total to 134 hotel rooms, will also include a 4,600-square-foot ballroom, meeting rooms, two levels of underground parking, a rooftop garden and a pool inside a glass atrium. It will be partially housed in the historic Wheeler House, which will be restored and a much larger new building attached.

The project is designed to meet strict green standards. Construction could start within a year, though developers have a five-year window to build it. Once work begins, it will likely take 18 to 24 months to finish. Within five years of opening, it's expected to double the hotel's revenues, up to an estimated $6.5 to $8 million annually.

For a long time, it seemed the project would never get off the ground. The plans caused an uproar in Manitou, particularly from residential neighbors on Grand Avenue who originally complained that, as imagined in plans, the addition looked like a "Wal-Mart" or a "fortress." They later claimed it violated historic preservation codes and would create too much traffic, upset the quality of their neighborhood, and create a safety hazard.

Neighbors appealed the Historic Preservation Commission's original approval of the plan to City Council in April. Council rejected the appeal and developers compromised with neighbors on many issues.

Tuesday night, only Grand Avenue resident David Beers still voiced grave concerns. Beers mentioned traffic, safety and water-supply impacts as well as blasting during construction.

"Don't cut corners on this, and don't be unrealistic," he told Council.

Most others were decidedly more optimistic. Cliff House general manager Paul York conceded that neighbors had "handed our butt to us more than a few times." But, he said, "I think that the neighbors have actually made us make this project better."

Concessions have included changes to the buildings' appearance, distance from the street and height. The hotel also agreed to make more than $400,000 in public improvements, including many upgrades on Grand Avenue such as new sidewalks and underground utilities, moving a service entrance and limiting hours when delivery trucks can service the hotel.

The changes swayed some longtime opponents such as Grand Avenue resident Dennis McEnnerney who told Council that while he still wasn't completely pleased with the project, he was impressed with the changes.

The vast majority of written community responses to the city were positive. One letter to York, from Andrew and Becky Arneson, who live on Grand Avenue, stated, " I wanted to let you know that the neighborhood is not 'united' against this project. I may be one of the few to speak openly against the residents that do not support the project. I believe your company has shown a genuine effort to accommodate the concerns that have been expressed. I completely support your current plan."

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