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New urban renewal borders in lower downtown



A new, smaller urban renewal area has been proposed for the lower downtown area, essentially replacing the 100-acre Southwest Downtown urban renewal area. The new area would be generally bounded by Colorado Avenue and Cimarron Street on the north and south, and Cascade Avenue and Interstate 25 on the east and west.

According to a presentation heard on June 27 by the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, the purpose of the as yet unnamed area is to extend "the energy and mission" of the Olympic Museum; create a neighborhood focused on health, wellness and outdoors; create public spaces that are "vibrant, memorable and functional;" and connect the America the Beautiful Park downtown while stimulating economic investment.

The plan calls for 5.2 million square feet of mixed-use urban development, including 4,500 homes, plus office space, retail, restaurants and 500 hotel rooms. All that is estimated to cost $2 billion and would be phased, starting this year.

Funding for public improvements would come from a combination of property and sales taxes assigned via tax increment financing (TIF), plus money from a business improvement district, the Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority, and several metro special districts. Public funds of $216.5 million are needed for the URA.

Before any of those plans can emerge, however, the city's Planning Commission, Urban Renewal Authority and City Council must sign off. Also, URA Director Jariah Walker says sharing agreements must be obtained from other taxing entities to dedicate the TIF to the project. TIF allows taxes generated by a development to be plowed back into its public infrastructure.

Nor'wood Development Group, the region's biggest developer, is the area's developer and already has considerable downtown investment, including the Plaza of the Rockies building, a new apartment complex being built at Wahsatch and Colorado avenues, and another complex in the pipeline for South Cascade Avenue.

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