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UCCS can still win the war


In the end, perhaps the Battle of Nevada Avenue wasn't even worth fighting.

So what if the idea of a University Village filled with an eclectic and magnetic mixture of restaurants, taverns and themed bars, coffee shops, stores and other businesses was so perfect for that area just west of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus?

So what if, developed correctly, University Village could have been a true showcase for the city and a marvelous way to promote community-building?

It just wasn't going to happen. Not when the alternative included Costco.

Those who have been inside a Costco, in Denver or anywhere, know about the national warehouse chain's appeal. It's not just a membership superstore for all things wholesale. It's like Sam's on steroids.

Yet we haven't had one down here in Colorado Springs, much to many people's dismay. Especially since Denver has seven Costcos, the closest one adjacent to Park Meadows, a little more than 50 miles up the road.

Last fall, Costco announced plans to end that obvious oversight by putting in a new store at the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Barnes Road. All along, though, Costco also has had its eye on the "blighted" area northwest of Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road/Austin Bluffs Parkway.

In recent months, support grew for the different idea of University Village as more of a funky, campus-style area similar to the Hill in Boulder. If that concept had gained traction two or three years ago, it very well might have had a chance. Realistically, we should've known better than to think that city planners would turn their backs on the sales-tax revenue bonanza of a Costco-Lowe's pairing.

Now, it'll just look more like Southgate North.

But the story doesn't have to end with City Council opening its arms to Costco and Lowe's. Not when UCCS still has a good-sized, highly desirable and developable chunk of property, east of Nevada and north of Austin Bluffs. It cascades downward for a half-mile with expansive, breathtaking views of the mountains and especially Pikes Peak.

To this point, plans have been to save that land for the expected expansion of academic, athletic and residence-hall facilities, all of which make good sense.

Instead of being spread out all the way west to Nevada, though, perhaps the time has come for UCCS to get into the development business itself.

The school could find its own developer and architects to conceive UCCS' own version of the Hill and call it the Bluff. If infrastructure is developed, entrepreneurs would produce the various shops, stores, restaurants, etc., to complement a growing university. Chains would be welcome, but locally owned businesses ideally would have priority.

Built in a smart, compact and consistent way, the Bluff would become an instant hit, luring people from throughout the area. And the students wouldn't have to cross a busy thoroughfare such as Nevada to get there. Heck, even the Colorado College kids would surely find their way up Nevada to join in the frivolity.

Granted, this might not be the first choice for those who want UCCS to hang onto its property for true university purposes. The answer to that would be simple: Having a well-conceived, wildly popular area such as the Bluff would actually add to the university's appeal for students and supporters of the arts or athletics. And perhaps UCCS eventually could expand more to the north if necessary.

(One side thought: Years from now, after Costco and Lowe's move elsewhere don't say it'll never happen, because it inevitably will then we might actually see a spillover from the Bluff to the west side of Nevada.)

Don't believe the Bluff would work? Just go to Boulder and visit the Hill, bordering the north edge of the University of Colorado's main campus. You'll see gray-haired alumni, in their 60s and 70s, wandering around and soaking in the memories of when they were beer-drinking college kids, 40 or 50 years ago.

If UCCS truly wants to become the university system's premier campus someday, that dream could have a better chance with such a fascinating "fringe benefit" attached a gathering place for anybody in Colorado Springs.

That's what the Bluff could be ... much sooner than anybody might think.

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