As published in Volume 33, Number 40, Dec. 30 – Jan. 5 edition of the Colorado Springs Business Journal, Downtown Partnership President & CEO Susan Edmondson reflects back on 2022 and provides a preview of what’s ahead.
As construction cranes dot the Downtown skyline and new businesses continue to declare “Now Open!,” some may wonder, can this rapid pace of change continue in our city center?
The answer is yes. And no. Well, it’s just evolving. There’s no denying that inflation and recessionary threats have made financing of large developments more challenging in the short term. But, just as Downtown and all of Colorado Springs weathered pandemic shutdowns better than most cities, we’re headed into 2023 more resilient than ever.
Next year you’ll still see plenty of new small business openings as well as larger employers filling Downtown office spaces. But the real trend for the next two years will be less about ribbon cuttings and new attractions as a new star takes center stage: Downtown residents. Our long-stated goal to increase residential offerings Downtown will hit its stride in 2023 and 2024.
First, though, let’s pause to reflect on another banner year Downtown. Just a few highlights:
- The long-anticipated SpringHill Suites and Element opened at the corner of Costilla and South Tejon, highlighted by the sexy Lumen8 rooftop bar with arguably the best views in the city.
- New retail and restaurant offerings included The Well food hall, Tattered Cover, the massive Trainwreck bar and play place, Vine & Wheel, and, filling the long-neglected old Michelle’s café on North Tejon Street, Munchies offers comfort fare and sweet treats.
- The new ZEB free shuttle operates seven days a week, with frequencies of 7 minutes weekdays and 10 minutes weekends, making it far easier to get around without a car.
- Improvements to public spaces that are delighting young and old alike include the incredible new playground in Acacia Park and the just-opened AdAmAn Alley.
Tracking since the opening of 33-unit Blue Dot Place nearly seven years ago, Downtown has added a little over 600 residential units, for an average of about 100 units per year. In these next two years, however, the city center is on pace to deliver about 2,000 units – a tenfold increase in annual units delivered.
The variety is wide, from The Plaza at Pikes Peak and Fiona anchoring Downtown’s east side, to Norwood’s VIM offering units targeting workers earning median incomes, to Sumner House in the Lowell area designed for lower-income residents. Our own Downtown Development Authority will get in the housing game in 2023 as well, breaking ground on the Artspace project offering affordable live-work apartments for artists as well as commercial studio space, scheduled to open in 2024.
Demand remains strong for Downtown living, and we still have a long way to go to offer the urban residential variety and numbers that would be typical for a metro area of three quarters of a million people. Why is it so important to increase the number of people living in our city center? Several reasons.
- Foremost, urban residents become the lifeblood to our independent shops and restaurants. Downtown is their back yard, and they are loyal to their favorite breweries, coffeeshops, bookstores and First Friday haunts.
- Residents add vitality, personality and even safety to an urban area. The more that everyday residents walk their dog, hop on the shuttle, visit their favorite burger joint or relax in a park, the more all of Downtown feels livelier, safer, more inviting.
- It’s been estimated that the city is at least 12,000 housing units short to meet current demand. At the pace of delivery in Downtown, and with much more residential projects in the pipeline, this one square mile of our sprawling city is doing more than its fair share to address the shortage – and that’s essential to easing housing and rental costs.
- Urban housing attracts talent. Employers know that top talent is in demand, and our region must provide a wide variety of housing types to attract talent – including options for those who prefer active, walkable urban areas.