Major facelift coming for downtown Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Day by day, a major transformation is taking shape in southwest downtown.

DigStudio/City of Colorado Springs

Crews are steadily working on the Olympic Museum at the intersection of Vermijo and Sierra Madre. Its unique design in the shadow of Pikes Peak is just the beginning of a much larger vision: to create a new gateway into the city.

"You can't just have this iconic Olympic museum on an island by itself there," said Bob Cope, Colorado Springs' economic development director.

The redesign of southwest downtown begins this month near America the Beautiful Park. A new pedestrian/bicycle bridge will soon be installed over the railroad tracks to connect the park with the Olympic Museum. From there, the city is planning a three-block reconstruction of Vermijo Street, which will create a pedestrian/bicycle connection all the way to the iconic Pioneers Museum.

"March, April, May, you'll start to see things get started," said city engineer Ryan Phipps. "[We're] creating a place. We're not just doing a road. This is a new place in Colorado Springs."

The plan is to keep two lanes of traffic, but it'll be bordered by new lighting, trees, and places to sit. There will also be a wide paved space for festivals and events.

That's good news for the owner of the Corner Cafe, one of the only private businesses in the area. Sharon Wallace is excited about the change. She's already planning some upgrades of her own to
match the new downtown decor.

"I'm going to have a lot more foot traffic," Wallace said. "I look forward to seeing it happen. I'm a native, so this is all going to be pretty interesting on my end."

The total cost of the bridge and reconstruction of Vermijo street is $40 million. The city says the majority will be paid for by developers through a special tax and funds from the City for Champions initiative.

"What we're looking at is an estimated $2 billion investment over the next 20 years in that area," Cope said.

The city council just approved an urban renewal zone for about 100 acres in southwest downtown. Eventually, old buildings will be leveled and a new skyline will form.

"Hotels, offices, lots of residential," Cope said. "[It's] another barometer on our overall economy here in Colorado Springs. It's never been better."

The city hopes it's taking an exciting step forward along this repurposed road.

"It's going to be iconic," Phipps said. "It's something that's special, and I hope that's something we can all be proud of."

Construction on the bridge and Vermijo corridor is expected to begin in late March and last about a year.