A proposal to construct the tallest building in Colorado Springs is being seen by many as a logical byproduct of the rapid pace of new development in the city’s downtown. At the same time, a vocal group of opponents complain the project represents the sort of urbanization the city has actively worked for decades to avoid.
“I have received 20 emails from my constituents that are outraged,” said Colorado Springs City Council member Tom Strand during a late October meeting of the city’s Urban Renewal Authority. “And the thing they’re outraged about is the height of the building and begging me not to make Colorado Springs (into) Denver.”
It’s been a common refrain since local developer the O’Neil Group filed its application in the fall with city planners to build the building. If built, the 25-story building would be mostly split into high-end apartment units. The proposal also includes a separate, 11-story office building. The city’s current highest structure is the 16-story Wells Fargo building, completed in 1990.
Kevin O’Neil, founder of the O’Neil Group, said Colorado Springs is at a nexus point, experiencing rapid growth amidst a burgeoning tech sector. He said the city could continue its long-held practice of growing out from the center of the city in order to accommodate the influx. Instead, O’Neil argued the city should look back to its downtown core and focus on building upward.
“It changes the community. It changes the conversation,” O’Neil said. “Can we bring in headquartered companies, can we start to build other types of buildings downtown?”
Some residents, however, say they have concerns about the building’s 273-foot height obscuring views of the city’s iconic natural amenities, particularly Pikes Peak.
“I kind of think that’s important for everybody to have that view,” said 28-year-old Travis Michaels, while walking around at last week’s First Friday Art Walk in Downtown Colorado Springs. “Once you start taking away from that … that’s a big thing.”
O’Neil said he believes the concern over blocking views is overblown. He noted that despite the nine-story difference between his proposed tower and the Wells Fargo building, his building would only be about 26 feet higher — due to the differences between typical ceiling height in office buildings versus residential ones.
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As a native of the city, O’Neil said he’s “personally sensitive to the way our community looks and how we grow.” Even though his building would be the tallest in Colorado Springs, it would still only be a third of the height of the tallest structure in Denver — Republic Plaza downtown.
“One apartment complex won’t make us Denver; 10 won’t make us Denver,” he said. “The reality is, do we want to be a bedroom community to Denver? And I don’t want to be a bedroom community.”
The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority plans to meet Wednesday to vote on hiring a consultant to evaluate the project and financing for it.
The O’Neil group hopes to break ground on the two buildings in spring 2022, with an expected completion date of summer 2024.
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