Union Printers Home project moves forward as Colorado Springs city council approves zoning changes, variances

Abigail Beckman, KRCC
The Union Printer’s Home in Colorado Springs has seen many changes in its 130-year history. Now, a group of local investors is hoping to write a new chapter for the site.

Colorado Springs City Council members unanimously approved zoning changes and variances that will pave the way for the planned revitalization of the historic Union Printers Home. The site is now zoned as mixed-use which allows for a mix of residential, commercial, and retail spaces, among other things.

The more than 26-acre property east of downtown will be known as Printers Hill. 

Council also approved adjusting building height limits for future construction at the site. Yolanda Avila represents the southeast Colorado Springs district that includes the Union Printers Home property. She grew up just east of the area.

"And to see it preserved, rebuilding, making it grander instead of bulldozing really significant neighborhoods down…this is an exciting way forward," Avila said. 

The recently released vision for Printers Hill includes a modern boutique hotel, a plaza with splash pad fountains, and retail spaces. The expansive plan also calls for renovating the property's most recognizable building - the "castle". 

Courtesy Sasaki Associates, Inc.
The master plan stages an area called the Quad as the center of Printers Hill "where historic architecture blends with modern, public venues, outdoor gathering spaces rich with plantings, retail and dining, and water features."

Tim Boddington is the president of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs. During public comment at Tuesday's meeting, he said the adaptive reuse plan in place for the site is a remarkable feat of historic preservation.

"The castle is the prize. It's internationally unique. And the ability to preserve that amazing structure and its history comes down to the partners and their belief that that's the prize," Boddington said, referencing the UPH Partners, a group of local investors who purchased the property in 2021. 

The partners include Ward Berlin, Tony Bettis, Jim Johnson, James Loo, Kevin O'Neil, Susan Loo Pattee, and Susie Burghart, according to a document presented to the city council. Together, they paid $18.5 million to save the landmark.

"All of us are full-time residents in Colorado Springs," Pattee told the council. "We did not intend to get into this project at all. However, when the property was for sale in 2021, it looked like with the…zoning that it would very possibly become just multifamily with no real thought about what the history and the buildings on site would become."

Because the site lacked historic designation, Pattee said there was potential for it to be bulldozed.

"We kind of held hands and jumped off a cliff because we didn't know what we were getting into other than we knew that we wanted to preserve the nearly 100,000 square foot castle that's 132 years old on the property," she said. 

Abigail Beckman, KRCC
Susan Pattee, left, and Ellie Hinkle stand in what was once the laundry facility for the Union Printer's Home.

Renderings of the Printers Hill project emphasize connectivity with the surrounding areas of Knob Hill, K Land, and Hillside. The group has held public meetings and solicited continuous feedback from the area. An online survey is available for residents to share their thoughts.

Gloria Martinez lives in Knob Hill, a neighborhood near the property. Speaking to city council, Martinez praised the investors working on the project.

"They have taken the opportunity to preserve our heritage," she said. "They have taken the time to listen to our concerns about preserving our history as Hispanics and Black people in the neighborhood." 

She said she thinks the partners will help bring a better quality of life to the area.

"They've spoken to us honestly. As an old Chicana from Colorado, I know when I'm talking to somebody speaking with a forked tongue," she said. "This has been a great partnership. I'm hoping that my grandchildren, great-grandchildren will be able to see all this."

Courtesy Sasaki Associates, Inc.
A plan view of Printers Hill, showing the flow of public realm and new construction.

Once the Printers Hill project is complete, investor Susan Pattee said it will be completely open to the public.

"This will be a place where people can live, work, and play, and it will be open to the community. We don't intend any gates or any sort of exclusivity. It's going to have a lot of open spaces," she said.

The UPH Partners hope to start construction in 2026 with an unknown end date for their potentially billion-dollar vision. They've hired national planning firm Sasaki Associates to help envision the property's future.

Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
This archival photo shows the long sun porch at the Union Printers Home that was used for fresh air for residents who had tuberculosis.

The property, built in 1892, served as a convalescent home for members of the International Typographical Union healing from work-related illnesses.

It was later a nursing home operated by Kansas-based Heart Living Centers but the property shut down in 2020 amid sub-par standards after a resident froze to death on a bench outside.