It’s a new day for Colorado Springs. Mayor Yemi Mobolade has taken office, filling the big shoes of Mayor John Suthers. Mayor Suthers has lifted our City to great heights in the past eight years, for which I am incredibly grateful.
While I’m excited for what the future may look like under Mayor Yemi, I reflect back on the prior Mayors of our City. Specifically, I think back to the Mayor Bach period of time. Mayor Bach was in office during a turbulent time. The perception of Colorado Springs was that it was a place where Young Professionals would leave and a place that catered first toward retired military. He did some pretty radical things, including shutting off streetlights, turning off the irrigation for our parks and medians, locking the doors of public restrooms, and discontinuing trash collection of our parks. The public realm was embarrassing. And to be fair to Mayor Bach, regardless of who the first “Strong Mayor” was to be, it was going to be difficult. He had to make some pretty difficult choices, including one that has greatly benefited our City – City for Champions.
City for Champions was conceived in leveraging State tourism dollars to create four projects at the time. Initially conceived to bring the City’s Olympic Museum, a Downtown Stadium (many thought it would be a Baseball Stadium), a Visitor’s Center at the Air Force Academy, and the Sports Medicine and Performance Center at UCCS. Today, three are complete (plus the added bonus Ed Robson Arena at Colorado College) with the Visitor’s Center under construction. The City for Champions projects has been a game changer, specifically for Downtown, spawning an abundance of development.
It was in the Bach tenure when myself and several others in the community rallied together to create Colorado Springs Urban Intervention (CSUI). The Facebook page is still alive and can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/BetterBlockPikesPeak/ If the City wasn’t going to consider our public spaces, we were going to intervene – and we did with the following projects:
- Better Block Pikes Peak, 2012 (See Video Summary Here)
- Curbside Cuisine, 2013
- Downtown Walkability Signage, 2014
- Downtown Parklet, 2015-2016
- Miscellaneous Small Interventions (Flippin’ Benches (2013), Lunch on the Hump (2013))
- Participant with the City for Starlight Cinema (2015), Acacia Park’s first Crisco “Ice” Skating Rink (2013), and Play in the Park (2016)
When Suthers came into office, our group started to fizzle. The City was on the upswing and we were thrilled, seemingly, we weren’t as needed during this time. Furthermore, many of the entrepreneurs of CSUI became successful with their businesses. (As a side bar, I am so proud of all of you that were such a big part of CSUI! I probably don’t tell each of you this, and I won’t single you out, but damn… much love ❤️!)
During this Urban Intervention time, I was introduced to our now Mayor, Yemi Mobolade. We were at an event for the Downtown Partnership at Pioneers Museum when Yemi and his business partner were introduced. They were just about to open the doors to the Wild Goose (Tejon and Boulder). I recall the enthusiasm from them both as if it was yesterday, and references to placemaking and creating the Third Place for Colorado Springs were frequent. It was at this moment that I knew that this guy was special. Did I know that he would someday be our mayor? No, but I would have thrown my nod for support right then and there.
With this reflection, I wonder to myself if Urban Intervention is still relevant? We’ve enjoyed this past decade of our City thriving. I recall Chris Jenkins of Nor’Wood often saying, we are entering the “Downtown Renaissance” – he was absolutely right!
We are now a top City in the US for College Graduates – so “Mission Accomplished”? (https://coloradosprings.gov/mayors-office/article/news/colorado-springs-named-among-top-cities-where)
To the question of whether the mission has been accomplished, my answer is no. We still have work to do. Great strides have been made to match our city’s built environment to the natural beauty to the west, but work is still needed.
With success comes adversity – namely affordable housing. While our City has become more attractive in the last decade, we have also become less affordable. While housing affordability is not something that can be handled by a grassroots effort like CSUI. There are things that can be done to make our City more accessible. By creating placemaking nodes throughout the city, we provide more choices than the handful of beloved places of today.
We can help push for a better-connected City, whether that is in transit, pedestrian or bicycle connectedness. If our City were to be better connected, affordability would be curbed a bit. We have to remember that while housing costs are the biggest cost to a household per year, transportation is the next cost! If our City were better connected and provided choices for transportation, households could ditch a car (or all cars). That has not been the case and it has cost our residents (and visitors) time and money.
I could write about this for days, but instead, I’d like to leave you with these non-rhetorical questions.
- How does the future of Colorado Springs look to you?
- What would you like to see happen, on a grassroots level, to get to that future?
- Does Urban Intervention need a reboot and perhaps a rebrand?
Much love to you all and let’s keep moving this City forward!