I was prompted today by a Colorado Springs Gazette article titled For Springs’ two indoor malls, “the jury is still out.  The article referenced Colorado Springs’ two indoor malls, The Citadel and Chapel Hills Mall.  Both malls have seen better days, though the Chapel Hills Mall is geographically situated in a higher socio-economic location in the city, as the article points out.
The Citadel has been thought of as the largest and most obvious site for redevelopment in Colorado Springs for quite some time now.  I personally have thought about the redevelopment of the Citadel for the past five years as it is visibly declining.  All across the country, malls have been replaced with a variety of outdoor lifestyle centers and in some exquisite cases, mixed-use neighborhoods.  The most notable mixed-use neighborhood, the Villa Italia Mall in Lakewood, Colorado, was transformed into a Destination Village with an abundance of retail, restaurants, residential opportunities and offices called Belmar.

Citadel Mall Today

An Aerial Image from Google Earth of the Existing Citadel Mall

The image to the right is the Citadel as it exists today.  Several stores have left the Citadel, including one of the anchor stores, Macy’s.  The Citadel is geographically located with great proximities to downtown, two highways and more importantly near the center of Colorado Springs.  Academy Boulevard is undergoing a transportation and redevelopment study today that will identify the opportunities for infrastructure improvements, transit and strategies to generate redevelopment (See Previous Post: Great Streets Academy Boulevard).  Unfortunately, The Citadel is in an area of Colorado Springs perceived as high in crime rates and low in property values.  The immediate neighborhoods include a variety of residential typologies ranging from for purchase condominiums, for rent apartments, attached single-family and detached single-family.

As I previously mentioned, I have had years to dream and envision what The Citadel could look like and today, I decided to apply a basic massing model to my vision for The Citadel. 


Vision for The Citadel

Vision of the Redevelopment of the Citadel Mall by Olson Planning & Urban Landscapes.


The Citadel has a unique opportunity to capitalize on its existing infrastructure (both above and below the ground).  There are multiple anchors to the overall building that can be broken into smaller pieces.  In the image above, you see that I chose to maintain the structures for a portion of the mall corridor and the anchor stores of Dillard’s, JC Penney and the former Macy’s.  The anchor stores can remain with façade improvements where adjacent portions of the overall building are removed.  In all instances for the anchor stores, I chose to leave the auto-oriented entrances intact and with the similar nature and opening up the mall side for outdoor access.  The small portion of the mall corridor that I chose to maintain is a wider portion of the corridor currently with skylights.  The façade improvements for the front doors would need to be improved with materials that can withstand the outdoor elements. 

Outside of the existing structure, I am showing several smaller buildings that can be two to three-stories and can (and should) include a mixture of offices, residential and some retail uses.  There have also been discussions in Colorado Springs about a potential medical element on the existing site.  This use would be a great asset to the overall fabric providing another use and reason for visiting the Citadel site.  Ideally the site would include less surface parking, more on-street parking and greater building massing.  I feel that the image above provides a fair representation of densities that can be incorporated into the zoning with today’s transit opportunities.  Regardless of the improvements that occur at the Citadel, there are a few principles that should be accounted for:

The improvements should be integrated into the fabric of the existing neighborhood

  • The site should include high levels of vehicular and pedestrian connectivity.
  • Uses should be accommodating to the adjacent residents, and not constructed to attempt to gentrify the neighborhood.  Uses should include employment opportunities, services and daily needs such as groceries.

Uses should be diverse and incorporate a residential component

  • This should not be an exercise where the mall simply receives a face-lift and expect the vitality of the mall to survive.  There is still a demand for retail and restaurants in this vicinity, however the level of demand is much less than when the Citadel was originally constructed.  When the Citadel was originally constructed, the area was considered suburban and included a higher socio-economic atmosphere.
  • Uses should include at a minimum, residential, office and neighborhood retail creating a 24-hour life for the Citadel.  Today, the site becomes a ‘Ghost Town’ in the evenings and becomes vibrant again during mall hours.  The residential component adds this element to the overall neighborhood and also provides instant users and demand for the retail and restaurants.

The Citadel should maintain its transit opportunities

  • Today, transit is provided along Academy Boulevard for north/south mobility and Platte Avenue which is a short trip to downtown and to the current auto-oriented commercial highway, Powers Boulevard.

The Uses should include vehicular circulation along with pedestrian circulation

  • Vehicular circulation is equally important to the vitality of a redeveloped mall as the pedestrian circulation.  The vehicles, both parked and mobile, provide a sense of activity.  Without the vehicle, a passerby may view the business as closed or simply undesirable.  On the other hand, full parking stalls (preferably on-street) and slow traffic give the sense of activity making it desirable to others passing by.

Newly-constructed buildings should be designed and constructed for adaptation in building use

  • The failures of many of todays strip shopping centers and malls are due to the single-use, single-life mentality that went in to constructing them.  Many of the strip center buildings are not easily transformed into other uses and some are difficult to clear away the stigma of the previous tenant.  Examples of how the building should not be designed are: Home Depot with its unique orange façade; McDonald’s with the Golden Arch building construction; and the former Pizza Hut design with the very identifiable pitched red roof (still identifiable today but usually something other than a Pizza Hut).