Downtown Colorado Springs: Myths and facts

Seems to be a lot of misconceptions about downtown Colorado Springs. Take a look at the comments with this Gazette story. It’s OK to be partial to one part of town over another or to dislike certain areas, but there ought to be honest reasons behind it. So here’s a look at some of the complaints about downtown and some answers to those complaints.

  • MYTH: There are too many homeless people downtown harassing shoppers, etc.
  • FACT: Yes, there are some homeless people downtown. A while back, we wanted the homeless and their tent cities away from Fountain Creek. Mission accomplished. Of course they didn’t just vanish. They had to go somewhere, and downtown is a reasonable spot. Periodically, we’ll be approached by someone who politely asks us for change. Never once have we been “harassed” or bothered. Homelessness is a problem in just about every city, and I would say, comparatively, that Colorado Springs has it pretty good.
  • MYTH: There’s no parking; the meters are too short; it’s too expensive; I don’t have coins!
  • FACT: The city has three parking garages (Bijou/Cascade; city administration garage; Kiowa)  with a total of more than 2,500 spaces. There are 2,400 metered parking spaces and several surface lots. There is parking. As for the cost, it’s 75 cents an hour at the garages and a dollar an hour on the street. If this cost is a hardship, you have more problems than just downtown parking. Sometimes, you don’t get to park right in front of where you’re going and you have to walk maybe a block or two. But here’s the thing: The actual distance is no farther than where you park at a big-box retailer. But instead of walking through a sea of cars, you get to walk on a nice, shaded downtown street with other pedestrians past shops and services. It’s pleasant. As for not having any coins, I hear you. Nothing chaps my rear like businesses and entities that make it hard for me to spend money. You want me to pay for parking, make it as easy as possible. So I was happy when I discovered the Easy Park card. It’s accepted at all the meters and it is refillable.
  • MYTH: Downtown is a hotbed of crime.
  • FACT: According to the city’s latest annual statistical report, Colorado Springs crime is fairly spread out, and downtown has significantly less crime than other areas. Consider homicides: Just two of the city’s 20 killings happened downtown. The greatest concentrations were in Area 1 (northeast of downtown bordered by Circle Drive, Austin Bluffs and Academy Boulevard) and Area 67  (southeast of downtown bordered by Platte Avenue, Academy Boulevard, Powers Boulevard, and Airport Road) with three homicides each. The area with the highest overall crime concentration, according to the police map, is Area 64 with 2,736 reports. Area 64 is far north, past Woodmen Road and east of Interstate 25. Overall, there were 15 areas in the Springs with more than a thousand crimes each. Meanwhile, downtown (Areas 16, 17 and 18 on the map) managed to get only 461, 297, and 236, respectively, with comparatively low numbers of your quality-of-life crimes like theft and vandalism. Hardly a hotbed.
  • MYTH: There’s nothing but bars downtown.
  • FACT: A stretch of Tejon between Pikes Peak and Kiowa does have what seems like a heavy concentration of bars. True. And there are other bars sprinkled throughout the rest. But to say that there’s nothing but bars is a little disingenuous. Fact is, downtown has all kinds of businesses and services: Clothing, books, restaurants, lawyers, dentists, a movie theater, coffeeshops. It’s a case of selective vision when people complain about the bars. Sure there are some bars. I guess I’m just not seeing the problem with that.
  • MYTH: There are no family-friendly places downtown.
  • FACT: This one is puzzling, and I often wonder what people mean by “family friendly.” I assume it means a place to take children or a place where children are welcomed? I don’t know. I get that you probably aren’t going to take your toddlers to Tony’s, but there’s a toy store across the street. A toy store. That’s about as kid-friendly as it gets, isn’t it? Just off the top of my head, I can think of several places for “families” downtown: Poor Richard’s toy store; Compleat Gaming; Gold Hill Java (for desserts); Zeezo’s; Uncle Wilber fountain; Paris Crepe; Josh & John’s ice cream; a comic book store; OPB&J; library (for, you know, reading); concerts in the park; farmers markets; Pioneers Museum; Fine Arts Center; a rock-climbing place. I’m sure there’s more.
  • MYTH: Downtown isn’t pedestrian-friendly.
  • FACT: Wide sidewalks, beautiful buildings, interesting and varied shops and restaurants. Downtown’s a great place for pedestrians.

So anyway, we’re a little biased, of course, but downtown Colorado Springs has a lot going for it. Can it be improved? Sure. I’d like to see a grocery store down there. Maybe a national retailer or two would be nice. I suspect that some people just really prefer the strip malls and people farms out in the north and east of town, which is fine. After having lived in Phoenix, I’ll take a lush and vibrant downtown any day.