TIF and Greenfield Development: Copper Ridge Part 1 of 3

As you may be aware, the City of Colorado Springs would like to utilize TIF (or tax increment financing) to pay for a freeway connection on the northern side of Colorado Springs. The TIF dollars (from 2.5 Million square feet of retail including an enclosed shopping mall and lifestyle center) will be used exclusively for the roadway improvements.  The proposal is for nearly $200 million dollars over the span of 25 years.

Prior to making the statements that I am going to make, let me state that I respect Mr. Erickson and the work that he has done and is proposing.  I do not blame him for attempting to get the Powers Extension financed through Urban Renewal.  If I were in his shoes, and would have thought I had a shot in the dark and getting it through, I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing.  Let me also state that the opinions in this blog are my own opinions and this is by no means a reflection of the other CSURA board members.  These are opinions that I have stated in a public forum at prior CSURA board meetings.

In the coming days (Friday, Monday & Tuesday), I will write three blog posts (including this one) on the following topics:

Powers Boulevard:  Is It Necessary and What are the Options?

Is the Removal of “Blight” Actually Creating More Blight?

Which Creates More Economic Development, A New Power Shopping Center or a Downtown Streetcar System?

Part 1:  Powers Boulevard:  Is The Extension Necessary and What are the Options?

Many argue that the extension of Powers Boulevard (the freeway proposed to be funded by TIF) is a necessary element for growth in Colorado Springs. Personally, I have not come to that conclusion due to its location in town and the eminent sprawl and growth to the outlying communities that it supports (Monument and El Paso County have to love this proposal). Regardless of my opinions about Powers, there are other alternatives to accomplish the same goal of “rapid” vehicular transportation out-of-town without using TIF.

Option 1 – CDOT:  The simplest of ways to finance Powers Boulevard as planned is to wait until CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) feels it is warranted and let them build it. CDOT is currently obligated to fund the extension of Powers at some point in time.  When the ARRA money was divvied up this past year, the Powers Extension was not a high enough priority.  As Mr. Fred Veitch of Norwood so eloquently stated at Planning Commission, “Why should we let CDOT off the hook to pay for this road?”  Exactly correct Mr. Veitch, why should we use TIF on a Greenfield to pay for a road that someone else is already going to pay for?  Typically, the developer is on the hook for paying for a portion of the infrastructure necessary to serve their project.  This also gives Mr. Erickson a pass on his infrastructure responsibilities.

Option 2 – The Toll Road:  Discussion about Powers Boulevard being a toll road precede the time that I have lived in Colorado Springs.  This was the initial plan as I understand it for Powers Boulevard.  So whatever happened to this being on the table? Toll roads have solved the financing problem for many other cities, why not Colorado Springs? The answer I have heard from this is “we don’t want to do that.” I do not feel that this is an acceptable response.  As a member of the CSURA (Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority) and a citizen of Colorado Springs, I don’t feel that it is responsible of our City to be on the hook for this project with so many uncertainties.

As described in Option 3, modifications to Interquest Parkway could accomplish goals of the completion of "Powers" without the excessive amount of infrastructure.

Option 3 – Interquest Parkway:  Why not just utilize the infrastructure that we already have, after all, we are not saving a great amount of miles traveled?  We do not need to create additional roadway to accomplish what we are after.  We have Interquest Parkway that currently acts as the connection to Powers Boulevard, let’s continue to use it.  If need be, enhance Interquest Parkway at the intersection of Powers and Highway 83 so Interquest continues on to Powers in a fluid manner (i.e. use the two properties, of which the City already owns one of them, at the intersection to cut the corner and tee in highway 83 at a T-Intersection).  We have two planned and entitled major retail districts at the intersection of Interquest and I-25 (Colorado Crossing and Interquest Marketplace), maybe this would give them the boost that they need.

The Copper Ridge Urban Renewal Plan is scheduled to be heard by City Council on Tuesday, May 11 at Colorado Springs City Hall.

4 Comments

  1. John,
    I think your article totally misses the point.

    Colorado Springs should not sit on its hands waiting for CDOT to show up. The vitality and growth of this community is dependent upon the citizens and leaders taking initiative and moving forward. I was very interested to see that you are a member of CSURA because I have been a long time resident of Colorado Springs (55 years) and seen the results of a lot of the good work that CSURA has done. Tragically, I think that CSURA has placed protecting it’s turf ahead of doing what is in the best interests of the community.

    I would also point out that your comments about “sprawl” came off sounding rather hollow since you turned right around and supported the Interquest solution. In addition you quoted Fred Vietch, who as a competitor of Gary Erickson’s, has every right to support the Interquest solution because it benefits his property. Unforturnately I do not see the Interquest interests showing the same aggressiveness and creativity in solving these transportation issues as Erickson has with the TIF idea.

    Personally, I think it is time for us to put aside some of these differences (including CSURA) and do what is best for Colorado Springs.

    Heath A. Herber

  2. Hi Heath,
    I appreciate your response, and I suspect that there are others that feel the same way as you. Please read the posts in the upcoming days, but this project (a shopping mall) may be looked at as a great economic tool for the city, if it works. I still do not see it. We have heard some rather large names introduced to be a part of Copper Ridge, but these same names are in their own economic troubles. Malls fail and typically within 30 years, so with that logic, we should call a greenfield blighted, allow it to blight the other retail in the vicinity and wait for 30 years before it too actually is blighted to turn around and start all over. Doesn’t make sense to me and I doubt it does to the majority of the residents of Colorado Springs.
    The construction of this additional freeway does increase sprawl and unfortunately, it includes the vacation of our current suburbs.
    How can you say that this is for the best interest of our city? Powers will get built eventually anyway, why should we use our city’s tax increments to fund it when someone is already obligated to? Urban Renewal is in existence for public benefit and the fix blight. A greenfield is by definition, not blighted. Sure we can argue state statutes and everything else, but to the layperson, a greenfield is not blighted. Period.
    BTW, I do not condone making Interquest a freeway, all I was suggesting was to utilize the infrastructure we already have.

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