Mr. Mitch Yellen and Mrs. Windsor Yellen, applicant spoke to Item 4. Mr. Rees summarized the services provided by the Pinery, as well as the surrounding properties. Mr. Rees stated that this is a possible Urban Renewal area as the neighborhood needs s streetscape improvements. The project would be similar to Ivy Wild in size and scale. Today the applicant would like permission to begin the blight study. The applicant is willing to pay for the study; however timing is critical and work needs to begin ASAP. Mr. Raughton inquired of the boundary and why it isn’t a larger area. Mr. Rees stated this is reasonable but could be expanded in the future. Mr. Shonkwiler inquired of the projects potential for being a better candidate for a street repair district (special district) as opposed to a URA project, as well as stating he is not comfortable with this being a rush project. Mr. Rees stated that he has totaled some figures and as of now, there is not a lot of sales tax generated, mostly property tax. Mr. Shonkwiler inquired as to why the money for these needed improvements should come from the general fund as opposed to making the private property owners pay for their private property improvements. He also inquired as to how all of the necessary steps can all be taken place by August. Mr. Rees stated that there is the ability to complete all of the necessary steps within the allotted six month time frame.
Mrs. Yellen referred to Mr. Shonkwiler’s question, and stated that people will eventually abandon their homes if the necessary improvements aren’t being made. She referred to Joe’s Fish Market (Formerly located on the Pinery site) and the issues brought forth when that property was vacant. Mrs. Yellen referred to several homes within the neighborhood, that have had the owners improve the property, only to face other hardships to include foundation issues and lack of funds to repair the homes. With an Urban Renewal plan, there can be improvements made to surrounding properties. She briefly spoke to the development issues her property had to deal with, being built on the hill. She spoke to landscaping Bijou St and improving the properties leading to her development. She spoke to the issue of the majority of homes along that same strip being rental units as opposed to being lived in by homeowners. She feels improvements will inspire others to complete revitalization.
Mr. Yellen spoke to his vision for the neighborhood, and turning the west side around and revitalizing the west side near downtown. He spoke to turning Lon Chaney’s home into a museum, hence bringing more revenue to the City. He also stated that he as a property owner would be willing to put in his own money to continue improving the neighborhood with the help of the URA. Mr. Eric Allen stated that the sidewalks are falling apart, the streets are in disarray, and those improvements need to be made. Mr. Shonkwiler stated that he is of the opinion that private property should be maintained by the private property owners. He does not see that public money should be used to improve private properties. Mr. Yellen inquired of the similarities to Ivy Wild, Mr. Shonkwiler argued that the public improvements have not yet been made to Ivy Wild, and is not in agreement with the request set before the board today. Mr. Yellen stated with the URA’s help he knows he can turn the neighborhood around within the next 5 years and without the board’s approval will begin looking to do a project elsewhere outside of Colorado Springs.
Mr. Shonkwiler inquired of the requested funding, and what improvements will be made. Mr. Yellen stated that street improvements need to be made.
Mr. Neville inquired if any of the monies will be used to acquire homes. Mr. Yellen stated no funding will be used for private improvements, but will be used for public improvements.
Mr. Neville stated that the requested project will require copious amounts of work.
Mr. Shonkwiler inquired of the possibility of the Downtown Partnership’s ability to expand their funding to encompass this area. Mr. Rees stated that a new district could be set up, but the process and funding issues would be laborious and involves approval of the majority of the property owners.
Mr. Raughton stated that he agrees that something needs to be done to address the issues within this neighborhood, and inquired if there was precedent to phase the project. Mr. Rees stated yes, there is precedent (downtown BID area), and the project will need to be done in phases as there will not be the cash flow available in the beginning.
Mr. Shonkwiler stated again that he is having issue with the timing of the project. Mr. Yellen stated that he has a vision for the neighborhood, and the proof can be seen in his current business. Mr. Eric Allen stated that if the theme on Bijou Street can be carried forward, to this area the changes can be made for the neighborhood. Mr. Peter Wysocki entered the meeting and stated that the City Administration agrees that the concept merits further review at this point. Mr. Rees stated that, Council has the final approval for urban renewal plan adoption. Mr. Shonkwiler stated that he feels that although the board can opt out at any time, once the momentum starts, it becomes harder to opt out. He feels that there can be an additional district formed for downtown to address these issues. He feels this is a potential horse behind the cart situation. Mr. Rees stated that the cash flow will be known before hand with this project. Mr. Bennett observed that although Council will make the ultimate decision, there are a few questions now that can be answered now and again before Council. How will the separation between this side of Bijou and the other be addressed and what and how will this impact the neighborhood? What exposure will these homeowners have to eminent domain? Mr. Yellen stated that the homes all around his property are rental properties and one of the signs of deterioration are homeowners moving out. Mr. Yellen added an additional two blocks are mainly commercial. As for eminent domain, Mr. Yellen doesn’t believe in it and does not want that issue included in this project. Mr. Shonkwiler inquired of the use of funds to rebuild the wall. Mr. Rees stated the funds can be used for this wall as it is currently encroaching on public right of way and qualifies as a blighted condition. Mrs. Yellen stated that her family has no desire nor the funding available to purchase the homes in the neighborhood. Mr. Shonkwiler stated the properties will find their way back to the market, and although the walls are in need of repair, they are a private property issue. Mr. Yellen stated that the ROW cannot be accessed with the walls. Mr. Raughton stated that we need to find out if the walls are actually on City ROW. Mr. Rees stated Urban Renewal money can be spent on private property. Ms. Wood-Ellis stated that the mission of the board is not to watch the City’s general fund. The URA is charged with looking for tools to eradicate slum and blight. She felt this was an optimal project for this board to take on. She does not want to miss an opportunity to help this area within our city. She referred to the Lowell Neighborhood and stated that this project would be similar.
Ms. Palermo stated that she is not in disagreement with any of the statements made today. She feels that it can stand on its own due to the City for Champions. She further stated that she sees the potential for more commercial within this area and she feels uncomfortable moving forward on something that has already started.
Mr. Neville stated if it were just a condition study it would be easier to approve and does not feel comfortable approving a plan as well as the condition study. Mr. Raughton stated if the Yellen’s are comfortable taking the risk of spending that $43k (the cost of the Conditions Survey and the Urban Renewal Plan); he would be willing to allow them to conduct the study and provide a plan. Mr. Rees stated that the blight study will be a foregone conclusion because the area will qualify as blighted under the conditions set forth in the statute. Mr. Neville stated the public process will give the impression that the URA has already issued its stamp of approval. Mr. Rees stated the process would coordinate with the applicant and will involve public hearings. Mr. Yellen stated that he needs to think about it as he does not want to spend the money for a denial and really wanted to see the west side turned around. Mr. Neville stated he would like to see a blight study and have a more concrete plan to go forward to Council. Mr. Yellen stated he is more than willing to spend the money, but he wants to make sure there is a Board majority support in order for a positive outcome to be achieved. Mr. Rees stated that the vision is there, and there is time to address the board’s issues. Mr. Isbell inquired of how the issue of how fixing the curb, gutters, sidewalks etc., will benefit the homes falling off of the foundations, and how will the synergy get going. Mr. Yellen stated that the wall is collapsing onto the street. Mr. Yellen stated providing a facelift to the neighborhood, will get that synergy started. Mr. Isbell inquired of how the changes will be made with URA funding. Mr. Allen stated that the homes will be improved. Mr. Bennett stated to the applicant that a plan needs to be made to articulate their vision. Mr. Raughton reiterated that he would like to see the steps taken to make the vision more concrete.
Mr. Shonkwiler suggested that a plan be presented with actual figures and suggested forming a Special Improvement District as opposed to solely using URA funding.
Mr. Neville stated if the wall is crumbling into City Right of Way this should be a City issue. Mr. Raughton stated that as an option they can approve the study, and move forward in phases.
Mr. Yellen stated that since it did not appear that the majority of the URA Board would endorse the project he prefers to just walk away from the project at this time. He withdrew the application.