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Light at the end 

It's still no Pearl Street, but University Village should be accessible to walkers and bicyclists

The development of University Village retail center on North Nevada Avenue has been met with mixed responses. Plans for the site, being developed by Kratt Commercial Properties and Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, suggest University Village will allow students from nearby University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to mingle, shop and work.

But despite its naturally beautiful location, between Monument Creek and Pulpit Rock, it won't call to mind student-friendly strips like the Hill in Boulder. With installation of curbs and medians that will, at the end of this month, turn Nevada into a six-lane road, the development is starting to resemble the shopping centers scattered along Academy Boulevard.

To combat this colder, commercialized image and make University Village more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, an underpass is being built beneath Nevada, near the I-25 interchange. It will function as a subterranean crosswalk so that people don't have to play Frogger as they traverse six lanes of traffic. Instead, they can walk under the road and emerge onto one of the retail center's storefront-lined plazas.

The tunnel will measure about 12 feet high, 20 feet wide and 100 feet long, with curved walls allowing cyclists and pedestrians to utilize the underpass comfortably. During the day, sunlight will shine through slats in two separate overlays that bridge the six lanes overhead. Lights will be installed to ensure constant illumination at night.

Kevin Kratt, of Kratt Commercial Properties, calls the tunnel a "neat tie-in" between the retail center and UCCS. He mentions that there was talk in early planning for security cameras in the tunnel, but that idea has yet to produce fruit.

UCCS campus police will add the tunnel to their regular patrol circuit. An existing agreement between UCCS and Colorado Springs gives campus police authority beyond the university's boundaries without notifying the city — specifically, within the space bordered by Interstate 25, Monument Creek, Union Boulevard and South Templeton Gap Road. The underpass is in that area, and UCCS police also will patrol University Village.

"We're already routinely patrol that area," says Jim Spice, UCCS director of public safety, "We have access to both sides of the tunnel, and it will be patrolled numerous times per day." Spice is unsure whether officers will be able to see into the tunnel from their cars, or will have to step out of their vehicles.

Kratt estimates the underpass will be finished in four or five weeks, because crews cannot remove obstructing utility lines until new ones are installed in early to mid-July.

University Village's grand opening is tentatively set for Oct. 29, when Costco plans to open along with smaller chain restaurants and stores. Dotted throughout seven multi-tenant buildings, these will include Noodles & Company, Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Kohl's and Lowe's will open in spring 2010, with more smaller businesses to follow.

Changes are happening closer to UCCS, as well. Eagle Rock Road has been realigned and provides new access to North Nevada Avenue from the Four Diamonds parking lots, where a shuttle runs to and from campus. On the hill leading up to the university, a park dedicated to survivors of cancer is under survey for upcoming development, and the Economic Development Administration is considering a grant to UCCS for an amateur sports office/research center, arena and performing arts building nearer Nevada.

avalon@csindy.com

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