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Urban renewal spreads in southwest downtown 

The old warehouses that border downtown to the southwest were once a part of a bustling manufacturing center that relied on the nearby Southern Pacific railroad. Now many are unsafe and unoccupied, just eyesores for motorists traveling on Cimarron Street.

But in three to seven years, the area could be bustling again.

Colorado Springs City Council gave its approval Tuesday to turn a 19-acre industrial area bordered by Cimarron Street, Sahwatch Street, Rio Grande Street and the railroad tracks into an Urban Renewal District. Council also approved changing the area's land designation from industrial to activity center.

The city envisions a pedestrian-friendly community, with ample parking and businesses that attract residents of nearby neighborhoods.

The area will be called City Gate, and Steve Tuck, a senior planner for the city, says it will fit into the trend that seeks to beautify downtown and its surrounding area.

The transformation of City Gate will add aesthetically to nearby urban renewal and improvement projects. The Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area, authorized in 2001, is already beautifying the bordering Conejos neighborhood. A short jog away, a business improvement district and streetscape project is cleaning up downtown.

While it would seem that urban renewal would strain the city budget something over which Councilman Tom Gallagher expressed concern it actually has little impact, since the city shares costs with developers and recoups much of its loan money from new property owners in the renewed area.

For instance, if a warehouse owner is currently paying $300 in property tax yearly, and the business that replaces it pays $700 in property tax, the city would keep the $300, with the remaining $400 going to the Urban Renewal Authority to pay off construction debts. That arrangement will continue for 25 years.

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