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Broadmoor seeks expansion to accommodate large events — and the neighbors aren’t happy about it 

Gaining ground

click to enlarge The Broadmoor’s main hotel, which dates back 101 years in Colorado Springs. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The Broadmoor’s main hotel, which dates back 101 years in Colorado Springs.

Perched in the foothills of Colorado Springs, the historic Broadmoor hotel, a five-star, five-diamond retreat bathed in flowers and velvet green lawns, draws guests from around the world.

But The Broadmoor brand extends beyond its famous hotel and golf courses: The resort has added 650 acres since 2008, much of it in areas not directly adjacent to the hotel. And that’s greatly increased its value. (Consider: The Broadmoor’s property tax bill ballooned from $1.1 million in 2008 to $2.5 million a decade later.)

Some of those expansions, like the addition of mountain camps and rustic getaways, haven’t led to much controversy, but others — most notably The Broadmoor’s land swap to obtain the city’s Strawberry Fields open space (see timeline) — have sparked public outrage. And resistance has been building against the resort’s most recent plan: to more than double an exhibition hall to a size equivalent to the new Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs. The plan would take the hall from 146,943 square feet to 316,931 square feet and boost the facility’s capacity for exhibits.

The expansion stems from the Space Foundation’s need for more room for exhibitors, who can attract to up to 9,000 attendees at the hallmark Space Symposium in April. The symposium has been around 35 years and has always been hosted by The Broadmoor.

The expansion, though, would go beyond serving the symposium. As The Broadmoor notes in city documents, the resort envisions a “unique facility to host multi-day events and conferences that attract hotel guests during the slower ‘off-season’ periods” through the winter.

The city staff approved the expansion on February 19, but it’s been appealed twice — first to the Planning Commission, which denied the appeal, and now to the City Council, which takes up the matter on May 14.

Residents supporting the appeal question whether such a massive facility belongs next to a residential neighborhood, especially because using it will necessitate running shuttles every 20 seconds at peak times, since the resort does not plan to add parking. And they say the expansion doesn’t take into account evacuation needs, should there be a wildfire or other emergency.

“This isn’t about The Broadmoor. It’s not about the Space Symposium,” Cyndy Kulp, a Skyway resident who’s leading the opposition, says. (Disclosure: Kulp has written freelance articles for the Independent.)

“I know they have made a lot of contributions to the community. The symposium is a prestigious event. Of course, we want to keep it in the community. It’s about land use, and is this the most appropriate location for this project?”

The Broadmoor counters neighbors’ concerns about traffic and parking with a study that concludes shuttle use for the largest events — those drawing 9,000 attendees — would “create no negative impact to traffic operations for the surrounding roadway network and existing site access.”

click to enlarge news2-3.jpg

Over the years, The Broadmoor has opposed government efforts to build a convention center in the downtown area while positioning itself to fill that void.

In 2004, the city approved construction of Broadmoor Hall (146,943 square feet), Colorado Hall (26,774 square feet) and the International Center (32,841 square feet), which comprise the resort’s chief convention facilities, and are all on-site at the resort.

(The Broadmoor has also added a 4,200-square-foot Pikes Peak Hill Climb Museum, golf cottages, more hotel rooms and bungalows since 2004, adding to the resort’s parking needs.)

To accommodate the burgeoning Space Symposium in recent years, the 784-room resort erected a temporary tent to extend Broadmoor Hall to the north. But last year, high winds whipped the tent, damaged exhibits and forced a 24-hour shutdown of the exhibit space.

In its expansion application, submitted in mid-January, The Broadmoor suggests its ability to retain the symposium rests on providing more “suitable and dependable” exhibit and meeting space.

It’s not known publicly if the Space Foundation has shopped elsewhere for a meeting site. Asked about that, a foundation vice president, Rich Cooper, tells the Indy in an email that the Symposium’s growth necessitates a larger space, but the Broadmoor’s planned expansion accommodates those needs and “there are no plans to move.”

City planner Lonna Thelen notes in her report supporting the project that large events will “occur rarely.” Thelen also said the expansion is “much needed,” complies with aspects of the city’s comprehensive plan that value “unique places,” a “thriving economy” and “renown culture,” and is considered a conversion from a tent to a building, rather than a new use.

In granting approval, city staff restricted The Broadmoor from hosting one-day events, such as garden shows and auto expos, and decided not to allow an outdoor amplified sound system.

Thelen tells the Indy via email that The Broadmoor is “a unique campus that does not fall neatly into City Code parking space requirements.” Hence, the city also mandated the resort adopt a parking operations plan, which uses shuttles for events that attract more than 4,000 people. It also directed the resort to work with neighbors to prevent people from parking for events on public streets.

The Broadmoor already shuttles guests who visit its Seven Falls attraction from the Norris-Penrose Events Center, and those attending the Space Symposium from The Broadmoor World Arena.

Kulp, City Hall observer Walter Lawson and Cheyenne Cañon resident Karen Raymond — none of whom live immediately adjacent to the hotel — paid a $176 fee to appeal the city staff’s approval to the city Planning Commission based on neighborhood incompatibility and off-site impacts, notably shuttle traffic.

They and other residents dispute that the resort’s 1,991 on-site parking spaces suffice for events up to 4,000 people. They note the expansion would add exhibit space but also claim at least 162 of the existing 400 employee parking spots next to Broadmoor Hall.

They also question the outcome of a study by SM Rocha LLC, a traffic and transportation consultant hired by The Broadmoor, that labeled an expected traffic increase as “minor.” The study said large events of 9,000 people would bring 1,940 more vehicles than a 4,000-person event in a 24-hour period, 440 of which would be vans, shuttles and buses mostly using Mesa and Lake avenues.

“We do not want the plan to move forward without significant study of the problem!” resident Patrick Lattore wrote to the city via email. “If not addressed effectively our neighborhood will become a parking lot.”

Lattore’s was among roughly 90 written comments submitted to the city, with supporters outnumbering opponents three-to-one. Many of the advocates work in the leisure industry or for The Broadmoor.

Hotel Eleganté General Manager Ed Okvath wrote he was confident The Broadmoor would “execute this expansion with minimal affects [sic] to the neighborhood.”

click to enlarge Broadmoor Hall’s expansion, with 240 parking spaces, is shown in yellow. - IMAGERY ©2019 GOOGLE, MAP DATA ©2019 GOOGLE
  • Imagery ©2019 Google, Map data ©2019 Google
  • Broadmoor Hall’s expansion, with 240 parking spaces, is shown in yellow.

Others beg to differ.

Raymond, an appellant, said she recently clocked a Broadmoor shuttle every 90 seconds past her Cheyenne Cañon home en route to Seven Falls, a pattern she predicts will repeat on other streets with the expansion. “I didn’t buy a house on a bus line,” she says.

One nearby resident told the city via email she “dreads” the symposium, and others said high traffic volumes make the neighborhood unsafe for people who walk and ride bikes.

Lawson said he also fears the expansion would trigger adding more guest rooms. “What’s that going to do?” he said. “Push even more cars into the neighborhood.”

But Lawson’s biggest concern rests on how Broadmoor guests and employees, and area residents — which he sets at up to 30,000 — would be evacuated in case of a crisis, such as a wildland fire.

“Do you know the evacuation plan for your neighborhood?” he asked about 30 residents who showed up at a citizen meeting on April 25 at Broadmoor Community Church.

In response to an Indy open-records request, the city notes, “There are no evacuation plans directly associated with the Broadmoor.” But the city has conducted neighborhood evacuation drills in Skyway and The Broadmoor/Cheyenne Cañon areas in the past five years, records show.

The Broadmoor didn’t respond to an email from the Indy inviting comment on the project. Nor did SM Rocha return a phone call from the Indy.

But Chris Lieber, with N.E.S. Inc., a land planning firm hired by The Broadmoor, told the city in a Feb. 12 letter the resort has no authority to enforce a parking ban on surrounding streets but still discourages employees and attendees from parking there. (Nevertheless, a video made by City Hall critic Dana Duggen during this year’s Space Symposium shows neighborhood streets lined with cars.)

Lieber also said some residents’ idea for the resort to build another underground garage could exacerbate the problem, because that would mean more vehicles driving to and from the resort.

When the Planning Commission heard the appeal on March 21, the appellants’ message was overpowered by praise for The Broadmoor’s first-class standards and catalytic influence on the economy.

For example, Doug Price, president and CEO of Visit Colorado Springs, said the expansion will boost the entire community.

“Event and meeting planners say people come to conventions to do business,” Price said. “Broadmoor Exhibit Hall will help The Broadmoor, yes, but it’s bigger than that. It’s going to help all of us here in Colorado Springs to build business in the off season and keep [the] Space Symposium here.”

Broadmoor CEO Jack Damioli told the commission the goal is to build business where business doesn’t exist.

“What this is really about is putting heads in beds at The Broadmoor,”  he said. Noting vacancies mount in the winter slow period, he added, “How can I change that? This exhibit hall can change that.”

The commission denied the appeal. But Kulp and Lawson ponied up another $176 to appeal to City Council.

City councilors are barred by law from commenting on a pending quasi-judicial matter, such as the Broadmoor Hall issue. “We have to consider only the record before us and to act fairly,” Councilor Andy Pico explains.

When Kulp and Lawson make their case to Council on May 14, they’ll be competing with an institution that commands broad support and has a friendly relationship with the city. The Broadmoor hosts the annual mayor’s State of the City address and the Mayor’s Cup Golf Tournament, for example.

Undeterred, Kulp says, “We don’t want anybody to get a pass because they’re rich and powerful and can.”

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