When Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers was born in 1951, the city he would call home and eventually lead consisted of 45,000 residents. It was considerably smaller than today’s Broomfield, Loveland, Castle Rock and Longmont.

During the ensuing 70 years, the small-town version of Colorado Springs grew to rank among the country’s 40 largest cities with a population of nearly a half-million and a metropolitan population pushing 800,000. Demographers expect Colorado Springs to outrank Denver as Colorado’s largest city by midcentury (discounting surrounding metro populations).

Today, one sees cranes all over the Springs as investors and developers create hotels, business offices, and an assortment of entertainment features that promise to make the city an increasingly attractive destination for tourists and visitors.

Whether one embraces or opposes the tenfold population growth of the past seven decades, it occurred and will continue doing so. Any opportunity to contain the city’s size — with a Boulder-style greenbelt and population growth restrictions — long ago passed. The Springs became a city and should always strive to be among the best of large cities.

Downtown Colorado Springs is rapidly trying to catch up to the city’s population, and a proposed new high-rise is a move in exactly the right direction.

The Springs-based O’Neil Group recently announced plans for a $270.1 million investment that would establish a 25-story residential glass tower that would optimize views for residents. It would provide much-needed high-end dwelling units near restaurants, nightclubs and shops. The proposal would also include an 11-story office building so people could live and work without having to drive.

Appropriate infill development, such as these proposed buildings, would help improve Olympic City USA in more ways than one.

Residential density downtown means the area would support more new and innovative businesses. It would better support the area’s two new sporting venues and the new U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum. It would spread the costs of roads and all public infrastructure among more ratepayers without the massive costs of extending public services to sparsely populated suburban developments.

Density downtown means public transit would have more customers per square mile — the only way to make transportation systems pay for themselves.

As reported by Gazette business reporter Rich Laden, the project would be developed immediately south of Centennial Hall and the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts — venues that would flourish with the support of new nearby residents. It would generate $491 million over its first seven years, including construction-related spending, operation costs and the creation of 3,760 jobs.

The buildings would enhance the city’s skyline, which is beautiful but less than one expects in a city larger than Oakland, Miami and Minneapolis (discounting surrounding metro populations).

Opponents of progress and growth are certain to try stopping these developments. The City Council, the mayor, and the Urban Renewal Authority should hear the opponents, address their more rational concerns, and responsibly give this proposal swift approval to proceed. Mayberry is gone and not in our future. Let’s accept this fact and make our urban core among the finest downtowns in the world.

Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board

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