Downtown Colorado Springs’ untapped south side poised to take off

The core of Colorado Springs’ downtown, which spreads out from Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon Street and the home of high-rises, government offices and Tejon’s restaurants, bars and nightclubs, has seen its share of new or remodeled hotels, eateries and apartments in recent years.

But downtown’s south side, bounded roughly by Vermijo and Wahsatch avenues and Conejos and Rio Grande streets, has remained a mishmash of industrial uses, smaller office buildings, motels, surface parking lots, restaurants, specialty retailers and even a few small single-family homes. Some redevelopment and construction have taken place in the area but nothing that has significantly altered its look and feel.

That’s changing. A crane towering over a multistory apartment building now under construction and the soon-to-be completed makeover of a historic Tejon Street building signal the south side is poised to become a hub for restaurantgoers, bar hoppers and residents who want urban living, some downtown backers and businesspeople say.

A portion of the 500 block of South Tejon Street — a building that once housed a trolley car barn and more recently was home to the Southside Johnny’s bar — is undergoing an ambitious expansion and remodeling. The new space will accommodate a half-dozen new Denver and Colorado Springs restaurant and entertainment concepts targeted to open in September.

A few doors down, the 12-year-old McCabe’s Tavern was closed this year and remodeled into the recently opened Streetcar520 restaurant. Last year, Coquette’s Bistro & Bakery relocated to the 600 block of South Tejon.

A 184-unit apartment building is under construction across the street and to the west at Cascade Avenue and Rio Grande Street; a 27-unit apartment building and a 252-room Marriott-branded hotel are planned in the 400 block of South Tejon; and a 10,000-seat outdoor stadium for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks soccer team and other sports and events is envisioned southwest of Cimarron and Sahwatch streets.

“It’s definitely exceptional for the area,” said Ari Howard, owner of Streetcar520 and the former McCabe’s at 520 S. Tejon. “McCabe’s resided on this block for over a decade and weathered a lot of storms on this block, just waiting for this potential to seep in.”

Even as new restaurants will pose competition, Howard said she’s excited about the vibe that’s building on downtown’s south side.

The south side’s new residential and commercial projects would complement others under construction and planned in southwest downtown. That’s where the 60,000-square-foot U.S. Olympic Museum is targeted to open next year at Vermijo and Sierra Madre Street, while thousands of residences, offices, stores, restaurants and hotel rooms are planned by Springs real estate giant Nor’wood Development Group east of the museum site.

The 33-unit Blue Dot Place opened in 2016 on South Nevada Avenue; its co-developer, Darsey Nicklasson of DHN Planning & Development, is developing the 27-unit Casa Mundi Lofts in the 400 block of South Tejon.

The remodeling and addition have created a total of 10,000 square feet, including a second-story balcony and three outdoor patios. Shader, owner of umbrella restaurant group Atomic Provisions, will open Springs versions of his successful Atomic Cowboy bar, Denver Biscuit Co. and Fat Sully’s Pizza, which have multiple Denver locations. The restaurants are scheduled to open Sept. 4. Shader also will add Frozen Gold, a new ice cream shop concept, at the site.

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