With Tall Towers on the Horizon, Residents Should Decide Fate of COS Downtown Skyline

A few months ago, we posted a short video, asking you what you think about imposing a building height restriction in the downtown area. Many of you were unaware that there wasn’t a height restriction already in place.

This is your home. You should be calling the shots. City policy should reflect the values of the people who live here- not just a few special interest groups and developers.

December City Council Meeting

In December, Urban Planning Manager Ryan Tefertiller presented downtown building height information to the Colorado Springs City Council members. Here’s that full presentation.

  • Before 1960, the building height limit was 50 feet. There were some exceptions granted like the St. Mary’s Cathedral (1902), the Historic County Courthouse (1903), and the U.S. Bank Building (1909)
  • In 1960, A High Rise Zone was created. It applied to 135 acres (0.2 square miles) in the downtown area. The land is south of Bijou, east of the railroad tracks, north of Cucharras, and west of the alley between Weber and Wahsatch.

Five tallest buildings in Colorado Springs

Wells Fargo Tower                     247 feet               16 floors             built in 1990

First Bank Building                     201 feet               14 floors             built in 1966

Plaza of the Rockies – South      193 feet               13 floors             built in 2001

Colorado Square                        185 feet               14 floors             built in 1976

Alamo Corporate Center            170 feet               9 floors               built in 1983

From 2007-2009, “stakeholders” and the downtown partnership came up with a new master plan called the Imagine Downtown Plan. Form-Based Zoning (FBZ) was adopted. It’s a zoning code that emphasizes the form, look, and feel of development buildings over land use. The Form-Based Zone covers 1 square mile of downtown Colorado Springs. The Central sector of the zone has no height limits.

Properties Built Since Form-Based Zoning Was Adopted

Hilton Garden Inn         11 stories

Weidner Apartments     7 stories

Narrate Mixed Use         7 stories

Cimarron Apartments  7 stories

Tefertiller said various market forces determine what is built. The cost of land, construction, and lease rate drives what can be built in the downtown area. Before adopting the FBZ code, police and fire response, road capacity, and utility support were considered by planners. It was also decided the city does have the necessary infrastructural support for high density in the downtown area.

Tefertiller said that high-density drives vibrance, sustainability, and the economy. He said impacts on the views from the downtown ground level are the same no matter the building height.

Councilman Dave Donelson pointed out that a building twice as high as the other ones around it will stand out like a sore thumb. Tefertiller agreed that the primary impact would be for those who are viewing the skyline.

In 2016, the Downtown Master Plan was updated. It’s called the Experience Downtown Plan. Building heights didn’t make it into the code at that time. Presently, the city planning staff is working to draft updates, improve graphics, address emerging issues, and make map changes.  Councilman Donelson said changes need stakeholder vetting and public hearings.

What’s Up Ahead?

It’s recently been reported that a 36-story apartment building may go up in downtown Colorado Springs soon. That’s 20 stories taller than the tallest downtown building, the 16-story Wells Fargo property. If the 36-story apartment building is built, it will drastically change the downtown skyline. A building that tall would fit in with the 50 tallest buildings in downtown Denver.

It got us thinking back to the city’s founding. General Palmer, known as the founding father of the city, was deliberate in how Colorado Springs was developed. He planted trees and dedicated public park spaces all over the city. He enjoyed the outdoors and was a nature lover. Clearly, he wanted the city to maintain the pristine outdoor views for residents. 

Many residents feel the same way about the natural scenic beauty of Colorado Springs. The downtown skyline shouldn’t attempt to rival what nature has provided us. We’re not Denver. We should stick to what we’re known for – our beautiful outdoor space. There’s no need to muck it up with a massive concrete mountain set in the middle of downtown. Imagine General Palmer’s horror at the sight of a marred skyline obstructing the gorgeous views of Pikes Peak.

Back in January, we asked in a Facebook post if there should be building height limits in the downtown area. More than 13,000 people were reached, and well over 1,700 people reacted, commented, and shared our post. Additionally, we had many readers email us their comments about the need for downtown building height restrictions. An overwhelming majority of folks indicated they don’t want skyscrapers on our skyline.

Let It Go to the Ballot.

Rather than have the City Council continue to march us down the path toward being Denver Junior, we’d like them to implement a ballot issue. Let voters decide what our downtown skyline will look like. You should decide, not bureaucrats and politicians. Reach out to city council members and Mayor Mobolade today! Tell them you want them to put the matter onto the ballot in time for the November 2024 election.

Mayor Yemi Mobolade  yemi.mobolade@coloradosprings.gov

Yolanda Avila  Yolanda.Avila@coloradosprings.gov

Lynette Crow-Iverson   lynette.crow-iverson@coloradosprings.gov

Dave Donelson   Dave.Donelson@coloradosprings.gov

Randy Helms   Randy.Helms@coloradosprings.gov

Nancy Henjum   Nancy.Henjum@coloradosprings.gov

David Leinweber   david.leinweber@coloradosprings.gov

Mike O’Malley   Mike.OMalley@coloradosprings.gov

Brian Risley    brian.risley@coloradosprings.gov

Michelle Talarico   michelle.talarico@coloradosprings.gov

11 thoughts on “With Tall Towers on the Horizon, Residents Should Decide Fate of COS Downtown Skyline

  1. Yes, there should be building height restrictions. We have an extremely beautiful back drop to the west for all citizens to enjoy. Let’s keep it that way!

  2. Preserve the skyline and expand height restrictions to the entire city. Not just the downtown area.

  3. Put allowing the 36 story building downtown on the ballot this year . We are not Denver,nor do we want to be ! I like the skyline just the way it is . There are more than enough apartments being built all over this town .Enough !

  4. We are opposed to the 36-story building being proposed. Thank you and May the Lord bless you.
    Barbara Edwards

  5. The western landscape of Pikes Peak and the lower mountains is the best skyline a city could want. Building 36 story apartment buildings that will degrade the beauty of the existing skyline is a bad idea. I believe that putting this to a vote will prove that most residents disagree with this idea that fits better in Denver than here. Please allow the existing residence/taxpayers to make this decision rather than a handful of city administrators and elected officials.

  6. No mention of the other two 36 story buildings for the same area? Or, who’s paying for the underground parking for the 36 story apartment buildings?

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