EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Local officials will break ground next month on a two-year project to revitalize a blighted area known as No Man's Land.
The area is an unincorporated zone between west Colorado Springs and east Manitou Springs, primarily along Colorado and Manitou avenues.
"But the project will help everyone in that area, not just along the avenues," said Jennifer Irvine, county engineer for El Paso County, which is overseeing the project. "We want to stop calling it No Man's Land. It's the West Side Avenue Action Plan."
El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark said the project is designed to make the area safer and brighter and to attract new development.
"We want to add sidewalks where none exist," she said. "We want better lighting and bike lanes. We want to move the overhead utility lines underground."
The project includes redesigning the area where Fountain Creek flows under a bridge at the intersection of Colorado Avenue and Columbia Street, and where part of the Midland Trail is located.
"Redesigning all of that will allow the creek to better handle heavy runoff," Clark said.
To make the redesigning easier, officials acquired the Sunflower Motel, which is located across the street from the target area. The owner said he hasn't decided whether to open in another location.
All rooms at the motel were full Monday.
Clark said around 20 properties are affected by the plan. Some will be purchased while others will be paid for easements that will allow workers to access the properties when needed, she said.
The project appears to have widespread support.
"I do feel that it's going to take away from the ambiance a little," said K.O. Olds, a neighbor who regularly walks her dog in the area. "However, that's not going to be detrimental. In the long run, it's going to be very beneficial to this area."
Ron Uldrikson works at a nearby barber shop and is happy about the upcoming improvements.
"But they need to decide which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction here," he said. "That's been a problem in the past."
Most of the $20 million for the project comes from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority's sales tax revenue, with around $1 million coming from the Manitou Springs Urban Renewal Authority.
Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, El Paso County and the Colorado Department of Transportation are partners in the project.
The project does not address a panhandling problem that has been an issue in the area for years, but Clark said a separate task force is making progress on that.
Officials began considering an upgrade for the area in 2004 and the effort picked up in 2012 after voters renewed the PPRTA tax.