Hiawatha Gardens represents a transformational opportunity for the future of Manitou Springs. Through community meetings, surveys, and a robust community engagement process we have begun the process of ascertaining what is best for the community as a whole.
Current efforts regarding Hiawatha Gardens are focused on the short and long-term use of the building, rather than mobility usage on the surrounding site. The Hiawatha Gardens Task Force, created by City Council to provide recommendations, focuses its efforts on determining which locations within the building are retainable, and how to ensure the future use of the building for the community of Manitou Springs.
City Purchase and Evaluations
The City of Manitou Springs purchased Hiawatha Gardens for $1.05 million in January, 2016 using Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority funds. Architectural evaluations of the existing building conducted in 2016 and 2018 indicated the post-1950 additions around the perimeter of the original structure were not structurally sound and should be demolished, but the remaining structure appeared to be in great shape and suitable for redevelopment.
Task Force Work
City Council appointed Task Forces I and II made up of City staff and volunteers to study, clean up, and maintain the site from 2016 – 2020. In 2018 the site was evaluated for use as a community parking location. Following July 2018 flooding, debris was removed and building flood mitigation efforts were completed.
Community Engagement So Far
Task Force II launched a community participation process in 2018 to solicit local residents’ ideas about the Hiawatha Gardens property and building. A community open house generated ideas and concerns about site/building use. At a November 2018 workshop, residents rated their level of support for a list of potential options for use of the site, including both demolishing and retaining the building. A subsequent online/email resident survey provided further guidance regarding support for the potential options.
Responses from the three outreach efforts consistently indicated more community support for retaining the building for some type of community use than for demolishing it.
Mobility Plan Impacts
In early 2019, the community process paused while a City Transportation and Mobility Master Plan was created. The Plan includes recommended improvements to vehicular traffic volume, movements, and parking, as well as pedestrian and bicycle volume and movements. One of the Plan recommendations is that Hiawatha Gardens become a “mobility hub” to serve local transit, parking, cyclist and pedestrian needs.
Task Force III
On Oct. 20, 2020 City Council adopted a resolution which charged Task Force III “to retain historically significant sections of the Hiawatha Gardens building for future use as a transportation center and community hub.” The Task Force is made up of two Council members, four City staff members, and seven community volunteers.
Initial Work of Task Force III
Based on past building inspections and on two recent professional structural assessments, in January the Task Force recommended to City Council that portions of the Hiawatha Gardens building be demolished, and that – if deemed structurally sound – the original historic dancehall portion (green on building plan) be restored for mobility and community uses.
City Council has authorized staff to issue a Request for Proposals to demolish portions of the building. Once the demolition is complete in late May/early June, another structural assessment of the remaining portion will be conducted. If deemed preservation-worthy, the Task Force will develop a Draft Recommended Plan for its use.
Incorporated into the Draft Plan will be recommendations from the Transportation and Mobility Master Plan so that current and future parking needs at the site are met.
The Draft Plan will be presented to City Council in July.
Upcoming Community Engagement
Community residents will be encouraged to provide their responses to the Draft Plan by participating in one of two virtual community meetings in late July.
AND you can participate in the planning process right now by sending along your questions and/or comments to the Task Force (see So What Do You Think?).
Once City Council and residents have provided their responses to the Draft Plan, the Task Force will prepare a Recommended Plan and present it to City Council for a final decision in fall 2021.