COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- It's located at the intersection of Academy and Palmer Park boulevards, only a shell of its former glory from when it opened in early 1966.
People have a hard time remembering when the former Rustic Hills North shopping center was fully occupied and in business; it has remained largely vacant and has deteriorated over the years.
However, a project approved Tuesday by the City Council will bring new life to the area.
A Midwest developer will renovate most of the buildings on the site and replace the previous retail shops with a mix of commercial and light industrial businesses.
"We probably would envision kind of a light manufacturing, maybe an office condo-type of user," said Daniel Sexton, the city's planning supervisor. "You think of your plumber or electrician who's looking at a space to house their material, but also have it as kind of a stepping-off stone for their clients that they're going on-site to specifically do the work."
Sexton said that the developer intends to make other improvements to adjacent areas that will benefit the neighborhood.
The city has condemned a building on the north end of the property and it will be demolished.
An event center, haunted house and income tax office are among the handful of businesses still at the center and all are expected to remain.
Sexton said that after a second council vote and final approval in two weeks, work on the project should start immediately and take between 12 and 18 months to finish.
The neighborhood immediately east of the property and along a branch of Sand Creek has been troubled in recent years by homeless activity, high weeds and trash believed to originate from the vacant center areas.
KRDO NewsChannel 13 reported in July 2019 on how neighbors complained to city officials who eventually responded.
"Somehow, (the stores) got up and just moved away for some reason," said David Espinoza, a neighbor. "I'm really not sure why. I'm glad they're going to re-develop this, though. I really think it's time."
The center opened with Safeway, JC Penney and other well-known retailers that later closed, departed for the malls or moved farther northeast along the growing Powers Boulevard corridor.