COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- An expected threefold increase in the the number of people living downtown over the next two years has a downtown leader asking for safety improvements in the area.
Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Downtown Development Authority, told the City Council this week that nearly 2,100 apartment units will be built by the end of 2024 -- compared to 637 units built since 2016.
The influx of residents, she said, is changing downtown into more of a residential neighborhood with increased pedestrian activity at all hours, not just during the day or going to and from nightclubs.
Newer projects such as the Weidner Field soccer stadium, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum and Robson Arena are making downtown more of a destination for residents and visitors, and Edmondson said that more should be done to improve safety in the area.
While Tejon Street is well-lighted, Edmondson said that more of downtown needs better lighting to improve safety and connectivity -- particularly along Cimarron Street, which separates the more-developed north side of downtown from its less-developed southern side.
"Some parts of downtown still don't have curbs or sidewalks," she said.
Jordan Kopp lives in one of the new apartment buildings and said that he'd be happy to see more lighting on the south side of downtown.
"The farther south you go, the darker it gets," he said. "That naturally makes you feel a little more unsafe. And extra lighting would help reduce the number of traffic accidents I see at some intersections."
Henry Brown is one of the few remaining homeowners downtown, and his house is surrounded by apartment construction.
"I'm really praying about whether I want to stay down here," he said. "I feel like I'm being squeezed out. I'm hoping it will be safe here, with so many people moving in."
Brown also pointed to posts that have been installed for new parking meters along South Weber Street -- where many people have enjoyed free parking for years.
"There are lots of apartments but not enough on-site parking for them," said Scott Lee, director of the city's Parking Enterprise. "We're just planning ahead."
Edmondson also would like to see more trees and outreach workers to help transients who may experience mental health crises in the area.
"Most business owners know that if someone starts screaming or yelling outside their shops, it's not criminal activity," she said. "But we'd like to have more resources available to respond quickly and help those who need it."
Finally, Edmondson said that a public restroom is needed downtown.
"Since the COVID-19 pandemic, access to restrooms have been limited," she said. "There are some restrooms in Acacia Park but they're older and not always available to everyone."
Robert Hanlin, of Nashville, Tennessee, learned of that Thursday when he tried to use one of the park bathrooms and found it closed for the season.
"I had a kid with me who needed to go," he explained. "With a kid, it becomes an emergency pretty quick. I just happened to come to the park looking for a restroom and hoped I'd get lucky. There are no signs or anything to inform you. I went to two businesses and the second let me use the restroom without having to be a customer. This park seems like the perfect place for a public restroom."
Edmondson said that she hopes one will be built within the next few years.