Southeast’s rich past has shaped its present. How do we channel that while moving toward the future? 

As Charlotte Brummer recalls, when she moved into the Satellite Hotel, Airport Road was unpaved, Academy Boulevard was one lane in each direction, and glamorous airline pilots and crew flying into and from Colorado Springs Airport frequently stayed the night. 

Joyce Salazar remembers when Southeast Colorado Springs was an economic, culinary and entertainment destination for the city, and home to her “cool” classmates at Harrison High School.

And Yolanda Avila often talks about how, when she returned to her Southeast neighborhood after living for several years in California, she was shocked to learn that some sections of street lights had been turned off.

Today Academy is a highway, Airport is a paved, east-west arterial, and Southeast is a community with something of a rough reputation. It’s the part of town that, whether warranted or not, much of Colorado Springs considers the euphemistic “wrong side of the tracks.”

That’s quite a transformation, given that Brummer settled in the Satellite when it opened in 1969, Salazar graduated from Harrison fewer than 40 years ago and Avila came home in 2011. And yes, Southeast does have its share of issues. It has transportation, nutritional and infrastructural challenges that are unique compared to other parts of town. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s defeated. 

There’s a movement afoot to change how Southeast looks at itself and prepares for its future. It’s driven by citizen leaders who have long made the neighborhood their home, and by outside investors who may never set foot on the community’s streets. It’s promoted and supported by elected officials and implemented by civilian advocates. 

It’s the neighbor who coordinated a community cleanup and the volunteers who donned gloves under a hot summer sun to stuff bags full of trash. It’s the cycling advocates who are building a circuit of family-compatible community rides. It’s the quiet organizer who is coalescing dozens of public, private and nonprofit organizations around a coordinated community-improvement effort. 

It’s the pastor who saw an opportunity to redevelop his community; the school district that partnered with a college to make higher education accessible to all academic achievers; the slew of nonprofits, educators, entrepreneurs and health-care providers who give of themselves to help others help themselves. 

In this edition of the Southeast Express, we look at the history of Southeast Colorado Springs, its impact on the present and various efforts currently underway to revitalize the neighborhood well into the future. Let there be no doubt, this is a team effort, and the partnerships are in place to keep the focus for years to come.

As Salazar, the community outreach coordinator for El Paso County Public Health and the RISE (Resilient, Inspired, Strong, Engaged) Coalition said: “It’s taken decades to get to where we are and it’ll take decades to get it changed. … We’re going to continue to do the work.”

— Regan Foster

The editor wishes to extend our profound appreciation Erinn Barnes, photo archivist with the Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections, for the expert assistance in researching and curating the beautiful historic images seen here.