A few weeks ago, Julie Ramirez, Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO) community coordinator, posed a question to the 1,300 fans of the Southeast Colorado Springs Community Facebook page.
“How,” she asked, “do we revitalize Southeast Colorado Springs without gentrifying it?”
It’s a good question — frankly, the type a journalist should be asking — so I shared it on the Express page. And your answers, which ranged from attracting better services like a hospital to the community, to growing our economic base through cultural destinations like restaurants and entertainment venues, were thoughtful, astute and as diverse as this amazing neighborhood.
Southeast Colorado Springs is a community on the verge of a renaissance. It’s not hard to see, when you walk through and interact with this vibrant and diverse community, that this part of town is ready to once again bloom. You can see it in the new homes, hear it in the community meetings and events, feel it in the neighborhood night spots, taste it in the emerging restaurants.
Programs pair schools with organizations that provide kids with everything from restorative justice training and mentorship to new shoes and after-school sports. Entrepreneurs and neighborhood advocates are being trained and turned loose to reinvigorate the community’s social and economic bases at the most grassroots level. A newly renovated park is on its way at Panorama Middle School, and, starting this spring, young soccer stars can practice in a city league at Deerfield Hills and Soaring Eagles parks.
Yes, change is coming to this community. The energy is there and the momentum is building. The question, then, becomes whether it is driven from inside or outside.
I’m going to be candid. I know there was some skepticism about bringing in an outsider, rather than a local current or former journalist, to launch the Express, and I won’t go into my credentials — aside from saying it’s nice to finally be able to put my master’s in newspaper management to good use. I will simply say that I hope the Express has challenged you to think differently about the place you call home … and that “differently,” in this case, means “for the better.”
I hope that we’ve inspired you to get more engaged, more involved. To fill out and return a ballot or to participate in the 2020 Census. To attend a community meeting and speak your mind. To drive the change you want to see. To be the change you want to see.
Now, granted, the average resident won’t be able to build a housing development on his or her own. But you can make sure a new housing project is affordable not just by Colorado Springs standards, but by Southeast Colorado Springs standards. You can tell the developers, business owners and community advocates how to not just protect but celebrate the area’s vibrancy, diversity and accessibility.
We know, because you’ve shown us, that you have a vision for this community and that, more importantly, you truly love and embrace the remarkable energy and variety that has made this area a cultural juggernaut in an otherwise fairly homogeneous city.
If we all work together, we can share that vision with the world and strive to make it a reality.