Colorado Springs recognized for efforts to encourage investment in underserved areas

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Colorado Springs is one of three Colorado communities that has helped earn the state national recognition by Forbes Magazine for being committed to achieving equitable economic growth in underserved and overlooked communities in Opportunity Zones.

Colorado Springs, Montrose and Pagosa Springs were all listed on the Forbes OZ 20: Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts​.

Investment in underserved areas

Opportunity Zone investment in Colorado Springs has contributed to the development of new hotel concepts downtown that will offer hospitality training and connect guests to Colorado Springs and surrounding area outdoor experiences. A number of new single and multi-family housing projects across the region are taking shape, spurred by Opportunity Zone funding, that will contribute to meeting demand for the region’s growing population. This new incentive has also opened up new grant opportunities for community-oriented projects that are creating jobs, catalyzing redevelopment, training the future workforce, and developing and accelerating new businesses.

“Because of the noteworthy work in our region to revitalize some of our more underserved communities, once again Colorado Springs is getting some welcome attention. Our community is honored to receive this recognition under the state of Colorado for the impactful work of our many partners that has taken place to create awareness and to encourage the private sector in maximizing investment within each Opportunity Zone to catalyze projects that fulfill community goals including job creation, economic and fiscal growth,” said Mayor John Suthers. “These efforts have helped to leverage public and private investment to gain the most benefit from these zone designations.”

What are Federal Opportunity Zones?

Eight federal Opportunity Zones were put in place in the Pikes Peak region in 2018 which were made possible through the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. With the intent to promote long-term private investment in low income communities, Opportunity Zones offer federal tax incentives for investment in designated geographic areas through deferral, reduction, and elimination of capital gains taxes. The state of Colorado has 126 designated areas, and there are over 8,700 Opportunity Zones across the U.S. and U.S. territories. Opportunity Zones had to meet certain income level criteria to be eligible, and all designated Opportunity Zones were approved by the U.S. Treasury.

To encourage investment in Opportunity Zones, the Colorado Springs region has designated “Opportunity Zone Captains” who represent each of the eight zones and have a fast-track program for expedited permits for qualifying projects. Over the last two years, regional partners have helped educate community members, investors, and business owners on Opportunity Zones and leverage existing programs and incentives to spur additional investment in OZs. In early 2019, the region launched its first Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectus, informed by a team of community members, investors, and finance and redevelopment professionals, which highlights the assets and opportunities in the zones. Through these efforts, over $75 million of private Opportunity Zone funds are being raised for projects across the region.

Identifying Priorities

PlanCOS, the comprehensive planA comprehensive plan is a guiding document that provides a framework for city policies and priorities regarding the physical development of the city. It is a long-range vision of what we want our city to become and is a tool for making decisions about how that vision should be achieved. It outlines strategic steps to make the vision a reality and provides targeted and strategic planning of the physical development of the city. for the city's development, together with several neighborhood and community plans, is helping identify priorities for these Opportunity Zones. A snapshot of some of the focus areas for our Opportunity Zones and across the region include:

  • Identifying attainable housingAttainable housing means decent, attractive, safe, and sanitary accommodation that is affordable for the full spectrum of the city's residents. While a cost of no more than 30% of gross household income is a good rule of thumb for affordability, there will be some circumstances where higher or lower thresholds may be more applicable. projects
  • Encouraging mixed-use redevelopment and infillDevelopment of vacant land within previously built areas. These areas are already served by public infrastructures, such as transportation and utilities. Parks and open space are also considered infill, since they are permanent uses for vacant parcels. to help neighborhoods while maintaining their unique character
  • Providing equitable access to technology, including broadband
  • Increasing high-density housing that are walkable and transit-friendly

Incentives and Collaborators

Several existing programs further incentivize investment in Opportunity Zones such as designations in special areas to provide income tax credits or sales tax rebate opportunities, grants to help attract affordable housing projects, and improvement incentives to redevelop existing buildings.

Key Opportunity Zone collaborators in the Pikes Peak region include El Paso County, City of Fountain, Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), local economic development partners, organizations, stakeholders, and interested individuals.

For more information about Opportunity Zones and a map of the eight zones for the Pikes Peak region visit the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC’s website or contact Senior Economic Development Specialist, Chelsea Gaylord, at chelsea.gaylord@coloradosprings.com

For more information and the full list of Forbes OZ 20 Opportunity Zone Catalysts on Forbes website.

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