(COLORADO SPRINGS) — A controversial supportive housing project known as The Launchpad was approved 6-3 by Colorado Springs City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

The multi-million dollar project, which has been in the works for over two years, faced an appeal on Tuesday by a group of Old Colorado City neighbors.

The Launchpad is a planned 50-unit apartment community, set to be built in the west side neighborhood in Old Colorado City. It’s designed to offer a safe haven for young individuals seeking to escape homelessness.

“We’re the only organization in Colorado Springs and El Paso County that provides the full spectrum of services for youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness,” Shawna Kemppainen, CEO of The Place said.

Spearheaded by The Place, a local non-profit organization dedicated to addressing youth homelessness, The Launchpad was previously vetted by the City’s Development and Department and is now approved by City Council.

“I want this project in my neighborhood,” said Daliah, a Community member in support of the project. “The Launchpad will be young adults, people who are actively engaged in pulling their lives together and moving upward, building lives for themselves and that’s exactly the kind of neighbor I’d like to have.”

The project faced a roadblock of opposition by more than 40 neighbors at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I do want to agree that the mission for The Launchpad is awesome, I think it’s a really good program, but I unfortunately, don’t think it’s good for my neighborhood,” Michael Greensmith, a Community member in opposition to the project said.

Some waited at the Council Chambers for over five hours to express their disapproval.

“I think that’s what this is about, is disagreement and it is about the place,” Tom Strand, former Colorado Springs City Councilmember said. “It’s about the place where we are going to put this structure, it is not about what an important and credible mission it is.”

Another point of contention raised by the appellants is the size of the proposed building. Although The Launchpad was already approved by the area zoning code, The Westside Plan, which guides building recommendations in the neighborhood, limits construction height to 35 feet and 16 units per acre, both of which The Launchpad exceeds.

Furthermore, the appellants express concerns about the safety of the location and argue that the slope that will be removed at the chosen site could lead to potential landslide risks.

According to Kemppainen, CTL Thompson, a geotechnical engineering consultant, who has evaluated the safety of land for big-name projects such as the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Gold Hill Mesa, was the one to evaluate the area.

“We made sure to engineer around the slope so that the building would work, and in the end, we’re actually going to end up making that slope more stable through the work that we do,” said Kemppainen.

These issues are exactly why those opposed didn’t want The Launchpad to be built near the Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School. Yet, a representative for the preschool says they have always been in full support of the project.

“We actually feel like this really enhances the safety of the neighborhood in a lot of ways,” Jen Filonowich, Executive Director of Ruth Washburn said.

The Place chose the Old Colorado City neighborhood because it will provide easy walkable access to essential amenities for its tenants to succeed, such as grocery stores, public transportation, and job opportunities. The school provided FOX21 with the following statement.

Launchpad as a neighbor. Through these conversations we have learned a great deal about young adults that are experiencing homelessness, and situations that often lead them to this outcome. We have also learned a lot about the Launchpad Apartments, and the impacts it will have on us as neighbors. The Place is an outstanding organization that is using evidence-based strategies and trauma-informed practices to decrease the amount of people experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs. They have an excellent success rate. We feel thoroughly informed and confident that The Launchpad Apartments will be a welcome neighbor and enhance the security measures around Ruth Washburn. We have found zero evidence of anything to the contrary. We will continue to support The Launchpad Project and The Place. We believe that Ruth Washburn and the Place share in our mission and values of supporting the needs of youth so they can become productive members of society. We are honored to share in such a great mission.

Angela Conway
Executive Director, Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School

Some parents at the nursery however disagree. Concerns brought to the school’s attention can be found on the parents for Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School website.

Meanwhile, the biggest advocates are those who’ve made it out of homelessness, saying they’re now forever grateful to The Place.

“Within homelessness, kids like us often get stuck in a cycle of trauma and they lose their ability to add their amazing qualities to our community, but so many of us at the place are proof that housing first support is life-changing,” Emory Jenkins, former Colorado Springs homeless teen said.

After more than seven hours of discussion, City Council approved the project with a 6-3 vote. Councilmembers Lynette Crow-Iverson, Dave Donelson, and Mike O’Malley voted against the development.