Jan 21, 2011 12:40 AM by Matt Stafford

Plenty of space to fill

"I've got over 2 million square feet of listings in town," says Randy Dowis, a principal with NAI Highland, LLC. He's been working in Colorado Springs more than 20 years and he says for empty commercial real estate -- office, retail, and industrial -- it's all reaching high numbers. Lots of it is in big industrial facilities, but plenty of smaller shops too.

"There's a lot of five to 15 thousand square foot vacant buildings in town," Dowis says. He adds that office buildings are reaching some of their highest vacancies ever.

In all, Dowis says we've got about 10 to 10.2 million square feet of empty commercial real estate in the Springs. To put it in perspective 10 million square feet would be the equivalent of more than 173 football fields, including both end zones.

At the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation, they're seeing about the same amount of empty square footage.

"That should be no surprise since our unemployment is the highest it's been ever in the history of Colorado Springs," says the E.D.C.'s President and C.E.O. Mike Kazmierski. His job is to fill it up.

"We've got to fill at least 5 to 6 million (square feet) in the next year or two and what it's going to take to do that are jobs," Kazmierski says. He says their focus will be heavily on office space, and just that would take quite a few jobs to fill.

"You're probably talking 10,000 to 15,000 jobs."

He says in a good year they bring in 2,000 to 3,000 jobs, and at that pace it will take some time; but he adds if you bring in good jobs they'll bring others along too. He says lower taxes, a desirable community, and skilled worked are the selling points he's using to bring them in. He says since the beginning of 2011 we've already received 250 new jobs. He says they won't all come in big numbers, but just watch for a steady stream of announcements to make sure things are on the right track.

"We're looking at a much better 2011 than the last couple of years have been," says Kazmierski.

Dowis agrees; he's hoping once-bustling buildings, like an empty manufacturing/industrial center he showed News First 5 on Zeppelin Road, will get their energy back, and the sun will set on some pretty tough times for the Springs.


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