April 6, 2015
Differing perspectives have emerged due to a plan to tear down Bates Elementary and build a 550-bed apartment complex for UCCS students.
The idea to turn Bates into a building for student housing was proposed by GG Land Group, LLC, a Chicago-based real estate company and a partner of The Lodges’ developer. Bates closed in 2013 and is located across Austin Bluffs from UCCS.
“Bates School became an opportunity for us. It’s directly across from campus and [students] can walk and don’t have to use the shuttle,” said Tom Galuski, president and CEO of GG Land Group.
“We saw the site and just got lucky. Very rarely do we get schools for schools,” he said.
Galuski said that they want to build safe, state-of-the-art full amenity housing with gyms, pools and Wi-Fi for students.
“I think [the students will] think very highly of [the new housing.] The Lodges are highly sought-after. It’s an attractive alternative for kids going to school full-time,” he said.
Neighbors of Bates see the situation differently.
“[Bates] is like a little slice of yesteryear. Most [neighbors] are disappointed it closed,” said Edy Kline, resident of the Cragmoor neighborhood.
She said that many neighbors are worried about raucous college students.
“My little street is quiet. It’s going to be noisy. One lady with little kids is moving out because it’ll be too noisy for her.”
But, Kline added: “I’d rather have [the college students] in one area than scattered in the neighborhood.”
Tim Eager, senior communication major, said the plan sounds like a great idea.
“What else are they going to do with the school? If they’re not going to do anything, then tear it down and build houses for students,” he said.
GG Land Group entered into the bidding war for the school a week before it concluded.
“I knew about the history of the neighborhood,” Galuski said. “The neighborhood changes, Bates closed. That wasn’t me.”
GG Land Group chose to build housing for UCCS students because it is the fastest growing university in Colorado.
“There’s a good growth story. We stick with schools that have growth,” Galuski said.
Additionally, he said they liked that UCCS was becoming less of a commuter school and more of a traditional school.
“There was a process where we received offers and this was the offer deemed to be the best, so the board accepted the offer,” said Kris Odom, executive director of the Procurement and Contracting Department at Colorado Springs District 11.
“The Board of Education always takes into consideration what they believe is going to be in the best interest of the community and the fit to the community as well as the district,” she said.
In 2013, a study looked at schools throughout the district to check if any needed improvements and if they were performing at the correct capacity. Bates, which opened in 1957, was deemed underutilized.
Despite a capacity of 233, Bates had an enrollment of 195 kids and 156 kids within the neighborhood were attending neighboring schools.
Colorado is a choice state, which means that parents that live in one district can choose to send their child to another district. This is called permitting in. Only 1.9 percent of kids at Bates were being permitted in.
Bates, along with Lincoln Elementary, had the highest number of issues out of the Colorado Springs schools.
Lincoln also closed.
In a 2014 Gazette article, an offer to buy Bates Elementary from Silver Key Senior Services and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services was withdrawn because of the cost of remodeling a building with asbestos.
“I went to school at Bates. I grew up in Cragmor,” said Susan Spzyrka, vice chancellor for Administration and Finance, who attended kindergarten to sixth grade at Bates.
“It’s sad,” she said.
“If the community doesn’t want this to happen, the best way for their voice to get heard is to let city planning know,” said Odom. “They’re the people that have the power to do that.”
GG Land Group is still in the process of sale with District 11. Odom said that the sale is estimated to close in October.
“I do this all over the country. I’ve never had so much press, they [were] all over it,” Galuski said.