Nobody should wake up Christmas morning without something under the tree.

So The Gazette’s Business staff is here to play Santa Claus – ready to hand out presents to employers, businesses, local governments and the like. We’re not even worried if recipients have been naughty or nice; it’s the spirit of giving that’s important.

With Christmas just a few hours away, and new business opportunities ahead in 2018, here are some gifts and well wishes for businesses, civic leaders and community members:

– A Time Machine: To In-N-Out Burger. The popular California chain said in late November it finally would expand to Colorado – opening its first restaurant in Colorado Springs and building a distribution center, patty production plant and offices on the city’s north side. In-N-Out’s first restaurant could open in 2020. That’s a long time to wait for a double-double burger. Instead, let’s gift wrap Doc Brown’s DeLorean from "Back to the Future" and hope In-N-Out can use it to speed into the future and open sooner rather than later.

Armstrong Bridgeford’s 150-foot construction crane at Bijou Street and Cascade Avenue, left, celebrates the holiday season Monday night, Dec. 4, 2017 with about 5,000 Christmas lights. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

– More Cranes, Although Not the Kind That Fly: To the Downtown Partnership. Downtown’s leading advocacy group has trumpeted the appearance of three construction cranes in downtown Colorado Springs – a rare sight outside of Denver. But there’s no denying the Springs’ downtown is hopping. The U.S. Olympic Museum, a 10-story Hilton Garden Inn and five-story apartment building are under construction. A portion of the South Tejon Street block that housed Southside Johnny’s is being remodeled to accommodate the arrival of popular Denver-area restaurant brands. And a Marriott-branded hotel, at least two more apartment buildings and mixed uses for the City Auditorium block are among drawing board projects. Downtown Colorado Springs can’t match downtown Denver, but it’s still flying higher than it has been in years.

– A Redevelopment Reality: To supporters of a southwest downtown makeover. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, Colorado Springs officials and business leaders have envisioned transforming downtown’s southwest side from industrial buildings, aging warehouses and vacant parcels into stores, restaurants and residences. Few changes have taken place in the area, however. Now, the Olympic Museum is under construction in southwest downtown and targeted to open in early 2019, while real estate giant Nor’wood Development Group has publicly pitched its plans for residential and commercial towers in the area. Change doesn’t happen over night, but southwest downtown’s transformation is getting closer to reality – finally.

On Tuesday morning, Frontier Airlines announced they will be added 5 new nonstop flights from the Colorado Springs Airport. Mayor John Suthers is interviewed after the announcement in the airport lobby on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

– Years of Wedded Bliss: To Frontier Airlines and the Colorado Springs Airport. Passenger traffic at the Springs Airport soared in 2017, thanks in large part to an increase in service by Frontier Airlines. The Denver-based carrier has said it will continue additional flights – but only as long as passengers embrace them. Here’s hoping that many Springs residents and employers plan vacations and business trips, enabling Frontier and the Springs Airport to have a long relationship.

– A Victorious Future: To Victory Ridge. Westside Investment Partners of suburban Denver bought the 153-acre, north-side site known as Colorado Crossing in 2016 and this year renamed it Victory Ridge. An original developer went bankrupt and the residential and commercial project’s partially completed buildings stood idle for years. Westside has moved aggressively to revive the project; Icon Cinemas of New Mexico has opened a 14-screen movie theater complex, while In-N-Out Burger chose Victory Ridge for its first Colorado restaurant and distribution and production facilities. Apartments, hotels, restaurants and a sports complex are on the drawing board. Some might argue the north side doesn’t need more commercial development, yet resuscitating Victory Ridge is a big improvement over Colorado Crossing’s unfinished buildings and ghost town-like appearance.

Colorado Springs’ newest movie theater complex, the 14-screen Icon Cinemas, will be opening soon. This is part of the former Colorado Crossing mixed-used project, which is now called Victory Ridge. This is a family-owned movie theater complex, and will be the 4th in the small chain owned by the family company. Theaters offer the ability to book specific seats or VIP seating; fully reclining leather chairs; unlimited refills on soda and popcorn; and sales of beer and wine.A workman paints the interior of the lobby on Wednesday, October 25, 2017. Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette

– Interest Rates That Remain of Interest: To the local housing industry. Propelled in large part by historically low mortgage rates, the new and existing single-family home markets have enjoyed a post-Great Recession resurgence. Now, mortgage rates are expected to climb in 2018 to parallel the Federal Reserve’s expected increases in the federal funds rate (even though mortgage rates aren’t directly tied to the Fed’s actions). Even if mortgage rates rise, here’s a wish that they don’t climb so high that buyers stop buying.

– An Investment of Time, Money and Resources. To southeast Colorado Springs. A Gazette series in November explored problems on the city’s southeast side. Among them: large percentages of impoverished children and residents living below the federal poverty level; a preponderance of gang-related incidents and violent crimes; and health-related issues. On the business side, developers and economic development officials acknowledge they often look past the area because of its lower household incomes, a criss-crossing road network, shuttered commercial buildings and ugly overhead transmission lines along Academy Boulevard, among other problems. City officials say the southeast side has development opportunities because of cheaper land costs, while the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority hopes to work with developers in the area. The southeast side is poised for change.

– More Positive Pub: To the city of Colorado Springs. At times over the past 30 years, the Springs was pegged as the "foreclosure capital of the nation," "hate city" and other less-than-flattering descriptions. But U.S. News & World Report last year named the Springs as the fifth best place to live in the nation. Later in 2016, Money Magazine labeled the Springs as one of the six hottest spots for urban dwellers nationwide. Everybody likes to be told they’re doing a good job. With its strong economy, more jobs, the addition of the Olympic Museum and In-N-Out’s arrival, the Springs could be positioned for more accolades from the national media.

– A Longer Life: To financially troubled retailers. The owners of Sears, Kmart, Men’s Warehouse, Jos. A. Bank, Burlington Coat Factory and Stein Mart are some of the national chains likely to declare bankruptcy in 2018, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence, as reported by Business Insider. Toys "R" Us is in bankruptcy. All of the retailers have a presence in Colorado Springs. Competition with Amazon and other online sellers continues to take its toll on brick-and-mortar stores.

– A Reversal of Fortune: To the Chapel Hills Mall. The mall’s New York-based owners were hit with foreclosure notices totaling $37 million in November. The mall continues to operate as normal, but certainly a foreclosure signals financial troubles for Chapel Hills. In May, Gordmans closed a store it had opened in 2016. Other familiar retailers who’ve left Chapel Hills include J.C. Penney, Borders Books & Music and Old Navy. The ripple effect of online competition and changing consumer habits doesn’t just stop at brick-and-mortar stores.

Business goes on, despite a shakeup at Seeds Community Cafe. A customer waits for his meal at Seeds Community Cafe on Thursday, June 15, 2017 right before it closed. . (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

– A Farewell Wreath: To Colorado Springs-area retailers, restaurants and other businesses that closed in 2017. Among them: Gordmans, Albertsons (whose stores were converted to Safeway), Zio’s, Togo’s, Pie Five Pizza, Blue Star and downtown favorites Nosh, the Ritz Grill, Southside Johnny’s and Seeds Community Cafe.

– A Welcome Bouquet: To newcomers who’ve arrived in Colorado Springs. They include: Oskar Blues, Whirlyball, Blaze Pizza, LongHorn Steakhouse, Zoes Kitchen, Maverik convenience stores and Icon Cinemas.

Contact the reporter: 636-0228

Twitter: @richladen

Facebook: Rich Laden

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