Revitalizing The Hill
The Pinery rendering
“I never noticed that building before this project, though it’s so obvious,” says Yellen, who is determined to renovate the former seafood den, which has been vacant on its Bijou hill for years. “I felt so inspired by its promise, at giving it a second swing at the bat.”
The project broadens Yellen’s and partners’ current The Pinery at Black Forest Wedding and Events Center. While that facility offers one-stop-shopping for weddings and other special events, this facility, says Yellen will offer the same and yet more incredibly special features.
“There is a real lack of convention space in that area,” Yellen states about the 775 West Bijou Street location. “Our goal is to put a finish on this site that can’t be rivaled outside facilities like the Broadmoor and that will meet the needs of a city that’s growing.”
Certainly, almost $2 million to buy the site plus $9-$10 million to remodel it into a 22,000-square-foot event center isn’t peanuts. However, that isn’t the sole purpose of this enterprise on the hill. This project includes a higher goal of rejuvenating an entire neighborhood.
“When you bring a business into a neighborhood, you create an anchor. That anchor can then affect the rest of the shops and businesses, and the entire area can be pulled up,” says Yellen. “Unlike our other venue, this Pinery will be more urban and edgy, very different from Black Forest.”
It will also have an edge of charity, fitting the space and price needs of many local non-profits, including groups like the Children’s Hospital and the Starlight Children’s’ Foundation, which have expressed interest.
“That property has been a scar on the city, a bad environment,” says Yellen, who means ‘bad’ in a physical and psychic sense. “We’re cleaning it up in order to make it something Colorado Springs can be proud of.”
In order to meet that goal, The Pinery at the Hill has some heavy hitters on its team. Those include Eric Allen, Director of Operations and Lynn Schlemeyer of Garden of the Gods Gourmet, the local award-winning restaurant and catering company which has joined forces under the name Pinery Enterprises.
If other re-developed areas of the city – and the country – are any indication, says Yellen, this venture holds real promise for the neighborhood as well as local events and organizations, even if there are doubters in the midst of those who hope.
“We want to lead the charge, to work with our neighbors to create something amazing, a landmark for downtown,” he says. “You can say you’re going to be a good neighbor and an asset to the community, but right now, we just have to shut up and dig.”