A Metamorphosis: New Colorado residents say they lack resources

Downtown Colorado Springs hosts a packed parking lot on a Monday afternoon. Photo by Marcus Cocova
Downtown Colorado Springs hosts a packed parking lot on a Monday afternoon. Photo by Marcus Cocova

By Marcus Cocova

As urban sprawl makes its way through Colorado communities creating a mixed bag of impacts on the state and its residents, the question remains: what do those contributing to a shifting population think about the state and their impact on it?

Jason Linse, at the time of being interviewed, is a three-day Pueblo resident. He moved from Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a job after visiting Pueblo three times to help a former client with a new business. 

Linse said he saw no reason to ask questions about the differences between Minneapolis and Pueblo before making his move.

“The guy that I’ve been working for is a lifelong resident. He’s well known in the community. He’s 42-years-old. I never asked him pointed questions. He just was like ‘Pueblo’s awesome,’” said Linse.

He said, however, he is somewhat surprised by the lack of life in the downtown area.

“I’ve driven around on my moped enough to kind of go ‘yes, it should be a little busier,’” said Linse.

Linse said he knew he was coming to a smaller population with less to do, and after years of metropolitan living, he has accepted the recent lifestyle change. 

“I didn’t want life to change. I love big cities. Yeah, I wish my boss’ corporate office was in Denver, but at the same time, I’m 49,” said Linse.

He said he would not have moved to Pueblo if he were younger. He said his 20s and 30s were the perfect time for big city living. 

“Those are the years I wanted to be in the big city, for sure, and do all the fun things you do when you’re young in the big city. Now, I’m 49. I don’t have any kids. I don’t have a wife. I don’t have pets. I can move anywhere. I wish he was in Boston, or Austin, Texas, or Los Angeles, California, but he’s here in Pueblo. So I’m the guy that’s like, ‘well, I’m going to come live in Pueblo for seven to 10 years,’” said Linse.

He said, despite the differences between Pueblo and the larger places he had lived, Pueblo shared the difficulty of finding a place to live.

“That’s called the Mechanics Building,” Linse said, pointing to a red brick building,  “It’s loft apartments. They had nothing available. Space is tough to find. One thing I did not know is how hard it is to find rentals here.”

He said he believes the difficulty comes from a lack of new development in Pueblo. 

“I think the city is a little bit hesitant to build those modern apartment complexes that you see in a place like Denver and the big cities. So, they’re not building new housing; certainly, not for renters,” said Linse.

He said he feels that local government and residents alike are attempting to keep the city small and manageable.

“The city resists building new housing. I think they want to keep the city at 100 thousand people or whatever. They want to keep it small. They don’t want the expansion. Eventually, they’re gonna have to just accept growth,” said Linse.

He said he thinks this is because of an older generation resisting the changes a larger population would bring with it.

“It’s probably a bunch of old school people in their 60s and 70s that don’t want a Denver or a Colorado Springs. They’re old and they’re self-centered,” said Linse. 

Three day Pueblo resident Jason Linse gets ready to ride off on his moped. Photo by Marcus Cocova

He said with the way things are now, he does not see the city retaining its money makers. “The people that have money and that have better jobs wouldn’t last because they want to get away from here because there’s nothing here,” said Linse.

He said the town could grow to be “bigger” and “better” than it currently is. “Nobody is thinking: future, vibrant, let’s thrive,” said Linse. 

For others, Pueblo seems much larger than everyday life. “Maybe it’s just a small town life that I’m used to. Maybe I’m not really used to a lot of people. This could be normal to city people,” said Eric Willmert.

Willmert is a one-year Pueblo resident who, like Linse, moved for work. “I don’t even know the streets to get you around,” said Willmert.

He moved to Pueblo from Colorado City, a place nearly 30 miles south of Pueblo. Colorado City has a little less than  2,500 residents.  He said, before moving to the city, the only time he and his family would come to Pueblo was to shop. The only major store in Colorado City is Family Dollar, according to Willmert.

“I grew up on a ranch and came to Pueblo. It’s a whole other world. It’s different. I’m still kind of getting used to it,” said Willmert.

He said Pueblo’s one hundred-time difference in population size makes him feel overwhelmed by the compared volume of people.

“It’s a pretty small town down there in Colorado City. Pueblo is pretty packed,” said Willmert. He said there are key differences in the way people behave between those in the two areas.

“It’s more country style in Colorado City. Everyone’s really respectful. I mean, you got to a small town, everyone knows everyone. Moving to Pueblo, I’ve been here a year or so, and the only people I know are my coworkers,” said Willmert.

He said, despite the number of people, Pueblo comes with its unexpected benefits like more privacy. For reference, he said he graduated from a high school with only 36 people. 

“Not everyone knows you, they don’t know everything about you and your cousins,” said Willmert. 

He said he is unsure why, but in his opinion, those in Pueblo have a discernable carelessness about them, making them less respectful than what Willmert is used to. He used the interaction between drivers and pedestrians as an example. He said his sister, in the one year he has lived in Pueblo, has been hit by a car twice because of drivers not paying attention.

“I think people from Pueblo feel like they have a higher power. They think everybody owes them something. I guess you could say there’s a lot more cockiness around here,” said Willmert.

He said he believes it’s this attitude that causes the city’s crime, but that Pueblo is not as bad as he has heard many make it out to be.

“There’s a lot of crime, they say, but I mean, compared to Springs and Denver, I wouldn’t say it’s any worse. Pueblo is just so compacted into one little area and they’re so spread out. So it doesn’t seem like crime is so bad in those areas,” said Willmert. 

He said Pueblo is a good city with a few bad parts of town. Willmert said the northwest part of town is safer than the southeast due to violent crime. He said this is why city inhabitants cannot be found around Pueblo in the evening. He said this is true for Colorado City as well, but for different reasons.

Willmert said that he would not walk around Pueblo late in the evening out of fear.

“You don’t see people walking the streets late in the evening in Colorado city, but there’s not a downtown area or anything like that. It’s really spread out,” said Willmert.

One year Pueblo resident, Eric Willmert, poses for a picture. Photo by Marcus Cocova

He said, like Linse, that despite Pueblo’s reputation he finds it difficult to find a place to live.

“My rent is going up to $1,200 a month, and it’s a one bedroom. Anywhere else I’ve found it’s no less than $1000 a month,” said Willmert.

He attributes this renting difficulty to those moving to cities like Pueblo from out of state. He said many of the customers with his pole barn business are often from out of state. 

“A lot of people like our customers are from California, Texas, or Oklahoma. I feel like most people I’ve run into are usually from Texas or California,” said Willmert.

He said most of the people he has met from out of state seem to be investing in new properties on large portions of land, which makes it difficult not only for him as a resident, but as a hunter as well.

“A lot of people move here, they have a lot of money, and they buy 40 acres of land. They build these big houses and garages,” said Willmert.

He said overpopulation and land use are even becoming a problem in Colorado City.

“Even going back to Colorado city now, just from moving for a year, there are houses being built left and right down there. So it’s definitely, definitely being overpopulated,” said Willmert.

For other new Colorado residents like 19-year-old Colorado Springs resident Alex Sharp, the state is without its troubles. Sharp is a game design student at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. 

He said he feels he could take his career to any place in the country after graduating, but he prefers to stay in Colorado

“There’s a lot of good IT-related positions in Colorado, and I think that’s what I’m gonna go for after I graduate. With game design in general, I think people can have success with that anywhere in the country,” said Sharp.

Sharp said Colorado seems more familiar than it seems different. 

“I come from Fort Worth, and Austin, Texas, and both of those have grown about as much as Colorado. So this is about business as usual for me, so I don’t really feel any overcrowding,” said Sharp. 

He said he loves Colorado’s weather and people. 

“I’m not particularly attracted to going back to Texas. None of the other states really appealed to me either. So, I guess, if this place is still my home by the time I graduate, I don’t see an incentive to pick up and move,” said Sharp.

He said Colorado Springs has an even balance between being both fast-paced and discernably slow. 

“When I’m downtown it feels faster than what I’m used to. I’m not used to a downtown environment like this. It’s definitely busier than I’m used to. When I’m in my apartment, or at school, it feels pretty calm, pretty tame,” said Sharp.

He said Colorado strikes him as a middle ground between a busy area like California or New York. He said that in his opinion Colorado is without the unwelcoming climate of rural California and the strict urban environment of New York.

“I like the state, I like the ambiance, and I see no reason to leave,” said Sharp.

Part I: The Flood

PART II: On the Periphery

PART III: The Drought

About Marcus Cocova 4 Articles
Marcus began his work in journalism as the photo editor for Riverside Community College’s Viewpoints newspaper. He received Associate degrees in journalism, photography, and theater arts. He later transferred and attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where he earned his BS in journalism with minors in photo/video and environmental studies. As a digital manager for Mustang Media Group, he discovered his love for broadcast and digital journalism with KCPR, MNTV, and Mustang News. After his undergraduate study, he went directly to Emerson College, Boston where he earned his MA in journalism. He founded and managed Emerson College’s first graduate journalism publication, “Intrepid Magazine” and acted as the publication’s editor-in-chief. He continued his work in multimedia journalism with The Berkeley Beacon as the multimedia managing editor. As of writing this, he is documenting mid-western America while working as a producer for NBC.