Some days we praise it and promote it, while other days it challenges and frustrates us. Locals know it intimately and are frequently quick to comment on shortcomings that they find in their beloved downtown Durango.
Visitors, on the other hand, see the bigger picture, comparing it to their hometown, and are envious. They describe downtown Durango with words like historic, quaint, exciting, picturesque, western, Victorian, unique, fun and comfortable. These accolades don't come by accident. Many folks, beyond just me, are charged with making downtown work - and making it better. Here's a brief tutorial about how it all happens.
In fall 2003, at the suggestion of downtown merchants, the city of Durango demonstrated its commitment to downtown's sustainability and re-created a position to liaison between city government and the downtown business community. Thus the Central Business District office was formed and found a home at 1199 Main Ave, No. 210 (thanks to the support of Bank of Colorado). The office has only one employee (me), and my title is CBD business development manager. I am a full-time employee of the city and report to the city manager's office. The annual operating budget is approximately $150,000, which comes from the general fund.
My duties vary according to season and opportunity, and range from everything from communication and event planning to small capital projects and matters that keep downtown moving forward and improving. While cities tend to function vertically by department, the Durango CBD office works closely across many of our city departments, including code enforcement, special-events coordination, parking, transit, parks and recreation, public works, planning, purchasing, and warehouse and police, plus it enjoys administrative support services. All city departments are well-aware of the importance of downtown to our community, and they contribute generously when called upon.
In fall 2003, the Downtown Business Improvement District also refocused its efforts from just promoting a conference center to bringing an increased number of people to downtown using a variety of tools. Constituents within the district were asked to approve a 1.5 mill levy to fund these efforts through 2010, and that ballot question was passed by a 2 to 1 margin. Throughout these last years, the BID has been actively involved in promoting downtown events with grants and umbrella promotions, branded marketing, small capital improvements, and advocating on behalf of issues important to downtown. The BID operates conservatively under a volunteer board and uses several contract specialists, including Pam Glasco (well known to folks downtown), to manage its $200,000 budget and implement its operating plan. It also is based out of the CBD office at 1199 Main Ave.
The BID and the city (though they act independently of one another) share similar goals, coordinate work plans and extend each other's organizational effectiveness by leveraging limited resources - a good example of an efficient partnership. Independently, the BID board and contractors are a committed team and turn out an impressive array of communications and promotional material in support of downtown.
In the aggregate, about $350,000 annually is spent by the city (not including large capital improvements) and the BID to protect, improve and promote downtown.
Further, when appropriate, the Durango Area Tourism Office, or DATO, and the Durango Chamber of Commerce also participate and contribute to important and necessary downtown initiatives. Thus, four different organizations, with their own mission statements and responsibilities, all keep a watchful eye on the present condition and future direction of downtown.
As this column is being written, the city, BID, DATO and the Chamber of Commerce are all doing what they can collectively and separately to bring groups and events to town, promote Durango to visitors, make physical improvements, provide communications and plan new activities.
There's more than enough work to keep everyone busy, but we all coordinate and keep our eye on the prize: a healthy and vibrant downtown.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Kunkel is special-events and business coordinator for the Durango Central Business District.