Durango’s Chamber of Commerce has begun the planning for a new location and building between 22th and 24nd streets on Main Avenue, adjacent to Brookside Park across from the high school. The Chamber is relocating from Santa Rita Park where it had been planning a renovation.
Instead, the Chamber and the city of Durango negotiated the city’s purchase of the Chamber’s old building, which helped considerably with its fundraising, and the Chamber gained access to a city-owned property for a new building on North main Avenue. The land will be used at no charge and, after 30 years, the city will have the option to buy the new building.
Because tourism information for out-of-town visitors now occurs exclusively at the Welcome Center, at the corner of 8th and Main Avenue and is operated by the Durango Area Tourism Office, the Chamber has designed a building to deliver member services and consists of administrative offices and a boardroom.
But what is being planned does not need to be located along Main Avenue. It would be much better to make that very visible tract available for a sales tax-generating use, or for something that would add to North Main’s redevelopment envisioned in the North Main Corridor Mobility Study and character district initiative, both of which are underway.
These plans take advantage of the area’s mixed used zoning, interest in increasing connectivity along and across the corridor, between neighborhoods, the Animas River and parks, and to make Main Avenue more pedestrian and bike rider-friendly. There are plans for safer crossings and softening the concrete and asphalt with trees and foliage too.
With sales tax revenue so important to city operations, and housing needs so great, the non-profit Chamber does not need street level Main Avenue frontage. It would be much better to place the Chamber closer to more of its members, nearer to downtown, where access for some is, ideally, by foot.
Where the Chamber is now, temporarily, in the Bank of Colorado building, is not a bad idea. Better yet, maybe the Commons Building at Camino and 7th, which has space and could be a purchase. Another option might be along Second Avenue, but anything on the street level has retail potential.
Whatever is constructed alongside Brookside Park – the Chamber building or retail space – should play a role in the city’s wise efforts to add housing units. The commercial model is Louisa’s, which was built with condominium space on its second level, and First Southwest Bank on College Drive, which did the same.
The Chamber’s architectural drawings include no second floor, and thus no housing. The Chamber is not a municipal organization, but its interests are closely aligned with the city’s and it proposes to build on city-owned land. The Chamber should be a role model.
Let’s rethink the Chamber’s new location, to somewhere off Main Avenue, other than the ground level and closer to downtown. And if it is a new building, put some housing on a second floor.