The city envisions Camino del Rio being an extension of downtown and north Main Avenue transforming into small neighborhoods in its quest to make both high-traffic areas more walkable and welcoming.
Ideas are laid out in a draft plan the city just released.
“We have an opportunity to grow, right here, in the middle of everything on north Main,” said Business Improvement District Executive Director Tim Walsworth. The BID helps promote and brand the businesses in corridor as a property tax-funded district.
The draft plan outlines goals for the corridor, such as improving pedestrian safety and encouraging more mixed-use buildings for businesses and housing, as well as a place to hold community events. The new plan also outlines steps the city may take to encourage the development it would like to see in the coming decades.
“We felt that was an important way to approach this,” said city Planning Manager Scott Shine.
Durango City Council will hold several public meetings to garner feedback before it considers adopting it in April.
If adopted, city officials expect change would be phased in slowly over time. They do not anticipate that key anchor businesses, such as south City Market or Kroegers Ace Hardware would have to move, Shine said.
Camino del Rio would be an extension of the downtown, with fewer large surface parking lots and better connections to the Animas River, according to the plan.
North Main Avenue could have small neighborhood centers, similar to the mix of businesses at the intersection of Florida Road and East Animas Road (County Road 250), where there are restaurants, a gas station and a liquor store, among other shops, Shine said.
“It’s sort of a node of activity in a concentrated area,” he said.
City planners anticipate the changes would improve pedestrian safety as the area develops with this vision.
Shine explained that if more buildings are developed closer to the highway, along with street trees, it can be a caution for drivers to slow down.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is also planning safety improvements along north Main Avenue including upgrading traffic signals and infrastructure at 22nd and 32nd streets, he said.
To help the vision come to fruition, the city could adopt minimum height requirements for buildings, reduce its parking standards and identify the intersections where neighborhood centers would be appropriate. It may also investigate ways to allow hotels to be converted into housing, according to the plan.
The city would also like to see small lots on north Main Avenue combined, which would help make some development projects more financially feasible, Shine said.
Some efforts are already underway, including the renovation of Motel Durango, formerly Days End, at 2202 Main Ave., and a new location for Zia Taqueria at the corner of 30th Street and Main Avenue, Walsworth said.
In the short term, the city intends to roll out two grant programs to encourage remodeling and community activities along the corridor. One grant would provide matching funds to businesses owners who want to upgrade facades, sidewalks and outdoor signs. The other is aimed at projects that would improve public spaces such as through art, events or pop-up stores.
BID plans to help finish selecting a name for the area in the coming months, Walsworth said. City and BID officials have floated new names for north Main including Uptown and Animas City. It asked residents to weigh those names against each other and the existing moniker, north Main.
Walsworth said a new name will be announced after he meets with business owners along north Main. He wants to learn how they could apply the brand to their own marketing strategy.
The plan also describes a subcommittee of business owners, property owners and residents to help guide future growth in that area.
“I would envision that they would be a good sounding board,” Walsworth said.
After the plan is finalized, city and BID officials plan to take people to the corridor to showcase several blocks of the area. The theme for the April event has not been selected.