By Patrick Armijo
Herald Staff Writer
North Main Avenue is getting a reboot with an assist from the city of Durango.
Eight properties and 14 different businesses have received a total of $35,000 in Re:New city grants. The maximum amount for the each grant, which requires a match by the business recipient, is $5,000.
“Any project in Durango is always expensive, and anytime you can offset costs and make it look better for the public at large, it’s a good deal. We took advantage of it,” said Kris Oyler, who along with Brian McEachron will open Bird’s at the former KFC at 2933 Main Ave. in early April 2019.
The co-owners of Steamworks Brewing Co. and El Moro bought the property for $1.54 million, and Oyler estimates they will sink another $1 million in renovations. Besides the new facade and exterior refresh, improvements will include a new kitchen, new order counter and new seating that will include an outdoor dining area.
“It will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so that’s a lot of hours to cover,” he said.
Bird’s menu focuses on rotisserie-style chicken with a combination of healthful, comfort-food sides and sauces along with chicken-centric sandwiches and salads. The average price of a meal will be around $12.
Oyler anticipates hiring 40 people, mostly part-time employees.
“I think north Main has a lot of potential,” Oyler said. “People don’t always want to drive downtown and find parking, and we’ll give them another option.”
The city estimates the grants, which pay for property and facade improvements, have helped leverage a total of $1.47 million in renovations along north Main Avenue.
“This is part of a bigger infrastructure project, the Durango Character District plans, in which we want to enhance a sense of place in an area,” said Colleen O’Brien, business development and redevelopment specialist with the city.
The effort to enhance a sense of place in various neighborhoods is a goal of the City Council, and 10 distinct areas of the city have been defined as character districts, including the North Main Avenue Character District.
Among the goals of the North Main District is to create neighborhood nodes with a variety of services and diverse businesses that offer convenient access for residents in surrounding homes.
The plan aims to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, allow for denser development to provide opportunities for infill development, improve the architectural quality of the corridor, consolidate lots to increase business opportunities and to provide more attractive frontages along north Main.
North Main Avenue, like a lot of the country developed after World War II, focused on corridors catering to people whizzing through on cars. The city envisions an area more welcoming to residential neighbors and more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.
Before developing the North Main Avenue Character District, the city met with neighborhood residents and business owners to examine a host of issues, such as existing conditions, the area’s history and its unique attributes.
“This place doesn’t remotely resemble what we started with,” said Adventure Inn owner Nigel Peck, who bought the old Knight’s Inn about 2½ years ago.
Peck is putting finishing touches to the motel’s facade after ripping out some asphalt to put in a patio and some landscaping.
The facade work comes after Peck cleaned, painted, repaired and put in new windows and a roof on the building.
“I’m in agreement with what the city is doing,” he said.
Improved aesthetic curb appeal, he said, should enhance the environment for tourists, and he expects that will eventually rebound to a bigger bottom line for him and an overall increase in lodgers and sales taxes for the city.
He likened the Re:New grants’ assistance to kick-start improvements on Main Avenue to efforts by the country of Greece to escape debt problems by focusing on tourism to pull itself out of an economic tailspin.
“The nation Greece has proved the unbelievable impact tourism can have and the trickle-down effect it has for the whole economy,” he said.
While all the money allocated for Re:New grants on north Main Avenue has been awarded, O’Brien said the Community Development Department will seek funding from the City Council to continue the grants as more character districts are developed.
Other character districts created by the city include northeast Durango, Camino del Rio, downtown, College and Eighth Avenue, U.S. Highway 160 West, Sawmill, Bodo Industrial Park, Rocket and South Fork.
Besides Bird’s and Adventure Inn, north Main Avenue businesses that have been awarded the Re:New grants include Four Corners Stove and Spa, the Outdoor Exchange, and owners of several multi-tenant lots.
Like the major renovations occurring at Bird’s, Peck noted his motel not only will be more attractive from the curb, but he is also invested to improve the building and property for his customers.
“The ramifications to the public for an investment of a small amount of city money in an incredibly smart way to improve the look of the area will be profound,” he said.
Peck, who has removed 85 feet from a concrete wall and replaced it with a patio with grass and plants, said, “The drive-by impact of what this grant has done is enormous.”