When the Chamber was located in Santa Rita, I have to admit, I didn’t visit North Main as much as I should have. But now “relocating” to our new location (and new building) across from Durango High School, we’re in the heart of what is been christened The North Main District. I’m watching wide-eyed.
The North Main District has indeed evolved – not all of a sudden. It’s been a slow evolution, but it’s one of those examples of when you look around and say, “Oh my goodness, when did this happen?”
It’s “Oh my goodness” in a good way.
For much of its existence, north Main has been a “pass-through” or a thoroughfare on the way south to downtown or on the way north to Purgatory. Now we have budding new businesses and building renovations, such as Birds (formerly KFC), Durango Outdoor Exchange (formerly Pizza Hut) and Mountain Motion Media (formerly the Boarding Haus), new state-of-the-art traffic and street lights, plus all of CDOT’s sidewalk accessibility upgrades and the Business Improvement District’s “branding” of the area with its own logo – and have you noticed the banners? All that translates into rejuvenation and revitalization.
Recently, the city – most specifically Colleen O’Brien who has stepped down from her role as Business Development Coordinator to work with her husband’s business – organized a redevelopment symposium. It was an incredible sharing of ideas from other business-minded communities regarding opportunities for redevelopment. The symposium, focused on redevelopment partnerships, shared community vision, and Urban Renewal Authorities. URA’s have been utilized in other communities, offering a variety of tools for future growth and redevelopment. North Main is one area that could benefit, helping the city and businesses realize its full potential.
The symposium featured speakers that already have URA’s in place. Grand Junction and Montrose spoke about their efforts and how their municipalities work with businesses to redevelop older buildings, making improvements not only for the community but ultimately job creation, tax revenues and business expansion. This is great because we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and can learn from their successes and missteps.
The speakers reinforced that by identifying the boundaries and areas suited for improvement, the community can begin the process of visioning for future needs and repurposing of buildings and/or land uses. They noted that change can be difficult unless you begin the planning stages early on. Congratulations North Main District, you’ve begun the process.
Other ideas suggested during the symposium included:
Seek out absentee owners, talk about redevelopmentExplore funding from the general fund by designating a use taxEstablish areas for potential redevelopment and calculate current and future property tax valuesUtilize your assessor and develop cooperative agreements with developers Have open discussions with ALL taxing entitiesStart now at potential redevelopment sites to show before and after photosRedevelopment has been occurring since the city of Durango was incorporated, evolving from a mining town to a thriving agricultural and business community, to a tourist destination – and it continues. (How many of you remember when we had billboards and NO trees on the sidewalks in Downtown Durango – and how rather unattractive it was? Look at us now. This is an example of revitalization.)
As those more profound than I remind, “Be part of the process. When you have a concern, offer a solution.” The Chamber is fully onboard in partnership with the City and the BID and property owners and businesses. The North Main District is positioned to be first on the docket to potentially create a URA. Stay tuned. Envision what our north Main and community future can be.
Jack Llewellyn is executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.