Bayfield town staff will host a community meeting this week to receive direction from residents and business owners about downtown development plans on Mill Street.
The meeting, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bayfield Town Hall, will give community members updates about the town’s achievements in response to the 2015 downtown assessment and ask for direction on future goals. With expected population growth in the future and empty buildings on Mill Street, the town is ready to take on the next step of development. But with sparse attendance at school board, town board and community meetings, the only challenge is trying to involve the community, said town representatives.
“What we need to do is get the property owners a little more engaged and involved,” said Chris LaMay, Bayfield town manager. When asked if LaMay thinks people will show up, he said, “We’ll see.”
Bayfield conducted a downtown development plan in 2015 through Downtown Colorado Inc.
The town has achieved some of the “low-hanging fruit” recommended by the assessment, he said. Town officials started the Downtown Bayfield Farmers Market and host the summer Bayfield Block Parties, among other things.
Bob Wennerstrom, who owns Bayfield Family Laundry and Blue Streak Appliance, said he’s feeling optimistic about the economic future of downtown Bayfield. He said the block parties are “fantastic” in part because he benefits from the free advertising as new visitors see his store and vans on Mill Street.
“It seems like we have enough restaurants. ... I’d like to see a little bit more of some sort of kitschy retail ... what’s the word for it? Hipster,” he said with a laugh.
However, currently, the town has no established downtown business incentives and the block parties, while popular community events, have not brought new businesses to the area. The town wants to create incentives, and it needs community input on how to fund more substantial development in the future, LaMay said.
Getting that input is a struggle. While small-business owners are often overburdened just running their businesses, “in a small town like this, the same five people seem to be doing most of the organizing,” he said.
Ashleigh Tarkington, vice president of the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce, is one of those people.
“All of us have different jobs ... we get run so thin, especially around block party season,” she said. Tarkington is also a town board member, a Region 9 board member, and owner of the Billy Goat Saloon. “We do get pulled in a million directions, and we do feel like it would be nice to have someone help lead us to what we need to be doing as a Chamber.”
Five or 10 years in the future, LaMay said he envisions upgraded sidewalks, tree-lined streets, improved lighting, new businesses instead of vacant buildings and facade improvements for current structures.
The next step in following the assessment will put town participation to the test: organizing a centralized body to lead downtown development.
“The town has, through this assessment, taken a leadership role ... with the hopes that there is enough interest that another party would take it over,” LaMay said. Finding those interested community members is one goal he hopes to accomplish at Wednesday’s meeting.