Durango businesses support the partial closure of Main Avenue to provide space for outdoor commerce, but they will have to wait until later in June before seeing the changes.
Downtown restaurants have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus-related closures. Some have closed. Many are facing rocky financial forecasts. The city, Durango Business Improvement District and other stakeholders unearthed the long-discussed idea to create more outside commerce space on Main Avenue as a way to help businesses. According to a survey conducted by BID, local businesses approve.
“All of our stakeholders ... are in agreement that any plan that’s put forward has to be safe, functional, supported by the majority of business owners and embraced by the BID,” said Amber Blake, Durango’s interim city manager, during a City Council meeting Tuesday.
The plan would create 12 areas for additional commerce by turning two outer lanes into pedestrian areas. The plan provides two lanes and a turning lane for vehicles from College Drive to around 13th Street and accounts for disability access, multi-modal transportation and safety throughout the adapted road.
Businesses in the central business district, including those on East Second Avenue, cross streets, Town Plaza and along Camino del Rio, supported the idea. The BID sent out 341 surveys and received 106 responses. Of those, 77% were in favor of the idea.
Before the changes can take place, the city has to work with state and local partners to meet traffic control, disability access and other requirements.
“The key thing is safety and making sure we do this right. It’s a lot of change at once,” Blake said.
Sales taxThe city of Durango announced some positive financial news Tuesday: Sales tax revenues aren’t as bad as predicted.
The May sales tax revenue collection, based on April sales, showed a 15% reduction, according to preliminary numbers as of June 1. The city forecast a 70% decline early in its financial planning in response to the virus.
“We may have done some of the initial hard work of the reductions,” said Councilor Barbara Noseworthy. “The question I have, then, is when do we actually start looking at slowly easing in some of the projects that we have put on hold?”
Blake said her top priority was reducing the 20% furlough imposed on city employees. Blake said many salaried employees work between 50 and 70 hours each week but can only work 40 during a furlough. Council would also begin to reconsider deferrals for city projects.
“At this point in time, trying to get all of the work done, with the additional work that’s come from the constant change of the pandemic, is extremely challenging,” she said.