The city of Durango is looking for ways to revive part of downtown Durango, dubbed “MidTown,” and early public input has listed housing as a top priority.
Parts of the MidTown area, stretching from West Ninth Street to just north of East 15th Street, are underdeveloped – there are cracked sidewalks, run-down buildings, empty lots and disjointed streets.
The city launched a public input process this month to guide its plan to revamp the area leveraging public-private partnerships.
“This is just the start of our outreach. We are beginning to hear from residents and property owners what their vision is for the area, and that’s an exciting thing,” said Scott Shine, Durango planning manager.
Durango City Council established the Durango Renewal Partnership, an urban renewal authority, to create growth in poorer, “blighted” parts of town where it is difficult to attract private investment.
Urban renewal authorities, or public redevelopment districts, can leverage unique financing mechanisms, like tax incremental financing, and focus on public-private partnerships.
The group is prioritizing affordable housing, mixed-use walkable development, transit improvements, job creation, and arts and culture.
MidTown, which is bordered on the west by the Animas River and on the east by East Third Avenue, is likely going to be Durango Renewal Partnership’s first project.
“It seems like focusing on this area is resonating with people,” Shine said. “They realize it does have a lot of potential, and it’s in a good location.”
MidTown includes deteriorating structures, site improvements, substantial physical underutilization and inadequate street layout.
For example, the intersection, locally deemed “malfunction junction,” where East 15th Street, East Third Avenue and Florida Road intersect, falls within the area’s borders.
This month, the city created a virtual walking tour and survey to show the public existing issues and to learn what people wanted to see happen in the neighborhood. Staff members held their first public feedback session Nov. 12.
“I see huge potential to really take areas that are underutilized and turn them into viable neighborhoods in the area,” said Barbara Noseworthy, a City Council member who attended the input session.
During that session, 100% of respondents supported focusing on MidTown. (Although, 40% of respondents felt the name “MidTown” was just OK.) The next most popular area was north Main Avenue, followed by La Posta Road, East College Drive and East Eighth Avenue, and Bodo Industrial Park.
The survey gave people an opportunity to weigh in on appropriate building heights for the area, safety perceptions and improvements, like reusing Durango School District 9-R administration building or preserving Buckley Park.
“On a scale of 1 to 5, keeping Buckley Park is an 11,” the city staff said, according to survey results. Townhouses across the street from Buckley Park would be “hot properties,” participants said.
Participants listed housing as their top priority. Then, they wanted to see small-business growth, transit and infrastructure improvements and streetscaping.
“The emphasis on really addressing affordable, attainable housing in the area was promising,” Noseworthy said. “That will require some creative thinking in a public-private partnership manner.”
City staff members are wrapping up an initial assessment that will inform an overall plan anticipated to be ready for adoption in the first part of 2021, Shine said.
“Now’s the time to provide input and make sure that gets included,” Shine said.