2012 offered Durango plenty to be thankful for

2012 offered Durango plenty to be thankful for

A year ago at the January downtown business briefing, What’s Up Downtown? I distributed a list “Why 2012 Might be a Great Year for Durango.” Back then, many were wondering which of the following “might” come true in 2012.

Mercury, and hundreds of jobs, might remain in Durango. The Durango Mall might welcome a T.J. Maxx and Sports Authority. A new Holiday Inn on U.S. Highway 160 might break ground. The Animas River Trail might reach 7 miles of completion. A new Downtown Welcome Center might be created. The community might successfully host its largest sporting event ever. The local economy might continue to improve. New sports fields at Fort Lewis College might be completed. Air service might continue to expand. A plan to upgrade our recycling program might get the green light. The Twin Buttes development might be approved.

As it turned out, most all of what was wished for actually came true.

Setting a healthy pace during the last few years has been transportation and the downtown economy.

The Durango-La Plata County Airport has regularly set monthly growth records for the last four years, and it is showing a 36 percent increase in passenger boardings between 2009 and 2012. This last year, the airport handled more passengers, 186,527, than the airports in Telluride, Montrose, Cortez and Farmington combined. On the ground, the Durango Transit Department carried more than 600,000 riders.

In 2012, the downtown economy grew, by measure of sales-tax revenue by 5.2 percent compared with 2011. Downtown sales have recorded annual increases in eight of the last nine years. Last year ranked as the busiest sales-tax year ever in downtown.

Forward momentum continues into 2013 with a second new hotel, a Homewood Suites on South Camino del Rio bringing the number of new hotel rooms to 194.

Also on slate for 2013:

The downtown sidewalk-improvement project will re-start in spring, pause for summer high season and then be completed in the fall.

New, high-tech parking meters are approved and planned for downtown later this year.

A $3 million Colorado Department of Transportation project will upgrade the congested U.S. Highway 550-160 intersection.

Our fingers-crossed wish list for 2013 is opening access to Lake Nighthorse, a new whitewater sports park at Santa Rita Park, and successful Buckley Park lease negotiations between the city of Durango and Durango School District 9-R allowing for more park usage and fewer street closures.

Important issues also are getting attention. Public-private action committees are busy tackling sticky issues such as comprehensive parking management, tighter special event guidelines and the many implications of a revised land-use development code.

Other watercooler topics will include plastic bags or bring your own, weeds in parks and pesticide use, and public toking and growing pot.

As I said, be thankful, or be careful what you wish for.

kunkelra@cidurango.co.us. Bob Kunkel is the downtown business development manager for the city of Durango.

2012 offered Durango plenty to be thankful for

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