These last few weeks have been busy ones at Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) as we prepare for our Annual Conference, IN THE GAME, April 10-13 in Boulder. For me, that has meant driving from the Arkansas River Valley in Southeast Colorado to the mesas of the Colorado River on the Western Slope in preparation for DCI’s Challenge Studios. This is the first of 3 blog posts highlighting the 2018 DCI Challenge Studio communities.
DCI has partnered with the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, for this year's Challenge Studio. Senior Fellow Randy Harrision has made the Challenge Studios a focus of his Economic Development course for Master of Public Administration students. Each student has been paired with a community, and his bringing a fresh perspective and their own skillset to assist in coordinating the challenge.
We arrive in Leadville on a bright, blue sky morning, with snow covering the ground. Our meeting with local stakeholders included a variety of perspectives. The Main Street program, city leadership, local nonprofits, Lake County, and citizen advisory boards all met with Paige Cipperly (MPA student), Randy Harrison, and myself.
Leadville stakeholders meet with the DCI and CU Denver team.
Downtown Leadville is facing several interrelated challenges—the need to rehabilitate historic buildings, a lack of affordable housing, and the desire to increase downtown vibrancy. Leadville’s Main Street program, led by DCI VISTA Destinee Lukianoff, partnered with City Leaders and connected the issues to form one goal: the rehabilitation of the upper floors of downtown buildings into apartments. Obstacles to meeting this goal, however, include the cost of construction in Lake County, a complex negotiation and administrative process and the desire to maintain Leadville’s National Historic Landmark status.
Buildings like this one in downtown Leadville present tremendous opportunities for upper story apartments.
Monument, located along I-25 between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, has grown rapidly in recent years—but the historic downtown, dating to the 1880s railroad years, remains underappreciated by both locals and visitors. The challenge for the community is how to build civic pride and vision—to encourage locals to come downtown, to ensure that those on I-25 know about downtown Monument, and t bring new projects- from temporary pop up events to ideas for new infill construction—to vacant spaces downtown.
Local leaders show off downtown Monument.
Daniel Summers (MPA Student) and I met with dedicated leaders representing the public, private, and nonprofit sectors at the packed Coffee Cup Coffee to discuss the challenge over brunch. We toured the downtown, and discussed the obstacles to improving engagement—including a commuter population, historic development trends, and wayfinding signage that could better direct people downtown.
Downtown Monument is a unique and accessible Front Range destination with tremendous potential looking forward.
However, the community has great resources to work with, including strong leadership, social media platforms, a wonderful downtown park, and a beautiful setting at the base of the foothills. Visual design expert Jim Leggitt and photographer Caleb Alvarado will be working to inspire workshop participants with new visions for downtown. If you are interested in exploring how community members and local groups can take ownership and pride in downtown, and build a vision for the future, join us in Boulder for our IN THE GAME Conference April 10-13 to be a part of the solution.
Lyons has faced great challenges following the 2013 floods, which added further pressure to housing and strained local businesses. Wayfinding and signage, access to downtown, and parking have became critical concerns for the community. As one of the Challenge Studio communities in Boulder County, DCI is thrilled to have community leaders come to Boulder for the IN THE GAME conference.
Megan Garn (MPA Student at the School of Public Affairs) visited the community with DCI Executive Director Katherine Correll to prepare for the challenge studio. At the workshop, local leaders and stakeholders are looking forward to building strong relationships with entities throughout Boulder County, and to problem solving with thinkers from throughout the state and beyond.
If you are interested in housing, wayfinding, parking, and supporting small business in a walkable downtown setting, join the Lyons Challenge Studio during the DCI Conference!
Downtown Lyons, photo courtesy of Lyons Area Chamber of Commerce
It’s still February, so we’re still celebrating love! The love we have for Colorado communities is so strong we want to make it possible for more people to share in our 2018 Vibrant Downtowns Event, IN THE GAME from April 10-13 in Boulder. This conference will bring together all of the lovers and champions for downtowns and it is an excellent opportunity to have real conversations about real challenges and also come up with real solutions.
A great way to show your love for your downtown is by submitting a photo to our Crushing on Colorado contest. This contest is our favorite way to showcase the love we have for our state while, at the same time, starting a friendly competition. Crushing on Colorado are the #1 and #2 ways to win a free registration to IN THE GAME.
#1 The community that submits the most photos will win one free registration
#2 The community’s photo that receives the most votes will win one free registration
The details to enter are below.
We also want to show love to people that are as passionate about learning and growing as we are. Collaboration is so important to the work we do in downtowns. That is why, we would like to offer this deal.
#3 Anyone who gets three new people to register for the conference, will get one free. (You must identify the three people you will be bringing along with you in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are looking forward to all of the great things in store! Visit our conference page here and check out our Schedule at a Glance.
Crushing on Colorado details: Crushing on Colorado is a movement to celebrate the people, places, and objects that make Colorado a wonderful place to live!
Share a photo of you hugging your "crush" (a favorite Colorado building, business, monument, artwork, or person). Use the hashtag #CrushingOnColo on Facebook or Twitter to enter at http://woobox.com/ehc9jj.
As we head into 2018, we want to thank all of our members and all of the wonderful people we met around the state this year and reflect on all of the discussions, workshops, and solutions that came out of all of our adventures. We celebrated our 35th year in 2017 and every year we are constantly working to bring relevant training and topics to our communities. The themes of our work in 2017 were affordable housing, more rural and small business training, growing VISTA program (which doubled from 4 sites to 8 sites throughout Colorado!), urban renewal and other special district meetings, new partnerships and members, and much more. We hope to continue our work on these topics this coming year while also weaving in new themes. The following summary is just a snapshot of some of the work we’ve done. It does not capture every wonderful event throughout the entire year.
Celebrations fro DCI's 35th Birthday Party Celebration (DCI Staff: Eli Levine (former) and Will Cundiff)
A huge part of what DCI does is provide technical assistance to our communities in innovative forms. We started off the year focused on perhaps the most pressing topic in Colorado, affordable housing. We brought together stakeholders working at many levels, including developers, designers, municipalities (regional and state) for two workshops early in the year, Grand County and Buena Vista. In November, a third Rural Housing Workshop was held in Clear Creek County. We are continuing our innovative approach in January within Clear Creek County with a pilot program in Idaho Springs considering long term development impacts and best practices. During 2017, DCI also completed Downtown Assessments in Parachute and Sheridan. If you are interested in reading some of our technical assistance reports, head to our Reports and Case Studies page. Here are some testimonials from these events.
“The most useful take away was learning about different ways communities can fund affordable housing and the great examples presented that demonstrated public-private partnerships”
“Using real-world examples is good. Helps one think about different approaches that could be adapted to, or inform, our unique community situations.”
"It was a great networking opportunity. I took away a great understanding of what the next steps need to be to move forward."
Also during 2017, we contributed to the dialogue on homelessness with two City Builder Forums. We then worked on addressing business training later on in the year with our Downtown Institutes for Business in Grand Junction, Hot Sulphur Springs, Yampa, Craig, Monte Vista, Buena Vista, and Walsenburg. These business trainings served to give businesses hope that they can thrive in an Amazon world. Here are some testimonials from survey respondents in those communities:
"I really appreciated the fresh approach for helping small businesses by giving new ideas and confirming that we do not have to spend large amounts of money to be competitive in today's business world."
"Knowing that we are capable of providing the services and products that a bigger city may offer is in reach as long as we set the "bar" above and beyond our norm."
A tour of Breckenridge as part of our 2017 Vibrant Downtowns Event, IN THE GAME
The highlight of our year is always our annual Vibrant Downtowns event, IN THE GAME. We had a wonderful conference in Breckenridge in May aimed at getting our communities to put some skin in the game. You can check out the recap of the entire conference here. We flipped the format on the tradition ‘talking heads’ conference and introduced Challenge Studios, workshops based on a challenge facing a participant or a participant’s community that are designed to transform a community’s difficult challenges and problems into promising opportunities. You can see last year’s Challenge Studios reports here. The Challenge Studio format will continue in 2018 in Boulder. The deadline to submit your challenges for next year is January 31st (remember, we are here to help!). Also be sure to register for the conference in April 2018 by February 1st to take advantage of early bird pricing! After you register, be sure to nominate a project for Governor's Awards!
We are so excited for 2018 and for many more informative, innovative, and fun events. We continue to strive to serve our Colorado communities with everything we do and we hope you will be a part of the future of vibrant downtowns in Colorado.
Come join our Annual Member Meeting on January 31st to participate in shaping our year.
What is Greenbuild, you ask? It is, first and foremost, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. However, it is so much more than that. Green building is not just about technical solutions and energy efficiency, it is about making better places for people and creating a built environment that does its best to work with the natural environment. It’s about resiliency, historic preservation, community building, and most of all, humans. At Greenbuild, I learned about Green Communities in Massachusetts, an Urban Farming Initiative in Detroit, a discussion for model zoning code for resilient communities, and The Past & Future City.
Below: Stephanie Meeks of the National Trust for Historic Preservation speaking about the Past & Future City and the importance of historic buildings for revitalization
All of these projects have lessons for Colorado and our downtowns. A main theme underlying all of these sessions was how communities can form partnerships and use policy and governance tools to create a better environment to live in. Whether it’s renewable energy, community gardening, updating zoning regulations, or historic preservation, all of these can create more vibrant downtowns.
Colorado is full of independent communities that make up a beautiful, diverse fabric of environments, people, and opinions. I wanted to share some interesting ideas that I took away from these sessions:
> A statewide program can work with ALL types of cities and towns to advance projects that work in the context of every community as long as every community can define its own wants and needs. A statewide program creates an incentive for a community to work together towards a common goal that will benefit everyone.
Collaboration is at the core of solving problems and making our communities better places. If you have a challenge you are facing that you would like to solve through collaboration with other communities and industry experts, consider submitting a challenge for our Challenge Studios. These Challenge Studios will take place at DCI’s annual Vibrant Downtowns IN THE GAME Event on April 10-13 in Boulder.
Recently, I had the opportunity to to travel to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) National Summit due to a generous scholarship from CDFA.! If you have not been to a CDFA event, I highly encourage it. Presentations I attended included: affordable housing in Greenville, SC and August GA; the redevelopment of the Baltimore Harbor (currently the largest private development); revitalization efforts in North Miami Beach; and adaptive reuse of a warehouse building in Peoria, IL.
As a downtown professional, working to assist vibrant commercial districts, I find that there is so much more to learn about development finance . Below are 3 takeaways I came up with for Colorado downtown districts:
For me, the best way to learn is a combination of reading, hearing presentations (case studies are best) and talking to the professionals involved. The CDFA Practitioners Guide to Economic Development Finance offers a great introduction. DCI is a great resource to hear presentations especially for Colorado professional (In the Game Event, April 2018), meet other professionals (DCI Upcoming Events) and read (Join DCI for members only resources on URAs & TIF, DDAs, Historic Tax Credits, and much more).
What is development finance? It’s all the financing tools besides traditional bank loans that make projects happen. It is essential to public oriented projects, and becoming increasingly necessary to make anything happen. Some examples:
Development Finance requires creativity- the market alone no longer makes publicly oriented projects happen. I saw this repeatedly in examples at the CDFA Summit:
Next Steps: Stay informed and learn about development finance by Joining DCI, register for In the Game Event, to meet colleagues throughout Colorado, and always check DCI Upcoming Events!
In honor of Small Business Saturday, we wanted to highlight all of the things DCI has been up to the past few months to support small business in all of our communities. We have been busy putting on business institutes all around the state including Grand Junction, Castle Rock, Hot Sulphur Springs, Craig, Monte Vista, Buena Vista, and one more event upcoming in Walsenburg. These institutes have focused on small business thriving in the Amazon world and how these business can use placemaking, creativity, and savvy marketing techniques to bring in new customers and keep the returning customers loyal. If you would like a business training like this in your community, consider writing us a letter of support from your business for our next grant application.
We have also been working with Local First Colorado to bring awareness to the shop small mentality that is so important to keep our downtowns vibrant. As I am sure you have heard, DCI partnered with Local First Colorado (LFC) back in October. Local First Colorado is a new organization that is dedicated to bringing awareness to the “Shop Local” movement and encourage Coloradans to support local business first. DCI and LFC determined this partnership advanced the missions of both organizations as each aims to strengthen Colorado’s local economies. LFC is introducing a new event called “Try Local First Week”. Kicking off on Small Business Saturday, Try Local First Week is one week dedicated to asking local consumers to re-think daily habits and shift everyday actions to try a local business before heading to the big-box stores or ordering online.
Last week, DCI and LFC toured three local business in Downtown Loveland to highlight Small Business Saturday and Try Local First Week. Check out the article that was written about the event. All week, Local First has been highlighting events and businesses all over the state to let people know why shopping local first matters and where they can go to do it. Go to their Facebook and Instagram pages to see all of the resources there.
DCI’s commitment to small business continues through to our conference in April, where business can submit challenge studios. This is an opportunity to for businesses to submit a challenge that may not only effect them but also the surrounding businesses and the community at-large. These Workshops are based on a challenge facing a participant or a participant’s community that are designed to transform a community’s difficult challenges and problems into promising opportunities. Participants will work side-by-side with leading industry experts and local peer networks to craft problem-solving plans. The solutions can be transformative for a small business and the community they live and work in.
If you believe in the work DCI is doing, please consider donating to our cause on Colorado Gives Day on December 5th.
By Eileen O'Brien, Outreach and Membership Specialist, DCI
Maria Cocchiarelli Berger has been an artist her whole life, a public artist actually, working on murals, garden reclamations and anything that speaks to the environment, inequity and racism in our culture. She has a BA in Art History and a BFA in painting, but her “life” degree should be in perseverance.
With the idea that she would go for her MFA in New York, so she could teach art on a college level, she decided in the summer of 2001 to apply for an art program that was housed in the World Trade Towers. Sadly, all her slides and application went up in smoke on September 11. But she pushed on and got her MFA at Queens College, City of NY University, where she reconnected with a longtime friend and colleague, Brendt Berger. It was destiny as they grew closer and discussed how they each had amassed a personal art collection throughout the years from their artist friends and associates. Maria and Brendt married in 2006, and the idea of creating a permanent home for their life-long art collections was just a “twinkle in their eyes.” That twinkle became a reality when they started renovating a building in downtown Walsenburg, the Roof and Dick. The building would open in October 2007 as the Museum of Friends. The museum is now listed in The Art in America Guide to Museums, Galleries and Artists, as the only counterculture museum in the U.S. and the Roof and Dick building was put on the Historic Register for Colorado in 2016!
The art was all part of their personal collections and grows each and every day with another generous gift. The collection includes the works of over 250 artists including Richard Mock, Robert Rauschenberg, Yoko Ono, Peter Max and Dean Flemming, to name a few. It was Brendt’s relationship with Dean Flemming that led to his discovery of Walsenburg and the building that would eventually become the Museum of Friends. Brendt and Dean would visit Drop City on their trips to California. Eventually, Dean would create his own art community in Libre, where he lives even today and Brendt bought a place in Gardner. He and Maria eventually moved closer to the town.
And so Walsenburg became their home and their love of art coincides with the Bergers’ interest in developing the downtown area of Walsenburg and raising the visibility and awareness of contemporary art in Walsenburg and the region. Indeed, Maria says that “Walsenburg and the area around it, is a burgeoning artists community.” Maria and Brendt quickly realized that being an advocate for the museum would also involve being an advocate for Downtown Walsenburg. And, this is where DCI comes into our story!
Being a DCI Member - Maria has been a member of DCI for three years now. She learned about DCI in 2012, when DCI did a Downtown Assessment and Plan for the City of Walsenburg. Since then, they have implemented many pieces of that plan and earlier this year DCI had a URA Training event there. And at the 2017 DCI Annual Conference in Breckinridge, the city was accepted as one of the conference’s Challenge Studio’s. Maria was a participant in the challenge about sustainable financing for cultural amenities. (Read the full report on this Challenge Studio here!) Maria said “Being on a Challenge Studios with our peers really gave us clout! It helped us talk about who to collaborate with in the community and how to discover mutual ideas in order to find support for all the cultural amenities in the downtown area.”
(If you want to nominate YOUR community to be a Challenge Studio Topic for our next conference, CLICK HERE for more information.)
DCI IN WALSENBURG IN DECEMBER!
Join DCI as we help celebrate and support Museum of Friends GALA to raise funds to support their $199,000 award from History Colorado! In order to get the award, they have to raise another $66,000 in matching funds! We will be in Walsenburg all day and night December 2nd! From 4:30 PM – 6 PM, DCI will be having a Downtown Institute for Business: Small Business Thriving in an Amazon World.
Then, come with us to the “Save the Roof and Dick” GALA Benefit on Saturday, December 2, from 7 to 10 pm with Go Ask Alys Catering, live music and a huge art sale of local and national artists. For tickets visit the link event title above and for more information about the museum, call 719-738-2858 or write to Maria at email@example.com
Recently DCI partnered with CNU to bring Atlanta architect Eric Kronberg from KronbergWall Architects to speak about why certain historic structures don’t get revitalized. It all comes down to CODE. Oftentimes these projects get underway, and one little requirement such as parking, sprinklers, or ramps could bring the whole project down. These little requirements turn out to be not so little anymore.
Downtowns and the historic buildings in them are important “because they already exist, they are economic engines, they allow for incremental development”. They create the place and the value (actual land value, property values, intrinsic values). Historic downtowns value people more than cars and communities more than corporations. We all know that these historic buildings were built long before code regulations making revitalization for modern uses very difficult. Here are some of the biggest (expensive) issues developers run into:
Know your codes. If you would like to read more about ADA Requirements head to Eric Kronberg’s blog.
By Brad Segal, published in the Denver Business Journal, Sept 22, 2017
In pursuing Amazon’s HQ2, the holy grail of economic development, Denver finds itself in a most unlikely position – a favorite. The irony is most appreciated by those of us that have been involved in the evolution of this city since the 1980s. Then an economic basket case, metro Denver has since invested billions in civic improvement projects and successfully diversified our economy to become a globally relevant city. Today, the key to attracting Amazon is to continue our pattern of investing in ourselves, and avoid the temptation to shower incentives on a firm that doesn’t need them.
Here are four key points leading to Denver’s winning strategy to lure Amazon’s second headquarters and it’s 50,000 jobs:
1. Acknowledge we’re already in the top tier of logical cities. A recent New York Times analysis provided an initial screen of more than 50 eligible metros throughout the nation, and found Denver to be the Number One choice. Our fundamentals match nicely with Amazon’s needs, including quality of life, tech-savvy educated workforce, mobility options and a welcoming culture. Given our fundamentals, we can compete from a position of strength and focus more on an innovative pitch.
2. Avoid the temptation to lard incentives. Other regions that don’t share our fundamentals and particularly those with a tradition of spending lucrative incentives to attract companies (i.e. Texas, Southeast), will throw the kitchen sink at this “deal of the century”. Expect eye-popping pitches in the billions of dollars as states and regions rob their futures to subsidize Amazon. Colorado doesn’t need to do this, and our state has a track record of providing more measured incentives when compared to peers. However, we’re not beyond the occasional ridiculous subsidy (i.e. remember the $380 million gift Aurora crafted for the notorious Gaylord project now rising out of the plains near DIA?). Not only is a huge subsidy unnecessary (remember we have fundamentals), but this could actually work against us. Why, Amazon may wonder, do these communities mortgage their futures to subsidize our present?
3. Offer a standard array of property development carrots. It would be fair game to utilize Colorado’s property development incentive tool kit, particularly if Amazon chose a site for its campus that is truly blighted or requires substantial infrastructure. Tax increment financing and special districts are effective here, and offer a competitive advantage over other states. We should be mindful to not give away the store and negotiate revenue-sharing agreements so that Amazon doesn’t completely syphon future revenues from schools and other essential public services.
4. Invest in ourselves. Instead throwing needless incentives at Amazon, metro Denver should use this opportunity to invest in the infrastructure that supports our continued economic vitality. Let’s go big on affordable housing, education and transportation – the civic infrastructure that is required to absorb Amazon’s giant scale, and to ensure that everyone in our community will benefit.
The groundwork has already laid to create a “surge” in civic investment. Denver is creating a new housing plan, and affordable housing advocates are urging the city to support a housing bond that could create $150 to $300 million. This scale of investment could help stabilize existing neighborhoods in advance of Amazon’s arrival, and help preserve a diversity of housing types to support our growing jobs base.
On transportation, if the state can’t agree on a boost in funding for roads, transit and other mobility options, then the metro region should pursue it alone.
More resources for education may be more challenging and would require us all to step up on both a local and state level. Our focus should be on the full continuum of education options, from pre-school to graduate education. Let’s use the Amazon challenge to break Colorado’s grip on having one of the lowest per-pupil funding legacies in the nation.
By investing in ourselves and building upon a 30-year pattern of civic investment, we’ll demonstrate to Amazon that we’re not only preparing for the long-term economic vitality of our region, but also protecting the culture and values that are attracting them here in the first place. In addition, the upside of this strategy is we’re better off with or without Amazon. We will have invested in strengthening an opportunity infrastructure that will keep our economy robust for generations to come.
Recently, I attended a webinar from the University of Illinois Extension which presented some strategies for attracting and retaining millennial-aged folks to rural communities. Whether in Illinois or Colorado, it is clear that populations in rural areas are aging and the presence of millennials is essential to carry on the legacy of these communities. Almost a quarter of millennials surveyed said they want to live in small towns however there are some essential factors that influence many millennials when deciding to move to a small community and these strategies address some of those factors.
(1) High Speed Internet: Millennials value the ability to communicate far and wide. Whether they are running an online business or attending online classes.
(2) Invest in Youth Priorities: Ask them what they want. These desires might include “third spaces”; spaces outside of work and home i.e. breweries, cafes, board game bars. Millennials value social interaction in news ways outside of the quintessential ‘rural’ bar.
(3) Provide Economic Opportunities Through Entrepreneurship: Millennials actually value living in communities that support their local businesses. The kinds of opportunities communities have to show this collaborative spirit are: public markets, shared work spaces, Buy Local Campaigns, marketing assistance, business competitions, etc.
(4) Actively Engage and Consult Youth: Make sure they know their ideas and opinions matter. This can be done through surveys and focus groups. Here is a survey template from the UI Extension as an example.
(5) Density: Millennials prize a traditional town center, a walkable neighborhood, and even living in the downtown area in lofts above businesses. Believe it or not, millennials want to engage with local businesses and be in a lively environment full of life that downtown main street and dense communities provide.
If you would like to learn more about attracting customers to your businesses, including millennials, check out our Business Bootcamp in Castle Rock on October 23rd