Walsenburg is located in east-central Huerfano county and is the most populous city in the county. It is home to Colorado's first state park, Lathrop State Park, just 2 miles west of the city limits. Located just 10 miles away from the Spanish peaks, and nearby lakes, Walsenburg is known for its recreation opportunities including fishing, water skiing, boating, hiking and camping. Visitors enjoy the small-town charm, rich in history, natural wonders, and artistic inspiration.
DCI: Are there existing partnerships between the museum, theater, library, schools, and other amenities?
A partnership to operate the Fox Theater was established between the County and the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation (SPFC), a foundation supporting non-profit community groups who work on projects concerning youth, health, economic development, arts and entertainment, housing, and education. The Director of the Foundation, Mike Peter, has been very active on social media to advertise events and create funding for the theater. The theater has also collaborated with local community stakeholders and organizations to host events including a craft beer event, Peakview School theater field trips for movie viewings held twice a year, as well as other community events.
The theater is funded through its sales in movies and rentals. Movies comprise 60% of its income and concession sales total 40%. Movies are currently hosted three days a week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The partners are also working on an informational reception to help develop a long-term financing plan for the theater planned for the upcoming month.
In addition, La Plaza Inn has partnered with the Fox Theater on promotional giveaways of hotel rooms and concert tickets through radio advertising. The SPCF and La Plaza Inn, along with other partners, have been working on the Creative Music District, a gathering hub, work space, and creative playground for the music community. Lastly, a calendar of activities is being organized to inform the community of local events.
The City of Monte Vista was laid out in 1884, and served as a water stop from the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Early settlers in Monte Vista were primarily ranchers and farmers. Agriculture remains Monte Vista's largest economic contributor followed by Government, particularly the school system. Monte Vista is a diverse city with lots of culture and history. The racial/ethnic make-up consists of 61.3% Hispanic or Latino origin, while 36% are White.
Monte Vista is working to address the needs of its community and encourage the civic pride and engagement of its citizens. The Downtown District is geared towards promoting its economic potential while preserving the historical character of its downtown core. The future goals of the city include working with the San Luis Valley Development Resources Group and other to attract new businesses to improve the availability of services and local attractions for its community.
Downtown Monte Vista
We talked to Azarel Madrigal, the city's Community Outreach Coordinator about the civic pride and engagement of Monte Vista's citizens.
DCI: What are some examples of times when the community celebrated success together?
AM: I can honestly say that in the past year I have not witnessed any gathers or celebration where the town comes together to celebrate its success, history, or heritage. The city hosted its first open house last September. It was a nice barbecue but there weren't that many community members in attendance. The Monte Vista School District sports are a source of pride for the community. There is definitely a lot of room for improvement and a lot more the city can do to engage and foster a feeling of pride and place.
DCI: Is there one place or visual aspect to the community, natural or man-made, that people all relate to in the city?
AM: The community takes pride in the events that are hosted in the City of Monte Vista. The first one is the Crane Festival. This even happens every march and it celebrates the migration of the cranes from South America into the San Luis Valley, specifically at the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge. The second event is the Ski Stampede Rodeo festival and concert. This event happens every year at the end of July. It is one of the oldest ongoing rodeos in Colorado. Both of these events attract a lot of people from surrounding communities and the state and country.
DCI: What are some challenges your community faces with community pride?
AM: Monte Vista faces some problems of inclusion. Although we have some great events that bring summer tourists into the city I do not think we do enough celebration of our community and citizens. Within the community, there is a historical divide between the Anglo farmers and Hispanic population that has been here for generations. I think the city has a lot of great natural assets within city limits and the immediate surrounding areas that are not being utilized. Another point of tension and lack of pride is the number of empty storefronts in our main street district.
DCI: What opportunities are there for youth to take leadership roles in the community?
AM: There are no opportunities for youth to take leadership roles at this time.
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The City of Brush is fortunate in having several historic structures that add to the charm and unique design quality of the city. The city has provided mechanisms for revitalizing these buildings that have the most important historic qualities. Rural schools are often the most beautiful and loved buildings in the historic downtown area. Once the district moves to a new building, these buildings often fall to disrepair and require the most complex partnerships and funding strategies to save them.
Two of the growing needs in Brush include housing and daycare needs. Nearly 96% of all residential units within the city are occupied, which reflects a very low vacancy rate. In addition, as a result of a community survey conducted by the Planning Commission, the first most important issue facing Brush in the next five years was said to be Child Care/Early Learning services at 82%. To address these future needs, how can a small community with strong partners turn this challenge to meet the needs for daycare and housing?
We talked to Melody Christensen, the Executive Director at the Brush Area Chamber of Commerce about the redevelopment of the Central Platoon School.
DCI: How long has the Central Platoon School been vacant?
MC: It has been sitting empty for about 20 years and is privately owned. It is approximately 50,000 s.f. with beautiful architecture., built in 1928. Currently there are many windows that are broken out and it has had infestation of pigeons and small rodents. I believe the original intent of the owner was to make sure it was not torn down and he bought it as an investment property. When the market dropped in the late 2000's, his interest in the building also dropped.
Are there estimates on what it will take to rehabilitate the building?
We have recently completed a Historic Structure Assessment and Feasibility Study with the State Historical Society. One end of the building has a gymnasium and the other end is an auditorium and cafeteria. The center 2-story portion of the building is all classrooms.
The study came back with a total cost of $7.5 million. Even if we could figure out a way to rehabilitate the building in stages, cost break down with the gymnasium and the 2 story center portion is $5,498,000, while the auditorium is $981,000, and the cafeteria $1,118,000. We would love to have help with the feasibility part of the building, something that would at least break even.
What uses might be possible?
What we keep hearing is the need for more housing and daycare facilities, which without those two, future residents find it hard to come here to work. Some other suggestions from the community were a hotel, restaurants, bars, arts and culture center, recreational space, health related services, and public entity offices, or a mix of those suggestions.
As development pressures build, Metro Area communities look to redevelop land adjacent to natural amenities. The challenge, however, are the historic land uses on these parcels. Businesses such as auto salvage yards, recycling centers, or lumber yards, bring up questions about the environmental suitability for redevelopment. What types of partnerships, financing, and resources make clean-up ad re-use of the this land a viable option?
The most recent retail district at River Point in Sheridan, CO is an exciting urban renewal project consisting of major retail stores, specialty shops, dining, and entertainment. It was built on land that was formerly a landfill. A public improvement fee (PIF) of 1% was established to pay for the public improvements at River Point. Improvements included: Environmental remediation, open space and trails, public roads and bridges, public street lighting, regional stormwater, water quality and protection, and utility infrastructure.
We talked to Jennifer Henninger, a senior city planner who works with the City of Sheridan, about the urban development in the area.
DCI: What challenges has the community faced? What is an example of a successful project?
JH: The area immediately to the north of the Sheridan Santa Fe Business Park (SSBP) used to be a series of landfills, older businesses, and in general, an unsightly mess. Through an urban renewal process the area has been redeveloped into the successful River Point Shopping Center.
What outreach and response have you seen from property owners in the area?
Several property owners in the SSBP area are interested in having water and sewer connections to their properties so they can either expand their operations or make their land more valuable to future developers. There are two large property owners in the are that have their properties up for sale.
Are there currently incentives or design guidelines to shape investment for developers and property owners?
There are no incentives or design guidelines in place to shape any type of future development. All of the property in the SSBP is zoned industrial.
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In a small town such as Nederland, CO it isn't uncommon that one person may own a lot of the commercial property. Property owners with huge stakes in a small town highlight the importance of clear processes and incentives that help the private owner understand and comply with the community vision. What incentives are can help a town wary of density and in need of sustainable building when a developer with big plans owns 20% of the downtown?
DCI talked with Katrina Harms, chairperson for the Nederland Downtown Development Authority (NDDA) , about the challenges that Nederland faces with promoting the right grow for its community.
As Nederland contemplates increased development, what components of the community vision you are hoping could be promoted by new development?
The NDDA embraces the ideals from the town's comprehensive plan, which states: "We recognize that minimizing our impact, both in the resources we consume and the waste we produce, is important if we are to maintain the lifestyles that drew us to Nederland. The Town of Nederland has a commitment to quality of life, sustainability and preservation of small town character."
As the Nederland Downtown Development Authority (NDDA) works to enhance business opportunities in the downtown area, it keeps preservation and restoration of the environment at the heart of the organization's development philosophy.
Are there recent projects that have been viewed as successful?
In 2009 a sidewalk was added to create a safe, walkable connection from the north end of downtown to the south end of downtown. In 2016 a path was built to connect the west end of town -- the Regional Transportation District (RTD) station and Library -- to the east end of town -- the Post office and Barker Reservoir. Two spurs reach to the highway at bus stops and two bus shelters were built.
In 2014 the NDDA established a beautification program that included: native flowers in the summer and holiday decorations for downtown businesses to promote a festive atmosphere in the winter.
Are there other stakeholders or partners that could be more involved in finding solutions?
The NDDA is attempting to get representation from the Planning Commission, Sustainable Advisory Board, and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
On March 29th, 2017, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) launched their Business Enhancement Survey program in Leadville, CO. Businesses in Leadville were given the opportunity to complete a survey online describing their current conditions, goals, and perceived problems. From this pool of businesses in Leadville, Alpine Furniture was selected for an in-depth audit on ways they could improve their businesses. All other businesses in Leadville (including the ones that completed the survey, but were not selected for the audit) were invited to a lecture series on ways they could improve their businesses in terms of retail management, design, and personal conviction.
DCI traveled with a team of consultants, including Alyson MacMullen, Brian Corrigan, and Katherine Correll. One of the team, Heather Garbo, was not able to make it to Leadville, but nevertheless, supported the team's efforts.
On Wednesday afternoon, we acted as secret shoppers at the businesses who completed the survey. This was a challenge, as there were four of us, and many of these businesses were small enough that it would be unlikely that four, unrelated people would enter them on a Wednesday afternoon in Leadville's off-season. To avoid being suspicious, we entered each business at different times. After we visited the businesses, we held a planning session at La Resistance, a local coffee shop in Leadville, and set to work on the presentations. At 5:30pm we headed over to People's Bank in Leadville, where we would give the presentation to the businesses. The winner of the audit, Alpine Furniture, was announced, and the team headed over to the store to do an initial evaluation of the company.
The business enhancement survey could be a powerful tool to help local businesses and economies, if it is executed correctly. Businesses are, after all, the engines which can propel or inhibit a society's development and health. By targeting businesses and business people directly, DCI may be able to reach some of the core problems which prevent a society's ability to thrive and be well in their ecological, and social environment.
Stay tuned for updates on our Business Enhancement Program. Feel free to contact DCI at email@example.com if you would like to know more this program.
On February 6th, 2017, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) facilitated a dialogue that focused on housing resources and stakeholders in Grand County. The event was hosted by the Town of Fraser, with support from the Grand Foundation, who provided lunch for the participants. This was the first in a series of rural housing workshops that DCI plans on leading across Colorado throughout 2017.
Participants and stakeholders included Katherine Correll, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) and DiAnn Butler, Grand County Economic Development, involved state agencies, private sector partners, and other communities working on housing, including Terry Barnard, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority; Kathryn Grosscup, Colorado Division of Housing; and Brandy Reitter, Buena Vista Town Administrator. Greg Winkler, Department of Local Affairs; Tim Gough, Colorado Division of Housing; Karen Harkin, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority; and Elena Scott, Norris Design, also provided expertise before/during the meeting.
The DCI Housing Workshop focused on helping identify up to three action steps Grand County can start on immediately and make progress in six months. It is important to note that “working on housing is a marathon, not a sprint” so this first workshop will open the door to a long-term strategy. Some of the primary action steps discussed for grand focused on the following areas:
Information and Communication: Identifying the resources and all stakeholders to engage in a county-wide dialogue on housing. Participants specified the need to involve private sector land owners and major employers and assess available resources, including access to water.
Planning and Studies: To show a housing need and attract financing and developers, Grand will need a greater understanding of current housing stock, substandard housing, etc. Grand County can lead the effort in developing a request for proposals and applying for grant funds to support housing studies.
Assessing the Regulatory Environment: Housing diversity is a major priority in Grand County. From Tiny Homes to mixed-use development, regulations should be updated to reflect current priorities and encourager the types of development that the Grand workforce needs.
Over 30 participants came from a range of public and private organizations in Grand County. Participants included representatives from Grand County, Town of Winter Park, Town of Fraser, Granby Mountain Bank, Grand County Authority, Town of Grand Lake, Grand Foundation, and the
“DCI’s facilitated dialogue on housing brought stakeholders from communities across Grand County together to create feasible action steps towards solving the issues of housing affordability in the county. DCI’s advisory services and access to helpful resources has made an enormous difference in how Grand County and its numerous stakeholders collaborate with each other.” - DiAnn Butler, Grand County Economic Development
On January 31st, DCI’s VISTA team came down from their towns to attend a training and professional development session in Denver. The training featured notable speakers, such as Dr. Thomas J. “Dr. Colorado” Noel, who gave a lecture on historic site preservation, Kim Grant, who talked about how to do historic preservation from a planning perspective and how to use grants to leverage resources for projects, and Dave Skinner, who co-owns the Gore Range Artisans Group Gallery in Kremmling, who talked about how artists and art can be an economic and social anchor in the community.
The training is the 3rd of 4 professional development trainings that DCI’s VISTAs participate in throughout their service year. DCI’s VISTA program offers a wide range of opportunities for VISTA members to participate in. Our VISTAs are allowed on the ground floor to do economic and community development work in small towns throughout the state of Colorado. This allows DCI to recruit and select from some of the best people in the program’s large pool of applicants.
Some of the VISTAs’ past experiences with DCI include coordinating and initiating “Small Business Saturdays” in their communities around the Black Friday shopping weekend, building the capacity of Main Street programs throughout Colorado, and creating an inventory of buildings in their communities. VISTAs recruited by DCI have Bachelor’s degrees, usually in fields such as history, urban planning, sociology, and other related social sciences. The VISTAs who get selected for these opportunities truly add value to the places they serve at a fraction of the cost it would ordinarily take to hire a full-time staff person.
There are two types of Federal tax credits, administered by the National Park Service: a 20% credit, for historic (listed on the National Register or contributing to a National Register District), income producing properties; and a 10% credit for non-historic (not listed) properties built before 1936, that are income-producing. Because of the time and work involved, it is generally not worthwhile for projects For more information, and to see a list of qualified expenditures: NPS Tax Incentives
There are 30 states that have historic tax credits, modeled on the federal program. Colorado is lucky to have one of the nation’s most robust historic tax credit programs.
History Downtown Silverton (photo by Jamie Shapiro)
The Colorado Tax Credit began in 1990. It can be administered by History Colorado or by a locally designated authority (CLG). It is a 20% tax credit and follows similar guidelines as the Federal tax credit. The minimum is much lower however, with a project minimum of $5,000. To be eligible, projects must be locally designated (by a CLG) or must be on the State or National Register (or contribute to a register district).
Both residential and commercial properties are eligible, as long as they are income producing (e.g. rentals). Building owners can apply on the front end or the back end of projects. Can only be filed when state general fund growth is more than 6% (this is about 2/3 of the time). Under this program, credits are straightforward, and are typically processed within 30 days.
The 1990 program is still on the books, and is now the best program for small projects. In Denver, this program is known as “the Denver Program”- marketed to small commercial projects, between $5,000-$50,000. Municipalities could look into bringing this program to your community.
Lobach Block, Florence (Photo by Jamie Shapiro)
The program was updated in 2015, but remains largely the same. Key differences from the 1990 program include:
Historic Walsenburg (photo by Jamie Shapiro)
Building owners who want to reuse their buildings, and require some investment. The investment can include roofing, heating and HVAC systems, structural issues and cosmetic repairs. Owners should be “on board” with the Secretary of the Interiors Guidelines for Historic Rehabilitation.”
Based on the Downtown Colorado, Inc. Development and Improvement Districts (DIDs) Forum: Using Historic Tax Credits, November 3, 2016, by Barbara Stocklin-Steely: http://www.squaremoon.us/
Joe Minicozzi, Principal at Urban3, a spatial analytics and planning firm from Asheville NC, does things a little differently. Rather than trying to predict the future, or espouse a particular theory, his firm looks at the data. Using 3D visualization in ArcGIS, Urban3 takes publicly available assessor and sales tax data and creates 3D maps showing what Joe describes as the “potency” of land uses-- the highest property values and sales tax per square acre.
We know intuitively that properties located in downtown as well as walkable neighborhoods contribute more to city and county taxes than properties at the outskirts of town. Add to this the cost of infrastructure associated with building further away from the heart of town. It's difficult to conceptualize this difference without a visual presentation and the Urban3, data-driven perspective is a critical solution to many of Colorado’s most pressing problems.
Towns located in Colorado’s Front Range Mountains, with their proximity to booming population centers and constrained geography, face unique development challenges. These communities face a significant need for additional economic development and housing. Infrastructure costs present a significant obstacle to development, however, the need for long term investment is becoming increasingly clear.
On October 24 and 25, 2016, DCI had the opportunity to bring Joe Minicozzi, first to Nederland and then to Clear Creek County, for presentations and discussions on the cost/benefits of development in different areas of those communities.
In Nederland, Joe presented to community members, town trustees, the downtown development authority board and local developer. His presentation touched on the evolution of Asheville, NC, the economic potency of downtown buildings, and the history and current challenges facing Nederland based on land use data. In the discussion afterwards, community members and local leaders talked about the need to find other towns ('grandfathers') to serve as role models for growth, the need to balance ecological concerns with economic ones, and how to approach the need for additional housing.
The next day, DCI and Joe Minicozzi traveled to Georgetown, to present at the Clear Creek County Commissioners meeting. Local leaders from Idaho Springs, Georgetown and throughout the county came to see Joe and to think about future economic development in their community. Joe presented the countywide analysis done by Urban3, a thorough analysis of the taxes generated per acre throughout Clear Creek county. His analysis demonstrated that downtown Idaho Springs and downtown Georgetown are the largest tax producers per square foot for the county. Historic two story mixed use buildings, dense housing, and vibrant retail spaces make this land the most productive.
As Clear Creek County looks to continue diversifying outside of the extraction economy, looking to the data will be increasingly important to determine where investment will pay the biggest dividends. DCI is thrilled to continue our work with Joe Minicozzi, and look forward to bringing him back to Colorado soon!