On July 8th DCI held a discussion with Nermina Mujkanović, from the Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau; on her own refugee experience and raising awareness on the refugee experience as a whole. She gave valuable insight on the many challenges and triumphs of being a refugee to further understand how to improve the refugee experience.
Nermina started the conversation by discussing her refugee journey from Bosnia-Herzegovina to the United States. Nermina was 8 when her family got approved for resettlement. She recounted how the process took 4-5 years, and how getting the option of resettlement is based on pure luck. She explained how most refugees are never granted the option of resettlement. Nermina and her family ultimately resettled in St. Louis, MO, where they faced the many challenges that come when moving to a new country. Challenges like learning English, becoming familiar with American culture, and her parents being unable to pursue their dream careers because the degrees they obtained in Bosnia can’t be transferred over into the United States. All of these challenges affected her family in different ways, but for Nermina it made her feel like she was living in two different worlds. She was able to channel those challenges into greatness by graduating from college and becoming the Director of Constituent Services for Congresswoman Diana DeGette.
Nermina also communicated the various misconceptions and challenges refugees are facing today including, but not limited to:
Refugee Statues Misunderstood
Refugee Skills/Degrees Under-Utilized
Lack of English Skills is Not An Indication of Intelligence
Need of Strong Support Systems
Barriers of Integration
Tapping Into Existing Resources
Creating New Resources/Partnerships
Understanding All Refugees Don’t Look the Same or Share the Same Experiences
You can contact Nermina here and learn more about her experience here.
Nermina came to the U.S. as a child and was resettled in St. Louis, MO, with her immediate family. In 2010, she moved to Denver where she earned her B.A. in international studies and a minor in political science at the University of Denver.
Nermina’s professional experience is centered on providing access and support to marginalized communities in the U.S. Specifically, her experience has included undergraduate international student recruitment, legal aide to refugees, and her current position as Director of Constituent Services for a Member of Congress. In this position, she oversees all casework for the office and specifically manages issues related to immigration and housing.
Outside her professional work, Nermina serves as a Board member of Rocky Mountain Welcome Center, Board President of Stories Without Borders, and Steering Committee Member for the Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau.
On May 27th, 2021 DCI hosted a discussion about an updated action framework for Colorado downtowns presented by Brad Segal, Founder and President of Progressive Urban Management Associates. Brad discussed several assumptions that have been examined to create his revamped economic recovery framework which include an anticipated acceleration of economic recovery, positive underlying trends, surges in entrepreneurship, equity and racial justice as core values moving forward, sluggish office recovery, and continued challenges with increased housing costs and labor shortages. He outlined 10 tips for navigating economic recovery that incorporated learnings from the past year along with guidance going into 2022.
Tip 1: Focus on Storefront Economy: It will be important to revive storefronts and support property and small business owners during this transition. This also includes ensuring that local governments are prepared to be swift on permitting and streamlining regulations.
Tip 2: Connecting Local Talent to Local Opportunities: Since labor shortages are imminent it is important to create workforce connections between academic institutions and local businesses.
Tip 3: Make Pandemic- Inspired Outdoor Experiments Permanent: We have learned some lessons from these temporary spaces that were created during the pandemic restrictions. Brian predicts that most outdoor adaptations will become permanent fixtures within the public space.
Tip 4: Face the Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Challenge Head-On: The pandemic highlighted further inequities in our society and it has given us an opportunity to create a more inclusive economy. This can be accomplished through diversifying your board and promoting diversity in property and business ownership.
Tip 5: Consider a New Generation of Events: The pandemic provided us with a year of experimentation and finding news ways of bringing people together and celebrating their down towns. Testing out new concepts and going big with local art and music culture should be among the list of priorities.
Tip 6: Get Creative with Office Space: Anticipate a hybrid work model going forward as well as a more creative use of space and new office designs.
Tip 7: Advocate for Solutions to Social Challenges: The housing crisis in Colorado will require a cooperation between all sectors to answer some of the challenges we have been facing with regards to our unhoused population. This can be in the form of more housing options, mental health services, and direct funding.
Tip 8: Go Green: The pandemic has accelerated activism to combat climate change. Economies should embrace green and sustainability practices and development.
Tip 9: Manage the Message: Improve the narrative surrounding downtowns and promote new businesses, events, and public space reuse. Survey the community to gather information on perceptions to create an intentional message.
Tip 10: Update your Organizational Business Model: Adapt to new realities and find ways to reinvent your organizations by aligning with the new normal.
The overall message that Brad shared was one of unprecedented opportunity for economic recovery and growth in the future. DCI has a companion publication that is accessible to members with more detailed information on today’s presentation. Stay tuned!
On May 6th DCI welcomed Ben Levenger, President of Downtown Redevelopment Services, an organization that helps main streets in small communities create efficient plans and redevelopment projects for their downtown areas. Ben has worked on projects in 32 states over the past 5 years and has prepared over 100 downtown plans and strategic catalyst projects. He shared his strategies and best practices for proactively marketing downtowns and elevating underutilized and vacant properties to their best use.
What is a vacant property? Ben answers this question by emphasizing the importance of establishing the correct terminology so you can educate stakeholders and the public in a way that is inoffensive and trust building. This includes differentiating between categories of vacant properties as either underutilized or blighted. Underutilized buildings offer limited commercial or civic use but are still functional. Blighted buildings are those that are not salvageable. Both types of vacant properties have a negative impact on the surrounding community by reducing property values, damaging civic pride, discouraging business development, and deterring tourism. When factoring in lost wages, utilities, and taxes, vacant buildings cost the local economy a staggering estimated $214,000 annually.
Highest and Best Use
Ben outlines a multiple step process that can be implemented to determine the best use for buildings in downtown areas. The first step is to develop an Existing Conditions Analysis which will create a baseline for what is happening and why it is happening. He explains that it identifies the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the community. The second step is conducting a SWOT analysis. During this stage you identify functional infrastructure and unique assets that will emphasize the personality of the community and boost tourism. The third step is a GAP market analysis which illuminates business needs and services that are being underserved within the community. Ben explained that this type of analysis can be summarized by simply asking the question “what do you leave town to go get?”. The information gathered during the first two steps will assist with determining the right businesses and services for each community.
It is also important to thoroughly understand the legislative and regulatory landscape. Ben explained that “red tape” doesn’t typically deter developers as long as there is a clearly outlined process and all the necessary materials are readily available. This includes up to date zoning maps, development codes, and design guidelines. Using a delineated approach will also serve to build trust since developers and property owners are concerned with minimizing risks associated with each project. A Property Assessment and Inventory should also be included to detail the conditions of the properties, ownership, and pending plans. This will foster working connections with residents and assist them with actualizing each step of future projects. Finally, KPI’s can be used to measure impact and collect key statistics about the community, such as the number of jobs being created and retained, which civic spaces are being activated, and the exact amount of space being underutilized.
How to market the right style of development
Ben explains that development is not just about profitability and the goal should be to create civic minded building scenarios that are impactful to the community and make it a better place to live. This vision can be realized through using the correct marketing tools to make the development process as efficient as possible. Ben recommends using Developer Due Diligence Reports to condense the data that has been collected throughout the course of the project to a palatable single page summary. Proformas should also be used for vacant properties to create a plan for the best way to utilize the space. These reports save an average of 6-9 months off the development acquisition process. Developer packages are another effective marketing tool that can be used to solicit specific services. These are typically around 5-8 pages in length and include data visualization to deliver the information in a more appealing way. Lastly, organization and accountability are key to making your marketing strategy successful, so utilizing a SPOC (single point of contact), flowcharts, and timelines will add the structure necessary to narrow the attention to each specific goal.
Thursday, April 22nd DCI welcomed Ilana Preuss, founder and CEO of Recast City, LLC to discuss the positive impact that bringing small-scale manufacturing businesses to the forefront can have on local economies. Recast City, LLC works with local leaders to create great places that build energy, increase the number of good paying jobs, fill local store fronts, and make people proud of their communities. The organization provides timely advisement and resources for the economic development sector and the many challenges and opportunities the pandemic has presented over the past year. Ilana points out that this is a great time to flip the economic development model, do it better, and balance present day realities and long-term plans.
There is no doubt that many smaller cities and counties are recovering from an unprecedented challenging time when many businesses have closed, unemployment rates are still well above average, income equality is at an all time high, and working age adult populations are declining. However, this is a transformational moment where there is an opportunity to build stronger, more inclusive communities that bring people together. Ilana points out the economic development model has not evolved since the 80’s, which no longer serves the best interests of our modern communities. Currently, the same real estate model is being used across the country and only serves to homogenize our infrastructure and downtown areas which in turn lowers real estate value. Additionally, economies are primarily investing in ground floor retail and doing little to address the racial wealth gap that is perpetuated with this traditional model.
Investing in a Better Way
Investing is key to economic strength. To harness this strength Ilana proposes that we challenge the traditional economic development model by utilizing available space differently and making the economy more supportive to jobs and businesses outside of the technology sector, which typically receive the most investment. Ideally, downtown areas should represent the personality of each city and county so development should strive to make it easier for everyone to participate in shaping their local economies. Unique destination store fronts, infrastructure, and streetscapes cultivate longevity, and social connections are the key to economic resiliency. Invest in the place, the people that live within each community, and create an ecosystem to support and scale the investment.
Small-scale manufacturing is essential to accomplishing this vision. This is defined as the type of businesses that produce some type of tangible good that can be replicated or packaged. As Ilana so cleverly refers to them as “hot sauce, handbags, hardware,” it is the type of business that draws foot traffic to a place and gives us a reason to gather. The general categories that small-scale manufacturing includes are the artisan/maker businesses, small batch production, production at scale, makerspace, and shared kitchen/shared woodshop. There are many benefits to embracing small-scale manufacturing. It helps to create more equitable business communities that include people of all different ages, genders, races, and religions. They help build storefronts and modern businesses where retail and production occur in the same space. These types of businesses also increase the property value in the surrounding area and generate many kinds of revenue sources making them nimble. In turn, this attracts more business owners to the area because of the culture and resources.
Take Action: Find the Hidden Economic Engine in Your Community
Ilana shared five action items that can be implemented to get started on reshaping our local economies and embracing small-scale manufacturing including:
Create affordable space of all different sizes to support a diversity of small businesses.
Fill the gap in assistance with local initiatives by offering small business assistance in multiple languages. Ask faith organizations and neighborhood leaders to share info with their networks, and provide grants to business service providers, especially those focusing on under-represented populations.
Tap into the power of local anchors such as schools and local governments. Encourage them to buy local as an investment tool.
Prep policies including zoning and business licenses. Simplify the process for starting a new business and helping it to thrive.
Build community pride through programming and low barriers to entry.
Want to learn more? Recast City, LLC has put together a free toolkit with further resources at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/RecastTornado . Ilana is also releasing her first book in June 2021 through Island Press called Recast Your City: How to Save Your Downtown with Small-Scale Manufacturing so make sure to check it out and pre-order using this link!
Original Post on the SEH Website
In Colorado, you can find amazing projects that exist because the community formed an urban renewal authority (URA).
The historic Denver Tramway Powerhouse was reimagined as a flagship outdoor retail store. The City of Pueblo formed a public-private partnership with one of the world’s largest steel producers. And the City of Montrose built a recreation center and reeled in a big fly-fishing manufacturer.
Across the state, communities large and small are leveraging URAs in creative and powerful ways. But what exactly is a URA? Would a URA benefit your community? Where should you begin? We answer these questions and more below.
Why does your community need a URA?
Currently, 62 Colorado towns and cities have an urban renewal authority – a number that is growing each year. Let’s talk about your Colorado community. Does it lack affordable housing? Does cost prevent your town from upgrading a specific water line or extending a sewer line? Does your city need higher paying jobs but struggle to attract private investment, industry growth and entrepreneurism? If any of these descriptions apply, then you should think about forming an urban renewal authority (URA). In Colorado, a URA must be formed first, before renewal projects and activities can begin. Consider it a creative redevelopment tool that can help break the gridlock that can occur with development.
Do you need to extend infrastructure? Preserve open space? Revitalize a historic property? A URA may be your answer.
A URA Can Help Your Community:
What exactly is a URA?
A URA is a local organization that your Colorado community must form before starting an urban renewal project. Legally referred to as a “statutory body,” a URA’s singular purpose is to prevent and eliminate blight in your community.
What does a URA do?
A URA provides an opportunity for your town or city to target investment, public improvements and new development. It helps remove factors that are known to stand in the way of sound development. Under Colorado state statute, a URA is authorized to borrow money, issue bonds, and accept grants from public and private sources. Tax incremental financing, or TIF, is the most common way that a URA can help fund an urban renewal project.
Wait…is urban renewal really a good thing?
Yes! Urban renewal is a great resource for Colorado’s communities, but it had what some might consider a rocky start. The concept’s negative connotations stem from the 1950s, when the federal government initiated large-scale urban renewal programs such as the Interstate highway system and the Federal Housing Administration’s public housing projects. The upside was economic growth and opportunity, but the downside was questionable development patterns in our cities and towns. Although Colorado’s Urban Renewal Law was adopted during this time and bears the same name, urban renewal today is very different than how it was conceived 70 years ago.
So urban renewal is good for Colorado?
Today, urban renewal in Colorado is a community-led initiative. Unlike the top-down, heavy handed, bureaucratic approach that defined urban renewal planning in the past, Colorado’s URAs today are powered at the local level. It is where the planning process and the development process can work together to enact community change. Through a URA a community’s plans and visions – such as comprehensive plans, multimodal plans and housing plans – can influence the development process to produce the goals laid out in those living documents. We could say that URAs are where the rubber meets the road.
What if your community is really small?
URAs can be especially powerful in small communities. A small town may not have the budget to pay for large infrastructure improvements. It may be experiencing stymied growth. Or it may need to attract a certain type of development, such as affordable housing.
Urban renewal can provide smaller Colorado communities with a competitive way to attract new development. It’s a local vehicle for transformative public-private partnerships.Andy Arnold, SEH regional planner
Can URAs help municipalities and developers work together?
Public-private partnership is the name of the game. Formed by local petition, a URA is made up of a board of elected officials from the municipality, the county, the school district and other local taxing bodies. Its charge is to adopt plans for alleviating blight and targeting redevelopment in a community. What sets a URA apart from other planning processes? It takes the public’s vision and adds incentives to attract private developers. A URA is authorized to issue grants, bonds, loans and other financial mechanisms to help produce public improvements and redevelopment. These incentives allow the public to partner with a developer to make the project more feasible – and to shape the project to better meet community needs.
A successful URA is fully backed by:
Where do you start if you want to form a URA?
The most important steps in forming a URA are organizing public participation, communicating with taxing entities and identifying blight.
1. Start with a public outreach campaign
Develop and implement a public outreach campaign to help educate the community about the benefits of a URA while identifying local concerns and issues that can inform the URA’s vision. Because a URA is a local planning body, its projects and activities must align with your community’s needs and desires. The public outreach campaign is an opportunity to understand the public’s concerns about the future of their community, such as:
By holding events such as meetings, presentations and workshops, you can provide a platform for these issues and communicate how a URA can address these worries. Productive dialog provides momentum to form a URA and helps cultivate a clear and supported vision.
It’s also a good idea to ask organizations that participate in the public outreach campaign to draft letters of support for the URA’s formation. Although not required by Colorado’s urban renewal law, these letters can chronicle each organization’s goals for the URA and provide a city council or town board with the confidence to vote yes to form a URA.
2. Petition elected officials to form a URA
After kicking off the public outreach campaign, it’s time to petition elected officials to form a URA. At least 25 registered electors must file a petition with the municipal clerk stating that there is a need to form a URA. Once this petition is filed, your town’s governing body will hold a public meeting to discuss the need to form the authority, consider its implications and vote on its formation.
3. Before the vote, commission a conditions survey
Before a vote can take place, your town must determine that certain conditions called “blighting factors” exist within areas of the community to warrant a URA. A conditions survey will provide the framework to research and analyze the presence of blighting factors.
These photos represent some factors that may constitute blight under Colorado's Urban Renewal Law.
The conditions survey can vary in scope – these are two common starting points:
Either type of conditions survey is acceptable, but a communitywide, general conditions survey is best to determine the need for a URA while also informing the URA of possible locations for future renewal projects. A holistic analysis such as this requires more work up front, but your URA will be more informed and more strategic regarding future urban renewal projects.
The City of Durango elected to do a City-wide Conditions Survey to find areas that qualify for urban renewal.
4. Now it’s time for the vote
After the petition and conditions survey is complete, your town’s governing body will vote on the URA’s formation. Assuming the vote passes, the next step is to form the URA’s board of commissioners. Typically, the governing body designates itself to the URA board. It’s also recommended that board members or staff of other major taxing bodies, such as the local school district and the county, as well as the county assessor, be invited to serve as board members. The composition of the board is contingent on local circumstances, however, and should reflect your community’s preferences.
The City of Durango formed their urban renewal authority in May 2020 and named it the Durango Renewal Partnership.
5. Identify your first urban renewal project
Once your town forms a URA and designates a board of commissioners, the exciting work can begin. Revisit your conditions survey along with the issues raised during the public outreach campaign to determine an appropriate area to start your first urban renewal project. Also consider any adopted planning documents, such as your municipality’s comprehensive plan or sub-area plans. And if a developer or business is already looking to redevelop within the community, the URA should evaluate the proposal to see if it is appropriate for an urban renewal project.
6. Next, 3 reports are needed
Once the URA board of commissioners has settled on a specific area for the urban renewal project, it’s time to complete three reports.
Urban renewal plan
Start with the most important of these: the urban renewal plan. The urban renewal plan outlines the vision for the project area, defines its boundaries, and describes proposed actions and incentives that will be used within the project area.
The conditions survey supplements the urban renewal plan. Now that you have a specific plan in place, you may need to update the previous conditions survey to reflect the specific project area, which is a straightforward task if a comprehensive conditions survey was completed during the formation process. The conditions survey will clearly demarcate the boundaries of the proposed project area and analyze the blighting factors present in that area.
An impact report is the second document that supplements the urban renewal plan. If the URA anticipates using tax increment financing (TIF) within its project area – and TIF is the predominant incentive a URA can offer – then an impact report is required by Colorado law. Much like the conditions survey, the impact report should take a holistic look at potential impacts of the urban renewal project. The impact report will do the following:
The impact report should forecast tax revenue for each taxing body within the project area. Your URA can use these forecasts in its negotiations with these taxing bodies – such as the local school district – to determine the percentage of incremental revenue that will flow to the URA instead of the taxing bodies. These negotiations are known as “TIF agreements,” and they are instrumental for incentivizing urban renewal projects.
Beyond tax revenues, the impact report will evaluate potential impacts on infrastructure and municipal services that would affect local taxing bodies. Some examples of impacts that could result from development:
The impact report looks beyond negative impacts to identify positive impacts as well. When done right, an impact report can be your URA’s roadmap for redeveloping the project area. It can highlight properties that will generate large amounts of incremental tax revenue. It can help the URA board of commissioners strategically use incentives during negotiations with potential developers.
RELATED CONTENT: City of Durango’s first urban renewal authority lets residents guide community redevelopment, offers incentives to developers
SEH assists towns and cities with a wide range of urban renewal needs, such as forming a URA or just trying to get a renewal project off the ground. Our team partners with communities to develop and implement URA-focused public outreach campaigns, urban renewal plans, conditions surveys and impact reports. Urban renewal in Colorado affects both sides of the public/private spectrum, and our experience as a trusted advisor to both municipalities and developers helps us provide the data, reports and guidance needed for long-term success.
Andy Arnold is a regional planner focused on the public and private sectors to ensure that development is politically, financially and equitably feasible. His work spans the community development spectrum, with a strong emphasis on community URAs and other financial tools to extend public infrastructure and encourage development with significant community benefits. CONTACT ANDY
Daniel Botich is dedicated to helping communities grow and businesses expand. He specializes in urban renewal authorities, land-use planning, economic development planning, capital improvement planning and the designation of financial incentive instruments and documents. CONTACT DANIEL
Your community in Colorado has formed an urban renewal authority (URA). What’s next?
Start a project:
Draft the project’s urban renewal plan:
Work with your assessor:
Always start working the next project:
Interested in learning even more about URAs? We invite you to read on.
How does a URA differ from “economic development” in Colorado?
Eliminating blight is a URA’s purpose as defined by Colorado law [C.R.S. 31-25-102]. A common misconception regarding URAs is that they’re all about economic development. This is incorrect. Now, if eliminating blighting factors manifests redevelopment that proves to be sound economic development, all the better.
So, what is “blight” and how do we define it in 21st century Colorado?
In 1958, when Colorado’s Urban Renewal Act was adopted as law, slums and blight were prevalent throughout America’s cities. The federal government responded by spearheading urban renewal projects. Today, the language of the Urban Renewal Law may still reflect this history by defining “blight” in strong terms, but its definition of the statutory factors that constitute blight are more in line with the contemporary realities facing local governments in Colorado.
The Urban Renewal Law (C.R.S. 31-25-103) states that to form a URA, certain conditions or “blighting factors” must exist. State statute defines 11 factors for blight (see sidebar), and if four or more factors are found in an area of the municipality, the area may be declared “blighted.”
Conditions or blighting factors as defined by Colorado’s Urban Renewal Law (C.R.S. 31-25-103)*:
* C.R.S. 31-25-103(2) lists a twelfth condition, which applies only with unanimous agreement among affected property owners that their properties can be included in a URA. In this rare occurrence, only one blighting factor from the list of 11 needs to be identified to declare the area blighted.
Keep in mind that the word “blighted” may not sit well with property owners within a proposed urban renewal area. But the presence of a blighting condition does not mean a specific property is blighted. The purpose of a URA is to identify areas of the community that have certain conditions that prevent sound development. These conditions can be natural features (such as steep topography) or exist in the public domain (such as dangerous street networks or poor pedestrian access). Whatever the case may be, it’s important to make clear to property owners that a URA’s intention is to reverse the further decline of an area through both public and private investment – and this will benefit all property owners.
How do URAs aid public-private partnerships?
A URA is a powerful example of a public-private partnership (P3) done right. By bringing together a developer’s plans, a town’s needs and public support, a locally led URA is an effective vehicle for implementing P3s within your community.
Developers can benefit from the soft power of a URA. Developers with a great project – such as a mixed-use building that could provide workforce housing to the community – can work with a URA to make the project a reality because the project has a better chance of being approved quickly and efficiently. After all, a URA’s purpose is to alleviate conditions that can stall sound development. A URA, therefore, lowers a developer’s risk in a project, which makes that project even more possible.
A URA can also incentivize development that yields major benefits for the community, especially if TIF is involved. TIF could help fund the project’s public improvements, such as roadway improvements or stormwater drainage, and make the project financially feasible. TIF can help close funding gaps for a developer, assuming the developer meets certain public interest conditions (such as more residential units that are affordable, public facility access or higher quality construction). A URA provides public equity for private investment – the public is a partner in the development and has a voice in the project’s design and overall purpose. A URA can also supplement TIF by issuing grants and loans for developments within its designated project areas.
Infrastructure Renewal, Community Development and Project Funding
On Thursday, March 4th Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) hosted our Rethinking the Nonprofit - Economic + Community Development Organizations call where we had our own Executive Director Katherine Correll lead the conversation with a panel consisting of:
Kris Mattera, Basalt Chamber of Commerce
T.J. Sullivan, Superior Chamber of Commerce
Kristin Clifford-Basil, Morgan County Economic Development
Kim Keith, Steamboat Creates
Trends to Follow
Growth + awareness
Economic development organizations do well during a recession
Work from home trends during the pandemic
Populations in communities are aging, so how do we integrate younger generations into our community mission?
Staffing and succession planning are important for the long term success of an organization
Inclusion topics have been at the forefront in the last year
What is your purpose in your organization?
Strategic planning to identify mission statements
“I want the community to become a place where children want to come back to as they age”
Mission statement: Respecting our past while promoting our future
Steamboat Creates has been around since 1972
Mission statement: Steamboat Creates enhances the quality of life and economic vitality for our creative sector through advocacy, promotion, education, infrastructure, and connections, and for our community and visitors by growing engagement in arts and cultural experiences
We want to build a strong community so that families can raise kids here who want to come back and make a living wage
Basalt is a resort community, so the cost of living is high due to property costs
Superior is a residential enclave outside of Boulder that is surrounded by other chambers of commerce
Our goal is to meet the advocacy needs of small businesses since most of the businesses in the community are small and/or home-based businesses
How to Share your Mission
Plan for your people
Consider the personnel structure and compensation practices to support your values
Continue to have one on one time and make connections while everyone works from home
Words can carry baggage
There are sometimes challenging messages around our work
How do the words chamber or economic development impact your mission and what you’re able to accomplish?
Chamber is a loaded word locally because of the political climate
I try to explain what our chamber specifically does and highlight how we are different from other organizations
I want to do things that add excitement to the community
We did a huge food drive that the community loved
Businesses want to see that we are doing stuff that matters to the community
I think about how I can work for the investors to help expand business or identify values
How can we partner with other local organizations to create a stronger network and community
Since we are an arts association some people think of creatives as crazy and unpredictable and that they stir up trouble or change
Status quo people like consistency, so we are constantly having to invite ourselves to the table in order to be involved in the community
Communicate your Value
Consider your spheres of influence
Understand local ecosystems
Focus on partnerships
What is your relationship like with local government and how do you support them?
The relationship we have with local government got stronger after wildfires two years ago
We do advocacy work
Some people have businesses in the community but dont live here, so they are unable to vote about stuff that affects them
We receive financial support from the county
Have a small business center
North West Chamber Alliance
We all come together and learn once a month
We sometimes put all our names on a joint statement to increase the impact
Partnering with the town allows us to cover more ground together
There is competitiveness that arises when you have a small donor pool in a rural area
We advocate for individual arts organizations and partner to do outreach with them
We have lots of competition among organizations
Sometimes there are different groups trying to accomplish the same thing and get nothing done
I aim to be the source for everyone to create collaboration among organizations
About the panelists
Kristin joined MCEDC in January of 2020. As the new Executive Director of Morgan County Economic Development Corporation. Kristin brings over 15 years of experience in real estate appraisals, management, business development, and design & merchandising.
As a native of Northeastern Colorado Kristin has a respect and appreciation for rural communities and what they provide not only to the economy but the quality of life they provide to their residents.
Kim Keith is a catalyst for creative-oriented endeavors in Northwest Colorado with an eye for innovation and creative problem-solving. She is the Executive Director of Steamboat Creates and also serves on the CO Humanities Board of Directors, Colorado Mountain College Advisory Committee, the Routt County Economic Development Council, many task force and community collaborations. Her prodigious creative skill set and experience revolving around design, marketing and event coordination, advocacy and community development ensure a multi-faceted approach to Steamboat Creates (formerly: Steamboat Springs Arts Council) a 501(c)3 non-profit, benefiting the entire region of Routt County and Northwest Colorado.
Kris moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Boston, Massachusetts in 2016, following years of visiting Colorado and a summer working at a dude ranch in Buena Vista.
Kris is fascinated by the intersection of community, technology, society and the digital space, and how it can be leveraged to build personal connections and tell great stories. She moved to the Valley due to its great mix of job opportunities, recreation, culture, mountain town charm and natural beauty. Kris has found Chambers of Commerce to be the lifeblood of mountain communities. Chambers, especially those in smaller towns, have a huge opportunity to build community, not just through commerce, but through the relationships that they develop with the public, private and non-profit sectors.
T.J. Sullivan is the Executive Director of the Superior Chamber of Commerce in Boulder County. In 2020, he was named “CEO of the Year” by the Association of Colorado Chambers of Commerce for his innovative leadership during the pandemic. He has owned numerous companies throughout his career and earned a national reputation as one of the most impactful speakers at U.S. colleges and universities, speaking to nearly 3-million students in all 50 states. His book, “Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations” is used in more than 100 college leadership courses.
On February 25th, DCI hosted Trinidad Downtown: A Rural Redevelopment Case Study call with Ed Griego with Trinidad Urban Renewal Authority, Mike Scholl of Ayres Associates and Wally Wallace with the City of Trinidad. DCI first started working with Trinidad in 2008, with a downtown assessment to support the reformation of urban renewal, creating a Creative District, and joining the Main Street program. One by one, Trinidad checked off the 70+ tasks in the plan and today Downtown Trinidad is seeing investment in housing, healthcare, and hubs for tourists.
We started the conversation off with Wally Wallace who serves as the Economic Development Coordinator in Trinidad. He dove into details on how Trinidad has redeveloped in recent years and the plans they have for the future.
Old historic buildings have now been bought with plans to get housing and local businesses in them
A New Hilton Garden House hotel will be the first significant downtown hotel development in a long time
Space to Create
Affordable live/work space for artists and other creatives
Focus on retail and placemaking in commercial space
Fox West Theatre (builtin 1907) will be restored and used as a performance art space
Gravel race for cyclists coming to the Trinidad area in October 2021
Trinidad now has:
Main Street Board
Urban Renewal Authority
Designated county enterprise zone
Downtown District serving as an entertainment district
Fishers Peak State Park
Established as a state park in 2020, Fishers Peak can help drive economic growth in Trinidad and surrounding areas. It is the second largest state park in Colorado.
Mike Scholl from Ayers Associates continued the conversation about Trinidad by sharing that the city has the highest number of historic buildings in Colorado along with other information about Trinidads redevelopment story.
Urban Renewal Authority was created in 2014 and certified in 2015
Re-opening of the New Elk Coal mine for metallurgical coal mining will increase job opportunities in the area
Space to Create is serving as an affordable housing project
25,000 square feet of retail and commercial space
San Rafael Hospital development finished and will also help to create more job opportunities
Plans for a food court at the marketplace
Multi-tenet restaurant space
4 new restaurants opened
Plans for 7 more to open after the develop the rest of the property
Future bank, mental health facility and holistic medicine center
Plans for a community gathering space and more housing development to keep up with the demand
Questions + Answers
Question: Have you incorporated walkability in Trinidad, including multi-use?
Wally Answer: Yes, in addition to the holistic health center we are looking for ways to incorporate walkability. We currently have the Trinidad river trail system and a bike path to Trinidad Lake. Bike lanes and paths have been partially funded by CDOT grants.
Question: Do you have one piece of advice thats valuable for redevelopment projects?
Mike Answer: Be persistent and don’t get frustrated with road blocks early on in redevelopment efforts. If you can control the real estate in your area you have more opportunities to develop the projects you want.
Wally Answer: Be very optimistic about the town and excited to see its potential!
Named by the Denver Post as “Trinidad’s Pied Piper”, Wally Wallace has used his experience in project management, creative marketing, and community building to lead the former coal-mining boom-and-bust town of Trinidad, Colorado through a major economic resurgence. Born and raised in the foothills of Colorado, Wally's work is driven by his passion for the Southwest and his vision for building creative, healthy, sustainable economies as a base to strengthen rural communities. His work in Trinidad was recognized by Denver Westword as one of the top Arts and Culture stories in Colorado in 2020. He believes that by creating collaborative partnerships within communities, and between them, and by utilizing the support of Trinidad's Urban Renewal Authority, Enterprize Zone, and Opportunity Zones, Trinidad and its regional partners can develop strategies to bring economic prosperity and sustainability to Trinidad, Southern Colorado and the surrounding region.
Mike has two decades of nationwide planning experience with consultants, community groups, and most recently as economic development manager for the City of Loveland, Colorado. More than five years as a legislative assistant to U.S. congressmen adds to the depth of Mike's understanding of planning, from funding through community implementation.
Mike's vision and persistence have brought success to many development projects. He managed Loveland's Gallery Flats redevelopment project, which was awarded the Governor's Award for best 2015 infill project in Colorado.
Mike's responsibilities include research and evaluation of data related to social, housing, economic, population, environmental, and land use trends; developing planning studies and reports; performing plan reviews; preparing permits; researching and analyzing residential and commercial development projects; reviewing and preparing environmental assessments, plans, and documents; and conducting field evaluations and assessments.
On Thursday February 18th, Aaron Abeyta and Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding joined Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) for a presentation and discussion on recovering from racism. We began with a poetry reading by Aaron Abeyta, mayor of Antonito and poetry director at Western Colorado University. He read his poem Ancestor Of Fire, and discussed how we must get grounded in our past to be invested in our future. Then we dove into conversation with Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding about how the past has an impact shaping present-day and future communities.
A theme we focused on in this talk is the realization that many of us are not comfortable talking about diversity and inclusion, and how that hinders the creation of a fully inclusive society. If we are not comfortable or know where to go to get resources to be more inclusive we are not going to enter a space of full inclusion.
We continued by talking about the stories about race in Colorado, and the audience and speakers share narratives of what they have experienced or learned about race in the state.
Colorado is very white
Be quiet and lay low to not draw attention to your race
University of Colorado Colorado Springs has a hard time keeping diverse staff
Narratives will not attract more diverse folks to the state
The stereotypes that exist about our communities are an incomplete picture of who we are
People don’t want to be honest about the existence of stereotypes
It’s a challenge to break these stereotyping thought patterns
Stereotypes affect who wants to invest in and live in your community
We need to create different policies to ensure diversity in communities
The differences and diversities in our communities bring us value
We must honor these differences in a valuable way and not look away from the issues we face
Equity and inclusion are inseparable from diversity in communities
We need to avoid tokenism and push through the pain and discomfort in order to create a more inclusive world
It is essential to create opportunities that people will invest themselves in so that they feel included
When people feel they are part of the story they feel better about coming to the table
Question: What are your thoughts around getting comfortable with starting conversations about race?
Aaron: People fear saying the wrong thing and do not have the resources to get more comfortable with these conversations. In the United States, we feel we always have to be correct because we are so uncomfortable with being wrong. It’s okay to be ignorant and ask people questions. People like to educate others on their identity and ethnicity.
Stephany: Some people don’t have the knowledge base to feel comfortable in that practice, so it is important to invest yourself into having these conversations and doing the research.
Question: What are some of the communities on this call doing to expand equity conversations and practices?
La Junta: Encouraging people to get educated on these topics.
Northglenn: Created a board/committee of residents, businesses and city council members. Created a book club to spread knowledge and feel more comfortable talking about equity and race.
Downtown Denver Partnership: Educational programs and talks with speaker Tamika L. Butler.
Aaron A. Abeyta is a Colorado native, MFA Poetry Director at Western Colorado University, Professor of English and the Mayor of Antonito, Colorado, his hometown. He is the author of four collections of poetry and one novel. For his book, colcha, Abeyta received an American Book Award and the Colorado Book Award. In addition, his novel, Rise, Do Not be Afraid, was a finalist for the 2007 Colorado Book Award and El Premio Aztlan. Abeyta was awarded a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship for poetry, and he is the former Poet Laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope, as named by the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival. Abeyta is also a recipient of a Governor’s Creative Leadership Award for 2017. Abeyta was a finalist for Colorado Poet Laureate, 2019. Aaron has over 100 publications including 'An Introduction to Poetry, 10th ed.,' Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, & Drama, 8th ed.' ‘Conversations in American Literature: Language, Rhetoric, & Culture’ ‘The Leopold Outlook’ ‘Colorado Central Magazine’ ‘The High Country News’ and numerous other journals.
Aaron Abeyta's Website
Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding
Public speaker, social and political commentator, equity and inclusion consultant, professor and pastor, Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding is a force of nature. With a Ph. D. in American Studies, she is a thought leader on race and gender in American culture and society. Her keynotes and trainings help people reach higher heights and deeper depths on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and social transformation. Additionally, as a woman in several leadership positions, she mentors and coaches others to unlock the power within to build healthy, empowered and holistic lives for themselves and the beloved community. She is a former candidate for U.S. Senate (CO, 2019) and Founder of the Truth and Conciliation Commission.
Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding's Website
Reading List to Get Started
White Fragility - Dr. Robin DiAngelo
How to Be an Antiracist - Ibram X. Kendi
The Sum of Us - Heather McGhee
The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander
The Danger of a Single Story - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Deconstructing White Privilege - Dr. Robin DiAngelo
For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies - Courtney Ariel
103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice - Corinne Shutack
On Thursday February 11th Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) had the pleasure of hearing Kristin Cypher of Michael Baker International speak about Inventorying Assets and Activating Places in communities across the state!
Why is it important to identify assets?
See your everyday space with fresh eyes
Engage with your community
Those that don’t usually have a voice at the table, how to get them to participate
Meet people where they are
Meeting people physically in their space
Temporary activations- easy, quick
Identify special and unique community places
Paonia - winery area
What is an asset?
Think of creative areas of opportunity - Trinidad example
Unique cultural & historic places and resources - creative districts
Gathering places, hang out places, destinations - both existing places and potential places
Questions to ask yourself when identifying assets
Identify what are you passionate about & where in your community can that be realized
What is the engine that drives your community?
Activations can tell a different story
What is one word to describe assets in your community?
What does it mean to activate a space?
Activated uses & events - with COVID - automobile space to people space
Activated Redevelopment - vacant storefront and use --- pop up space of further area - burst of an event, show what can be done there
Vacant lot activation
Lamar - more active and community members, vacant lot in middle of downtown
Meeting people where they are - use materials that are accessible and ways to reach out to people
Lights, chairs, tables, heat
Programming - food truck, artist come, games, live music
Led to creating available funding for more permanent activation - community driven and funded - created
Gathering space now -- used by community and as regional space
Historic Storytelling Activation
Wanted to tell story of history
Creative signs spread throughout the city
Catch people where they already are - hanging around areas ex: in front of performance center where people wait in line for show
Art, Culture & Connection Activation
Start with temporary stuff - murals, temporary tree pieces
Turn into permanent
Beautify space - activate vacant property
Meet people where they were
Some crazy ideas for activation
Vacant lots - outdoor dining with multiple restaurants seating
Use your spaces to ask people what they want to do in the spaces
Food trucks, spaces for food trucks
Pop up main street
Goal for activation - more vibrancy, see the potential for your community
What is your activation idea?
Often the ideas are much easier to get than City permission. How much do you suggest engaging City staff? Oftentimes they can be great, but they also often have more rigid supervisors that lack creativity and say no. How do you balance all the community time and energy with naysayers and obstructionists in the City government?
Engage with city council early on in the process
Stand on stronger foundation - special places are, tell special stories
Kristin's Worksheets for asset identifying and community activation planning
Community Asset Plan Worksheet
Community Activation Plan Worksheet
Michael Baker International
On Monday, January 18th, 2021 the Downtown Capacity Builder’s DCI VISTA team participated in MLK service day as “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” in a virtual capacity with VISTAs from Community Resource Center (CRC) and Colorado Nonprofit Development Center (CNDC). The day included digital transcription for History Colorado, with an option from three varying projects. The three projects included Out of the Archives, Colorado Women’s Suffrage, and medical advertisements.
The DCI VISTA team committed to 2 hours of digital transcription, which was then followed by a service day reflection event which had a turnout of 14 VISTAs from the varying VISTA teams, with 6 of the attendees being from DCI’s team.
The service reflection event included introductions, and then we watched some Martin Luther King videos together. The two videos included Rare Video Footage of Historic 1965 Marches and NBC Interview: MLK Talks New Phase of Civil Rights Struggle . Following the viewing of the videos we went into three breakout rooms which included
Ice breaker/ get to know each other Room Name, VISTA position, what have you been filling your time with during the pandemic, what is one of your passions
What was your biggest takeaway from the MLK videos you watched?
What is one of the most impactful legacies MLK has left on our society, and how do his teachings apply to today’s world?
The breakout rooms encouraged conversation, increased participation and sharing of ideas. Some of the major takeaways from reflection on the MLK videos was the way in which MLK’s points made in 1967 that needed to change and topics that needed to be addressed, are topics that still need to be addressed today. Many of the topics that need to be addressed have been further highlighted, and more people became aware of through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the breakout rooms, the VISTAs reconvened and completed a short service day survey, with feedback from the day and written reflection on why one chooses to serve.
What was the most impactful part of your day of service?
“I really enjoyed talking with other vistas about social justice and how we can continue forward with our own commitments to building capacity and eliminating poverty. As a historian, I really love that part of our service was transcribing materials because it truly helps historical work and it makes historical information more accessible for all.”
“Listening to MLK speak in the videos - not only is he a master of language, the themes and messages still apply today.”
“Watching the MLK Jr. interview and reflecting on it was most impactful - a lot of what he said connects directly to what we are seeing and living through now.”
Why do you serve?
“I serve because there is so much important work found within the non-profits of the U.S. I'm proud to complete a year of service for my organization.”
“To serve the community and make a direct impact to those who live in the community.”
“I serve because I want to make education more just and equitable for all in this country. In a lot of ways, education is liberation and I truly hope that I can help to make education more accessible and equitable.”
The Downtown Capacity Builder’s DCI VISTA team, who commit to a year of service, were happy to participate in the MLK day of service, with people across Colorado and across the United States. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.