Downtown Colorado Inc (DCI) had our eleventh webinar of the series covering various topics on the response to COVID-19 and how people can support each other while maintaining the CDC’s recommendation of social distancing. Thursday’s call focused on
Terri Takata-Smith from Downtown Boulder Partnership and DCI Board Member shared examples and experiences from re-opening in Boulder. Alex Rugoff from Durango shared adaptations and initiatives happening during the re-opening process.
Some of the key concepts shared by Boulder and Durango, included the use of
Expanding Business Outdoors
Engaging the Community
Enhanced Communication Efforts
Beautification of Boards and Barriers
We have included some of the details from each presenter below followed by a recap of the questions and answers from the discussion..
DURANGO REOPENING EXPERIENCE
The strong business improvement district (BID) in Durango has been an important aspect in the successful reopening of downtown. The BID surveyed their businesses to gauge needs, prepared businesses for PPP, and adjustments of free parking, sales tax deferment, and a relaxed sign code for temporary signs. The businesses asked for a mask order, so the city has a mask order.
Durango had the mantra that they wanted to “reopen once, reopen right.” For reopening Durango has bump outs for businesses to provide more room for social distancing without shutting down Main Street. Many restaurants have also been able to use sidewalk and parking lane space for more seating.
Durango created 12 sector teams in their economic recovery taskforce to cover the different areas of the economy. The 12 teams have regular updates related to their sector, as well as a hub of resources. 12 Sector Teams
BOULDER REOPENING EXPERIENCE
Boulder partnered with NRC/Polco to conduct a resident readiness survey to gauge the community’s feelings on re-opening and visiting businesses in person. Over 1,000 community members responded to the survey which was open for 10 days. The results of the survey especially helped the business owners understand how the community was feeling and what additional steps they could take to further assure customers that they are taking all of the needed steps for safety.
Boulder has expanded on regulation and use of public space, which have included liquor license space and the use of parking space and alleyways as additional seating. The west end of Pearl Street is closed, so both pedestrians and restaurant customers have room to practice social distancing.
Curb-side and pick up zones are in effect for retail which includes free permits and use of loading zones and parking as pick up areas which are free of charge for 10 minutes.
BOULDER COMMUNICATION IDEAS
Throughout the pandemic, clear communication has been key for both business and public use.
Slack has been an excellent tool to connect businesses according to sector, as well as providing important updates to all of the sectors. Boulder also created a business resource hub with covid resources and businesses have worked together regarding their business hours.
Welcoming businesses back was also an important aspect of reopening, which included distributing ‘Back to Business Gift Bags.’ The gift bags were filled with reusable Downtown Boulder branded masks, sanitizer, PPE resources from Energize Colorado, and social distancing floor decals. Downloadable window posters and customizable hours posters are available to businesses as well.
Boulder is welcoming people back through showcasing the safety measures that all businesses are taking, as well as continuing curbside and online services for people who aren’t comfortable coming out yet. Bouldervirtually.com is the hub for the virtual public welcoming and other offers, including drone footage showcasing the downtown businesses welcoming people back while wearing facemasks.
Communication for the public has consisted of unified signage throughout downtown, and window posters and hours posters at the businesses. Businesses have been showing by example of wearing facemasks, and the statues also have masks on. Continual reminders of the importance of facemasks are spread throughout downtown on 38 signs. Social media messaging is consistently updated for the public to see with pictures of local businesses and the safety measures they have in place.
Businesses are continuing to welcome the public by continuing normal beautification efforts in the downtown area. Each year the downtown partnership offers free flowers to businesses to maintain during the summer, and this year was no exception.
Some downtown business windows have been boarded up due to fears of damage. The boarded up windows does not make downtown as welcoming which worried many people, so the Downtown Boulder Partnership has come up with a creative solution of painting the boards. The Partnership is working with local art organizations, and local artists to paint the boards, and when the boards are ready to come down, they will be auctioned off and the money will support local arts and artists.
QUESTIONS + ANSWERS
Relating to design-wise of the requirements of dining in the street, are there barriers between seats and lanes?
In Boulder, the street is completely closed to traffic at the west end of Pearl Street so there is no concern over a need for barriers between seats and traffic lanes. The temporary seating goes into the street, and then there is an opening for emergency vehicles down the center.
What is happening with the liquor license situation?
No new liquor licenses are being issued at this time, it has just been an extension on already existing ones. There is a $150 fee for the extension from the state. Greeley has been able to cover the $150 fee for their restaurants.
Can anyone speak to the variances about hot springs/bathhouses during the reopening?
Glenwood hot springs got a variance from the local and state governments. There may be some variation depending on chlorinated and non-chlorinated situations.
Has there been any pushback from businesses on street closure issues?
Some businesses and residents were against it but now that we are reopening we are seeing that there was an overestimation or residents’ readiness to come back.
Can you speak to the experience of restaurants vs. retail during re-opening?
There is an important balancing act between restaurants and retail since they have different needs and some adjustments to reopening don’t fit everyone in the same way. Communication between businesses is key, including restaurants communicating with retail. Some retailers are also recognizing that even though the bump outs won’t directly help their retail, it will help restaurants downtown, and anything downtown will help them as a retailer.
There has been some contention for retailers of losing parking spots to restaurant seating, but there needs to be a communication of how it isn’t a loss, and there is plenty of parking. Durango is also being very strategic in where the bump outs are, as well as using their six year parking data. Better marketing of where parking is available is included in their reopening process.
Boulder Example Powerpoint