Western Slope Reinvestment | Post COVID-19 Workshop
On June 18th, 2020 Downtown Colorado Inc (DCI) held a workshop on how commercial districts (URAs, BIDs, DDAs) have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The workshop featured discussions and updates from local leaders from across the Western Slope including Durango, Montrose, Grand Junction, and Glenwood Springs on how district development tools are demonstrating their worth in the recovery and response efforts.
Sallie Clark, USDA Rural Development, opened up the workshop by providing updates and information on how Colorado’s USDA Rural Development State office is helping Colorado communities recover economically from the COVID pandemic. USDA is making available up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses and agricultural producers supplement their working capital to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the economic impacts of the coronavirus. Find more information here: Business & Industry CARES Act Program.
Western Slope Reinvestment Partners | Snapshot Presentations
Brandon Stam, Director of Downtown Grand Junction, began this portion of the workshop with an overview of how Downtown Grand Junction (the umbrella organization for DDA and BID) have been dealing with the pandemic. Downtown Grand Junction worked with the City to enable free parking and curbside pickup for businesses. Downtown Grand Junction also started a gift card promotion: spend $25 at a downtown business, and the DDA would send you a $10 gift card for that business. This promotion leveraged $70,000 of spending at downtown businesses. This led to partnerships with neighboring towns, Palisades and Fruita on promotions as well. Downtown Grand Junction has worked to get Colorado Creative Industry micro-grants for street art, expanding downtown dining areas and expanding downtown parklets.
Alex Rugoff, City of Durango, and Tim Walsworth, Downtown Durango BID, discussed Durango’s recent URA formation, how public/private partnerships are critical to incentivizing community investment, and how districts can support downtown economic recovery during a pandemic. Durango used a robust community outreach strategy to garner support for their URA formation. City staff wanted to educate people and hear feedback from the community on development needs. For example, the local school district, 9-R, recognized the value of tax increment financing to promote affordable housing projects that would benefit their workforce and supported the formation of the URA.
Tim Walsworth broke down Downtown Durango BID’s COVID pandemic strategy for supporting downtown businesses by creating a local task force. Downtown Durango BID installed physical design elements such as bump-outs, closing lanes, and closing parking spaces to help attract people to visit downtown businesses. The task force created the “Bump Outs for Businesses Program” and led focus groups to pick areas downtown where bump-outs could be used for restaurant space. The effort, in partnership with the City of Durango and CDOT, led to 30 businesses getting bump-outs; reduced Main Ave from four lanes to 3 lanes; traded 50 parking spaces for 11,000 sq. ft. of space for businesses to operate in.
Chelsey Rosty and Ann Morgenthaler, City of Montrose, closed out this portion on how the City of Montrose utilizes a “Main Street Approach” with its Development and Revitalization Team (DART). The cornerstones of DART’s approach to Main Street are vision, design, promotion, economic vitality, and organization. DART leveraged a $52,000 DOLA loan to create an opportunity zone downtown and updated physical design elements. In 2019, 11 new businesses were opened and 8 “quick win” projects (such as tables and seating in the downtown plaza) were completed
Western Slope Leaders Discussion | Case StudiesThis portion of the workshop featured a quick look at how the financing mechanisms of DDAs, URAs, and BIDs have worked for different Colorado communities. This led into three interactive small group discussion based on the case studies presented.
Matt Ashby, director of the Windsor DDA, gave a snapshot of Windsor’s DDA (created in 2011). There is a mill levy (5 mills) as well as a sales and property TIF in place for the DDA to fund projects. The Windsor DDA is focused on development and “catalyst projects” rather than events. Matt looked at “catalyst projects” that are used to jump the tax increment, so that a DDA can invest in the community overtime. Projects include the Hearth Restaurant and the Windsor Mill project..
Maureen Phair, director of the Arvada URA, discussed how to use an urban renewal tools to promote development in downtowns. This includes TIF, property acquisition, and the importance of partnerships with local governments, organizations, state governments, and other taxing districts. Check out the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority here!
Western Slope Leaders Discussion | Start, Stop, Continue
This portion of the workshop featured Western Slope municipal leaders as they share updates on what their communities are doing in response to COVID in a Start, Stop, Continue format style of discussion. Leaders included Bill Bell, Montrose City Manager; Greg Caton, Grand Junction City Manager; Dean Brookie, Mayor of Durango and Jenn Ooton, Assistant City Manager of Glenwood Springs.
Bill Bell, Montrose City Manager
- Start: Marketing and communication improvements have been made via partnerships with businesses, the Montrose Office of Tourism, and City Staff. This will continue after the pandemic.
- Stop: Currently on hold with a few capital investment projects, however these will come online as time goes on.
- Continue: The City and URA will continue to be aggressive, yet responsible, with economic redevelopment. Outreach to community to show how development positively impacts the Montrose community.
Greg Caton, Grand Junction City Manager
- Start: Bridging the information gap with increased communications with local leaders, businesses, and the community (daily virtual meetings). Partnership with business community for economic relief via sales/use/lodging tax deferments which put cash back to businesses (immediate cashflow). Marketing and promotions for local restaurants. Rental and mortgage assistance programs for businesses ($500k).
- Stop: Pause on several infrastructure projects along the Colorado River Front. $11 million general improvement district to work on creating a safe river front for public use and to spur private development at the Las Colonias Park. $13 million of public investment to help spur $80 million of private investment for outdoor recreation manufacturing.
- Continue: Work with DDA to utilize public space and “relax” rules to help allow for an innovative approach to more public space in Grand Junction.
Dean Brookie, Mayor of Durango
- Start: The formation of the URA in early 2020 to help spur development that benefits the community, such as housing.
- Stop: Paused a few infrastructure projects.
- Continue: Keep up the “grand experiment” of increasing public space for pedestrians and businesses. This is a great opportunity to test out different ways to make downtowns even more pedestrian friendly.
Jenn Ooton, Assistant City Manager of Glenwood Springs
- Start: Public space designs to increase access for pedestrians and give businesses ways to function during the pandemic. Bump-out, parklets, etc. Small-scale lot activations for business use (DDA owned land). In the final stages of completing a river front restoration project to allow for greater public river access. Providing PPE to businesses to give to visitors and patrons.
- Stop: Streetscape engineering project for 16th St has been paused but will be revisited. Paused a master-developer 12-acre lot along the river but will revisit in 2021.
- Continue: Communication with businesses to make sure everyone is on the same page. Increased focus on including the Latinx community members and businesses in meetings and community participation.
QUESTIONS + ANSWERS
Grand Junction- How are you tracking and running the gift-card program? How labor intensive is the program for staff?
There is an online for people to post image of receipt, and then staff will mail the gift card. It has been labor intensive, however staff normally focused on event planning have been able to work on this program temporarily. The gift card vendor is EML. Check EML out here.
Glenwood Springs- How did the City and DDA work with Glenwood Springs Beer Garden to allow for alley access and parking lot activation to server alcohol?
The City leased the alleyway to the brewery, and it will be used for emergency vehicle access. They are not using it for public use. This allows the brewery to have a clear connection from their business to their parking lot, which allowed for them to expand seating into parking lot.