• 10/03/2019 10:14 AM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)


    September 16 , 2019

    On September 16th-17th, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) worked with the City of Montrose to develop a Western Slope Reinvestment and Redevelopment Symposium on urban renewal tools and practices for the Montrose Urban Renewal Board and partners. The event was supported by City of Montrose, City of Durango, City of Grand Junction, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, and Dean Brookie Architecture.

    The first evening included a private workshop for attendees including Montrose City Council, Montrose Urban Renewal Authority, and the Montrose Development and Revitalization Team (DART). Presentations by DCI’s Katherine Correll and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck discussed how the city vision shapes the projects, the toolbox of funding options, how to right size tax increment financing areas, and how to encourage the types of development and redevelopment that communities are looking for.

    Symposium attendees were invited to come early and conduct a project area tour of the recently developed Mayfly Outdoors. This project combined private investment, tax increment, and Great Outdoors Colorado (GoCo) funds to develop a top notch manufacturing facility and a trail that connects the development to downtown while enhancing river access to neighboring communities. We also enjoyed a fabulous reception at Horsefly Brewing. Reception sponsored by Dean Brookie Architects.

    On day two, the Western Slope Reinvestment & Redevelopment Workshop in considered how to maximize impacts using Urban Renewal and the benefits of downtown management programs. Speakers included Bill Bell, City of Montrose; Katherine Correll, Downtown Colorado, Inc.; Kim Grant, Colorado Preservation, Inc.; Karen Harkin, CHFA; Alex Rugoff, City of Durango; Mike Scholl, City of Loveland; and Carolynne White, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

    Attendees included representatives from Montrose DART, Colorado Workforce Development Council, La Plata County, City of Montrose, Town of Collbran, City of Grand Junction, Town of Pagosa Springs, Grand Junction Downtown Partnership, City of Durango, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Development Research Partners, Colorado Housing & Finance Authority, Colorado Preservation, Inc, City of Loveland, Town of Walsenburg, Community Builders, Art District on Santa Fe, Colorado Main Street, City of Monte Vista, and the Department of Local Affairs.

    The dialogue included an introduction to urban renewal and how it can support catalyst projects and community priorities. Speakers shared some background on important factors for a successful downtown, including historic preservation, housing, and brownfield sites. The conversation explored each area and why projects cost more as well as the resources that help to level the playing field to make these projects feasible for the private sector to address. Participants were then walked through a project pro forma, the financial road map to financing a development project, and were able to discuss in small groups the details of the pro forma, the private sector gap, and the purpose and process for the Third Party Review.

    Ideas Shared

    • As the City moves forward with the Comprehensive Plan, consider how to build plan goals into the work of the URA will help to provide a means of encouraging private sector development. It is important to recognize that goals for one part of the community may not be applicable in all sections of the city so not all projects may not achieve all goals.
    • The goals of the public sector may differ significantly from the goals of the private sector.
    • Historic tax credits may need be isolated from TIF projects, so to maximize access to the tax credits, the developer can carve off the affordable housing piece as a separate project.
    • Opportunity Zones timing from project identification to breaking ground is very fast so communities who can expedite planning and zoning efforts to make those happen.
    • Raising capital with historic preservation projects is only half the challenge, but developing the plan for future use is often a significant challenge as well.
    • Housing and utilities should not require more than 30% of income or people are financially burdened and qualify for affordable housing.

    Questions and Answers

    • When you write the URA Plan, focus on the blight conditions that link the area to other areas of focus where you may want investment later. TIF can be used for anything that remedies the blight identified in the URA Plan.
    • What is 1348? 1348 means both Governance and Negotiation. Governance is included entities on your board. Negotiation is looking each plan area and the use of increment in the area. Adding a URA plan area would require negotiation if it was going to use property tax TIF from any entity.
    • What are the pros and cons of a larger TIF area versus a smaller TIF area?
    • Developing very specific and narrow boundaries for a TIF area makes tracking of impacts easier and reduces the risk of one or more project failure taking away from the increment for all. It can be one large urban renewal area, with small individual TIF areas focused on only the narrow project.
    • Timing of TIF is important and it is impacted by the assessor’s office, whether it is an assessment year, etc. Adopt the plan when the value is a low as possible but at a time where investment will happen in the near future. Turning on TIF Clock  in area 1, and wait on area 2?
    • How do you deal with Naysayers who think URA is public welfare?Invite them into the process. Go to the people rather than making them come to City Hall.
    • How did you implement the TIF – from the County Treasurer – Montrose invited the County Assessor to be the County representative on the board. The State Assessors Office also does an annual technical training.
    • What kinds of comments are coming as the URA formation is evolving?Very positive response for the most part, businesses and government are focused on housing for employees, banks are also interested in how it can work with a line of credit, private sector is seeing that Durango is serious about redeveloping. There is a lot of overlap with Opportunity Zones and they are building prospectuses around that effort.
    • Assessors’ Reference Library says that infrastructure is an increase in value that qualifies, but they don’t always record the value and attribute to increment to the base until the permits to go vertical are issued.

  • 09/05/2019 9:11 AM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)

    Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) is honored to work with The City of Brush! is as we continue efforts around the revitalization of Central Platoon School and the Brush! Challenge initiated in 2017.

    As we look to the future of Central Platoon School, the DCI Colorado Challenge Accelerator Program will use a holistic approach to focus on a vibrant downtown with sustainable partnerships increased entrepreneurship and economically vital businesses, and clear communications to assist with marketing opportunities in and around the community. Our efforts will outline the steps and help drive the process for the public sector to access and focus private sector investment toward the community vision of a sustainable and thriving community with a revitalized activity hub in the Central Platoon School Building.

    The Colorado Challenge Program is a unique team building accelerator focused on establishing a plan of work and proposal for funding over the course of twelve months. The program includes planning and development that will help to engage citizens in the strategy for moving forward toward a sustainable business-ecosystem for entrepreneurs and creative innovations and intervention. The Brush Challenge objectives for the next phase include:

    • Showcase Downtown Brush! and the opportunities that exist
    • Further discussion around the Central School as a community center
    • Explore mechanisms to help the City of Brush! be a strong partner in working with the private sector
    • Highlight new uses for Central Platoon School and vacant buildings in Downtown Brush!

    Join Brush! Leaders as we share our efforts, invite regional and state-wide guidance, and establish a plan for the future! Please review our proposed agenda and plan to join us for this dynamic event to share our vision and find partners and resources. The agenda is an work in process and may be subject to change!

    Read the Brush! 2017 Challenge Report

  • 08/21/2019 4:11 PM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)

    Dealmaking with Urban Renewal & the Downtown Toolbox

    Florence, Colorado

    In August 2019, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) the Town of Florence requested support to align private and public initiatives for downtown redevelopment. DCI was pleased to develop a program and team to focus maximizing impacts in downtown with Urban Renewal, how to collaborate with Business Improvement Districts, Downtown Development Authorities, and downtown management programs. DCI’s team included representatives from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS), Butler Snow, City of Loveland, the City of Colorado Springs Urban Renewal, City of Loveland Urban Renewal and the City of Wheat Ridge Urban Renewal. Our approach focused on basic education around tax increment financing (TIF) with an increasing level of complexity delving into layered resources available to revitalize their downtown.


    The City of Florence recently implemented a recommendation from the DCI 2014 Downtown Assessment to form an Urban Renewal Authority. The innovative community leadership is focused on how the TIF tool might be used to drive the community vision as laid out in the newly updated Master Plan, and several new private initiatives focused on revitalizing historic buildings. The City engaged DCI to plan and facilitate this training as DCI is Colorado’s association for building awareness, education, and training for URAs and special districts in our state.

    Downtown Colorado, Inc. believes that urban renewal and special district financing tools are an important tool to encourage good development and land use in Colorado. Building an informed and aware Board of Directors for urban renewal authorities creates a stronger network of urban renewal advocates across the state.

    Attendees Included: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Butler Snow, Central Block Properties, City of Florence, City of Loveland, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), Downtown Colorado, Inc., Emergent, Florence Citizen News, Fremont County, The Mezzanine, Northland Securities, Second-61, Upper Ark Development Corp.

    Speakers, facilitators, and event planners included: Steve Art, Wheat Ridge URA; Wade Broadhead, City of Florence; Katherine Correll, Downtown Colorado, Inc.; Caitlin Quander, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck; and Monica Rosenbluth, Butler Snow, Mike Scholl, City of Loveland.

    Dealmaking with Urban Renewal Part I

    Florence’s Dealmaking with Urban Renewal sessions included a two-part approach, starting with a private session for the Florence URA Board to discuss current initiatives, vision, and how to get it done. The training opened with a URA and TIF introduction and an Urban Renewal Case Study. The goal was to determine priorities and vision for the Florence URA. Main discussion topics included Catalyst and Priority Properties, Incentives/Regulations for property owners and developers, what is TIF, and determining the appropriate TIF Area and considering your funding toolbox.

    Dealmaking with Urban Renewal Part II

    Day two included a public session with a deeper dive into case studies and all special districts options and financing tools. Presentations focused on visioning for downtown and other special district options such as a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Business Improvement Districts (BID), as well as the benefits of downtown management programming.

    Using the Ivywild School as a case study from Colorado Springs’ Urban Renewal Authority, participants gained a broader understanding of why some projects are more costly and the ways that the public sector can encourage redevelopment of challenging priority sites.  Next, an overview of the Florence Unbridled Campus opened discussion around current investment happening in Florence and the opportunities that are within grasp if the community partners with the private sector. 

    Afternoon discussions focused on filling the gap on challenging priority sites with presentations from Colorado Housing & Financing Authority, Colorado Springs URA, and City of Loveland. Participants were able to build awareness and ask questions about tools to bring in housing and how to make historic and previously used sites pencil out. Finally, the presenters discussed how we measure impacts and tell the story including the importance of reporting and showing your impact.

    Results from Dealmaking with Urban Renewal in Florence?

    In less than two weeks, the City of Florence has voted to create to urban renewal plan areas in the town. The developers, town leaders, and business owners have a greater alignment and are ready to work for a more vibrant downtown!

    Glossary of Terms for Colorado URA

    • The Plan Area: Document you have formed that encompasses a certain area of the community. Multiple areas may exist within a city, there is no limit on how many. Within the plan area, TIF boundary may be all properties within the area, or a subpart within the area, or multiple TIF areas.
    • Project Area: Activity or undertaking.
    • URA: Legal entity with jurisdiction of the whole city.
    • TIF Area: The area within a Plan Area that is collecting TIF.
    • Blighting Conditions: Five of eleven required for use of eminent domain.
    • “But for” is the idea that without the support there will be a gap that makes the clean up of blighted conditions for an activity or undertaking not feasible financially.
    • Public Improvement is what is allowed with urban renewal.
    • TIF Clock: is the twenty five years that a URA has to receive TIF revenues from a project area.
    • Board Make-Up: Council-led means that the council is the URA board, which makes up about half of the URAs. The other URAs are board appointed by Council.
    • Tax increment financing: Can include sales or property tax.

    Structuring the Agreement

    The process for structuring an agreement is individual to each URA. The staff is responsible for working on this and should be the face of the URA in working with partners. The board should be aware of the process that they use.

    Types of Financing

    Traditional TIF: Use the return on investment to repay/pay for improvements. contributing the difference between the base year tax revenue and the increased tax revenue generated by the project, year over year. This is the least risky type of financing.

    1. Bond: Requires financial and bond team.
    2. Bank Loan: Requires financial team.
    3. Hybrid of all of the above.

    Legal Requirements

    URAs are just as transparent as any other public entity. Best practice is to adopt bylaws, though not required by law. Can also adopt policy or other form documents. This is often used to encourage how the URA would like to govern its work including grant guidelines, local hiring, etc.

    Conflict of Interest: There are differences from the other Boards and Commissions for the URA Board. URA Board members cannot own property in the area and cannot invest in the property area.


    How do you incentivize investment for property owners who are happy how it is?

    There are many ways that special districts like Urban Renewal Authorities (URA), Business Improvement Districts (BID), and Downtown Development Authorities (DDA). Using financing from TIF and mill levies the town could offer facade grants and building improvement grants. They can also establish disinvestment or dilapidation fees or design overlays that require changes. If there was a BID or DDA established then the property owners would most likely be paying into the district’s improvements.

    Is there a certain size of project where Urban Renewal doesn’t make sense?

    Think about taxable value of the property currently. For example a publicly owned building  like a school would = 0. The act of buying it and making it privately owned starts the increase on the taxable value immediately. It’s all about the function of deal structure in terms of it would be a good project for Urban Renewal. Be best friends with your assessor: they differ on the manuals they use and how to calculate the assessed value i.e. from previously when it was a school or unused lot or from when it was bought to be privately developed and managed.

    Each plan is different. What tools are best to use?

    Each development plan and priorities are different in each undertaking. Some want more residential, or to work with the growth of a university or other entity, sometimes it is more about what you’re getting rid of. If the goal is to draw people in that is great but property owners will want more for their properties. If you’re waiting for a developer, don’t take a project on just to do it. There has to be a gap to fill and community support. Have good people on your team with experience to back you up i.e. good financial, good legal, etc. The Unbridled project at the school is a good growth model to keep some talent and bring more capital in the community as a catalyst. It is proven that because of projects like Ivywild other things are possible. For example, the school district is more open to negotiating better deals.

    Do you have to negotiate with taxing entities to get increment?

    Again, for a URA to be successful there has to be a gap (but, for….) and community support. There is an option if their mill levy contribution is important enough, after 120 days you have go through mediation. It all depends on the relationship and what the districts impacts are. URA’s work hard to create win-win scenarios. City, library, county have shares. It is important to remember that you are not taking money away from school district because they have back-fill from the state.

    If you take out a bond, and someone walks away what happens?

    The URA is a separate legal entity and they take out the bond on the promise of increment. Then the situation depends on redevelopment agreement. There generally is a certification process for contractors. Usually there is a construction loan where the company has to prove they built it to get bond.

    What if URA doubts the ability of an entity to bring a project to fruition?

    URA will often share revenue NOT risk. Create the agreements around revenue created by building the project that increases valuation and results in TIF. Then in the developer doesn’t deliver, other than choosing a bad partner, the URA isn’t out.

    Are there ways to fill smaller gaps?

    Community banks can be very helpful because they know the community and are probably interested in investing. Sometimes they may not have the expertise to navigate urban renewal financing but you could bring them in and have a consultant advise on the financials. The URA has the ability to take out the loan.

    What are the options for financing?

    • URAs can issue bonds or raise money without going to voter approval. They may also choose to do a reimbursement agreement with the developer, where the URA pledges TIF (all or some)
    • Forms a Metro District, allows for control of when and where debt incurred.
    • City can also be a borrower, when TIF goes away faster because City may do a Lease Purchase Agreement because the City has the best credit rating. In this situation, the developer may need to borrow from a bank, build the infrastructure, demonstrate the investment, and then receive payment in tranches from the city.

    What are eligible improvements?

    This is a public policy decision for the board to make. Most often public improvements, but sometimes private. There should also be a way to verify what improvements have been put in place. In Denver, that requires social policies, well-paying jobs,  public art, etc. In Colorado Springs, they usually help with infrastructure improvements. E.g. 1) County might add in additional affordable housing and then that changes the IGAs with taxing entities FIRST, and then with developers. 2) if a community wants more commercial kitchens, they can shape the policy to encourage those types of private improvements.

    How to decide how much TIF to dedicate to any project?

    • Could be across the board with a certain percentage. This allows some money for administrative.
    • Can be based on the financing gap as demonstrated by the developer?
    • If it is the whole town, it must be determined project by project.
    • Note: Government Goal is to remedy blight and achieve other objectives, build sidewalks or streets… A win for the public sector may not be reflective of money made…

    How to prove the “But for”? There is no way to prove except to do nothing, but in some places, looking at the history (20 years without investment) as a possible future. If communities are trying to make something happen, the do nothing approach is probably not working.

    How much is an appropriate amount for a Developer to make? Look at proforma without the TIF and then what it would be if there was a TIF. Then the URA board and determine what profit is acceptable.

    How does TIF clock impact a plan area?  When you adopt a plan, and authorize TIF in an area of the plan, that authorization to collect TIF is for 25 years. Once TIF area starts in one Plan Area there are 25 years and that money must be used in that area.

    If development is happening, how does the URA justify projects in the area using the “but for” test?

    The “But for” test is a policy decision imposed by the bodies using URA, not in the statute. The reason it is important is because it demonstrates that URAs are not just giving money to developers. However, even if development is happening, it isn’t always the quality or standard that the community needs. If the market currently only supports a three story walk up with surface parking, but the community wants affordable, accessible housing with a parking structure, this tool allows the community to help the private sector meet the community vision even if the market doesn’t currently support that level or quality of development.

    Do Developers like working with TIF or is it brain damage?

    Some developers specialize in this. They understand how to work with communities and how the give and take works. This is a small pool and they do very well. However, this requires a higher level of transparency and close scrutiny of proforma and profits. It costs more, takes more, and requires a significant review. Most developers don’t do this unless it is necessary to have a public private partnership.

    What effect does working with TIF have on the developer beyond transparency?

    Developers want to leave a legacy they can be proud of and public private partnerships result in greater quality, from finishes to sustainability, connectivity, etc. But you do need to agree with the public sector about how much profit you will make. The public sector can’t burden the developer, but they can ask for improvements if the TIF can support the additional cost.

    Why choose a plan area with a new TIF clock, rather than taking a plan area and adding a new TIF area in the area?

    The statutes says to plan the Area as narrowly as possible to address the blight. It is also disadvantageous to start a TIF clock if there is not interested in investing as there could then not be enough time/money to have a real impact on development.

  • 08/07/2019 2:17 PM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)

    On Thursday, August 1st, DCI and the Colorado Municipal League (CML) hosted the 2nd annual Downtown Mobile Tour and DCI Districts Committee lunch in Colorado Springs. We had DCI and CML members join us from around the state including representation from Colorado Springs, Denver, Lakewood, Manitou Springs, Wellington, Florence, Centennial, Woodland Park, Brush, Longmont, Monument, Central City, Frederick, Golden, and Littleton.

    The event included a stop in Castle Rock for a presentation from the Castle Rock Town Hall and Downtown Alliance, a tour of the Colorado Springs Ivywild School, lunch at Phantom Canyon in downtown Colorado Springs with a panel of Colorado Springs leaders including Susan Edmondson, Jill Gaebler, Jeff Greene, Jonathan Neely, Carl Schueler, Jariah Walker, Peter Wysocki. The day ended with a tour of Downtown Colorado Springs.


    Our first stop on the mobile tour was in downtown Castle Rock. Kevin Tilson, president of the Castle Rock Downtown Alliance joined the bus ride to provide a driving tour of downtown projects. The tour group enjoyed coffee and pastries at the new river park and pavilion that is a Downtown Development Authority project, where Dave Corliss, Castle Rock Town Manager, discussed upcoming projects and the processes, partnerships, and funding necessary to get them off the ground. Kevin provided the group with a map of the downtown development projects as well as a short summary on the proposed Encore development project


    The Ivywild School is an exciting urban renewal project in Colorado Springs. The Ivywild Elementary School in Colorado Springs opened in 1916 and was one of seven elementary schools closed in 2009 because of declining enrollment. With the help of visionary developers, Joseph Coleman and Mike Bristol, working with the Colorado Springs’ urban renewal, the 20K sq. ft. building was transformed with over $5M in investments so the bustling development is once again a vibrant heart of the neighborhood. The school hosts a variety of businesses and public spaces within the different rooms of the school: Bristol Brewing Company in the former cafeteria, a bar in the principal’s office, community gathering space in the gym, along with many other merchants throughout the building. The Ivywild presentation was led by Jariah Walker of the Colorado Springs URA and Joseph Coleman, a developer on the project. Read a short description and background of the Ivywild project here


    Colorado Springs’ Leaders joined the mobile tour participants at Downtown Colorado Springs’ Phantom Canyon restaurant. Mayor John Suthers welcomed the audience and gave an inspirational talk about the vision and work that has been done to further downtown and commercial districts in the city. The group then heard from featured panelists:

    • Susan Edmondson, Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs
    • Jill Gaebler, Colorado Springs City Council
    • Jeff Greene, Colorado Springs Chief of Staff
    • Jonathan Neely, Old Colorado City Partnership
    • Carl Schueler, PlanCOS Project Manager
    • Jariah Walker, Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority
    • Peter Wysocki, City of Colorado Springs Planner

    The panel discussed various collaborations between the downtown partnership, the URA, and the city. The discussion focused on private-public partnerships and the vision of downtown Colorado Springs within the next 10 years.

    Following lunch, Susan Edmondson led us on a tour of downtown Colorado Springs with a focus on recent development and projects. She pointed out businesses who have repaired and increased the value of downtown historic buildings, a public mural art program, a new sports field near downtown, the potential development of a small entertainment district at the south end of downtown, among other exciting projects in the area.

    With a blossoming “new south end” of downtown at Tejon and Moreno, separated from the city center by a block of parking garage, Susan explained that it is a struggle to connect the two. The parking garages cause many tourists and pedestrians to stop walking before completing the full downtown strip. The city is using strategic public art to draw pedestrians past the parking garages towards the south end.

    Downtown Colorado, Inc. is honored to have partners and supporters like Colorado Municipal League, Town of Casle Rock, the City of Colorado Springs, Downtown Colorado Springs Partnership, and Colorado Springs Urban Renewal. Special thanks to Susan Edmondson, Kevin Tilson, and Jariah Walker for helping to coordinate and plan this event.

  • 07/24/2019 4:34 PM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)

    Last week Downtown Colorado, Inc. partnered with Congress for the New Urbanism - CO Chapter, Denver Housing Authority, and Youth on Record to host Mariposa: Urbanism Reimagined in the heart of the Mariposa District. The event featured a panel discussion with a Q&A session, a walking tour of completed and upcoming housing projects throughout the district, and a project-board open house of the Mariposa redevelopment.

    The Q&A session opened with a performance by a student of Youth on Record’s FEMpowerment program. The young artist, Edwina, performed a short set that included both covers and original tunes. You can check out links to her performance below:

    Go Tell Yesterday

    Joni Mitchell Cover


    The panel showcased perspectives from multiple parts of the project including residents, Youth on Record – a nonprofit located in the neighborhood, architects & designers, Denver Housing Authority, and public artists.

    • Jami Duffy, Youth on Record
    • Shaina Burkett, Denver Housing Authority
    • Rita Jaramillo, Current Mariposa Resident
    • David Griggs, Public Artist
    • Brandy LeMae, Workshop8

    Each of these panelists were involved in the creation or activation of the Mariposa neighborhood. Youth on Record is located in the bottom space of an apartment complex which provides music lessons and studio experience for youth interested in music. Denver Housing Authority executed interviews, community meetings, and home visits to gain feedback and an understanding of resident needs for the upcoming project. Shaina and her DHA colleagues spent facilitated these meetings and put hours of time into building relationships with residents in order to create the most effective plan for redevelopment.  Rita, who currently resides in Mariposa and lived there prior to redevelopment, offered her thoughts on the entire process, from gaining community insights and opinions to project execution, she only had positive things to say about the redevelopment. David Griggs, a public artist with works all over the United States, is on the neighborhood board and talked about the value of art reflecting the community it represents. Brandy LeMae of Workshop8, an architecture and design firm, was hired to work on phase six of the project. She discussed how valuable resident’s input was in creating effective building plans.

    DHA approached this project with the intention to meet the needs of the pre-existing community. They hosted multiple community meetings and used various strategies to collect as many voices as possible. All residents were provided temporary housing during throughout the project and over 50% of residents chose to move back once their updated homes were completed, which is well above the national average. The development offers market-rate, public, and affordable housing. All types are integrated and provide the same amenities for residents, no matter income. DHA’s goal with the redevelopment was to create a space in which all residents feel valued and heard. We are proud to partner with organizations who are so committed to equity and ensuring that the needs of all community members are equally valued.  

    A Big Thank You to Our Event Sponsors!

  • 07/11/2019 10:37 AM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)

    Engage & Activate: A DCI Downtown Institute

    Part 2

    This presentation and discussion, led by Brian Corrigan of Futures United Network (FUN), demonstrated the value of incorporating creatives and creative entrepreneurship into the problem solving process within urban planning and community development. He works at the intersection of the creative economy, technology, and community development and shared strategies on how to activate vacant buildings through various avenues, including pop-ups, incubators, and public art.

    Creative Placemaking: Intentional integration of art, artists, and creativity into the community planning and development.

    • This asks: How do we bring artists and designers and creatives to the table to really think of the artistic process as a form of problem solving?


    • Denver Pop-Up Example
      • Accelerator/incubator for the creative sector
        • 100% Colorado designed goods
        • Offered grants to creative entrepreneurs
        • Voting process (free marketing!)
    • Low budget: low cost, creative alternatives. Use creativity to make it happen!
      • Dumpster diving!
      • Cardboard, sharpies, etc.
      • Recyclable materials
    • Built and grew through multiple iterations


    • Creativity is a renewable resource
      • Creates a level playing field
      • It can come from anyone or anywhere

    Community Pride

    • A place can see itself differently and create its image
      • Give Access
        • Provide permission to creative people to demonstrate what they can do
      • Get rid of the red tape to make this possible
    • Practice Openness
      • More than just talk
    • Have a willingness to try things and just do it


    • What energy is your downtown exuding? Your stores? Your stories?
    • Energy builds more energy: What energy are you putting out there?
    • It’s contagious, what are you doing to spread this energy?
      • Entrepreneurship is the package you put that energy in so you can drive an improved future.

    Creatives, Entrepreneurship, Creative Businesses

    • What is happening locally, right in front of you? Look for potential there.
      • Meow Wolf Example
        • Artist collective, had nearly given up
        • Started in a vacant bowling alley
        • Grew into a lucrative and successful collective
      • San Luis Valley Example
        • Artist created 3D printing with alternative materials
        • He was inspired by his experiences growing up in the SLV
          • It’s important to include and showcase creativity that is born out of small places, rural places, all places.
          • We can’t just have creativity come from the city – it starts to all look the same.
    • Challenging the “everyday”
      • Do stores need to be in normal buildings?
        • What could a store look like?
        • How could we design or do this differently?
    • Interesting Storefronts: Cupcake Store Monster’s Mouth Entrance
      • Magical, fun, sparks imagination!
      • Can storefronts be a form of public art?
    • Alternative/Everyday Materials
    • For use in stores or public art or in pop ups
    • Use creativity to bring the everyday into excellence

    Experience economy

    • Built out of a store that only sells experiences
    • The “experience menu” allows people to connect with one another and have fun
    • What can your community experience be?         

    After the presentation, Brian led a brainstorming session asking participants to think of the possibilities that could be done with a vacant space – we used our example space across the street as inspiration. Post-It Note ideas included:

      Big Ideas

    • Indoor Playground
    • Commercial Kitchen
    • Pop-Up Escape Room
    • Holiday Market
    • Pop Up Trampoline Space

      Barriers + Barrier Solutions

    • No Interest = Use community resources to promote
    • Lack of Money = Donation/fundraising campaign
    • Outdated façade = Temporary changes to storefront based on pop up experience

  • 06/25/2019 1:35 PM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)

    Engage & Activate: A DCI Downtown Institute

    Part 1

    June 11, 2019 | Lamar, CO

    Downtown Colorado, Inc. hosted Engage & Activate: A Downtown Institute in Lamar, CO on June 11, 2019. We had representation from multiple communities from the southeast Colorado area including the City of Lamar, community members and business owners in Lamar, the City of Florence, Kiowa County, City of Central City, and Prowers County.

    The event consisted of multiple presentations by Ben Levenger of Downtown Redevelopment Services and Brian Corrigan of Futures United Network. Below we've summarized key points from the Community Engagement Toolbox presentation on how to increase community engagement at public meetings. 

    Community Engagement Toolbox

    This presentation, shared by Ben Levenger of Downtown Redevelopment Services, focused on strategies to engage all members of a community while adapting to a changing and digital world. He shared several examples of how to modernize your typical approaches to increase community participation in public meetings. Ben shared three helpful tactics to increase revitalization efforts: 1) Effective Public Engagement, 2) Vibrant Community Assessment, and 3) the Revitalization Roadmap.

    Effective Public Engagement & Input: How to Effectively Gather Input in the Digital Age

    Roadblocks to Engagement

    • Old Methods
    • Apathy
    • Unresponsive community
    • Hearing but not listening

    Strategies to Increase Engagement:

    • Be Aware of Changing Trends: Set up an inclusive community that invites and welcomes residents to public meetings. Set this tone through a variety of strategies: Inclusive marketing. Prioritize local-based communications over exclusively social media. Focus on person-to-person interactions. Really try to understand residents. Residents need to feel included at community events.
    • Liven Up Public Meetings: Provide multi-sensory experiences at public meetings. People can get more engaged with games. It increases the feedback. People are more open and share more. Provide areas of entertainment to occupy children (ie coloring books and crayons) accurate information when in a person to person small conversation. Increase communication methods.
    • Open Mic Opportunities: Less programmed Feedback and more open mic. Let the content be determined by priority of the audience. Consider ways to group similar interests together. Make it inclusive regardless of differences.
    • Increased methods of communication: Strategically use social media. Be adaptive and mix styles. Be consistent. Be inclusive and allow all voices to be equal.
    • Guided Exploration: Help wrangle answers to stay in parameters of discussion… Use the Stepping Stones for guiding discussion – A tool to guide community conversations with no set path. Allows you to set topic and then consider the questions on the following levels:
      • Community-wide
      • Corridor specific
      • Parcel specific
      • Stepping Stones: This tool can be used in guided exploration. Have community members begin at the top and move through the cart to the bottom. There are no wrong answers here!

    Vibrant Community Assessment: The VCA is used to help gain a deeper understanding of your community. This type of assessment is vital because it is the first step in creating an achievable and implementable redevelopment plan.

    Components of a VCA:

    • Existing Conditions: Seeing what your community has will help you see where you need to go. Assess:
      • Building conditions
      • Building Utilization
      • “Communityness”
      • Infrastructure Conditions
      • Business or amenities
    • Community Identity Assessment: What makes your community feel like home?
      • What are three words to define the community?
      • What do people in your community have in common?
      • What are the traditions that link people in the community? 
      • Does your community support a common vision?
    • Building Standards Review: Uphold the building expectations you want to see if your community. Ask more of people and they will usually live up to the challenge. If you lower expectations, you will have less results. Building standards are a collective set of decisions that are agreed upon regarding the look, feel, and behavior.
    • Connectedness: Facilitate the feeling of a sense of place for your community members by providing experiences that bring them together. For people to experience place, people must meet face-to-face!
      • Personal relationships are the foundation of a community.
      • Find reasons to get together or get together just because. Experiencing place happens when people get together.
      • Focus on inclusion of all demographics with content and timing!
    • Ownership Observations: Do you have vested citizens? Do citizens take ownership of their community?
      • Residents serve the community and vice versa
      • Individual actions mount to a large community benefit
      • Apathy is a true community killer
    • External Appearance: What is your town’s image? How is it perceived by visitors or prospective residents?
      • Appearances of travelers shape the perception of travelers
      • Blight affects the feelings of residents
      • Appearances affects opinion

    Revitalization Roadmap: This tool can help guide you create change by utilizing available resources and helps municipalities “set a course to a strong community”.

    Elements to the Roadmap include:

    • Destination Discovery: This step ensures the important background pieces have been put in place before making a project public.
      • Ensuring critical conversations are undertaken
      • Creating a steering committee
      • Creating a unified front for public inquisition
      • Providing transparency for the project
    • Downtown Assessment: This assessment provides a starting place for your community by reviewing current downtown conditions such as:
      • Architectural/Façade
      • Civic spaces
      • Economic health
      • Community character
      • Legislative or regulatory reviews
      • Infrastructure systems
    • Public Input: This step ensures that the municipality or consultant understands the community and knows their opinions.
      • Stakeholder input meetings
      • Community input meeting
      • Community charrettes
      • Blunt conversations
      • Creation of a shared vision
    • Making the Map: Although detours are to be expected, having a set of guidelines as a map will help reach your goal and stay on track. Downtown Redevelopment Services recommends to:
      • Real Estate Investment Strategies
      • Community Capacity
      • Placemaking or asset personification
      • Built environment assessment
      • Prototypical block and streetscape guidelines

    Stay tuned for Part II, featuring presentations from Ben Levenger and Brian Corrigan on activating vacant buildings!

  • 06/13/2019 11:27 AM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)
    On May 29-31, 2019, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI), the City of Durango, and the City of Montrose
    held the first Western Slope Redevelopment & Reinvestment Symposium in Durango, CO. The goal
    reshape ideas for redevelopment and reinvestment in Western Slope communities. This will be the
    first of a series of symposiums that will be held across communities along the Western Slope. The
    next event will take place in Montrose, CO on September 16-17, 2019.
    The Symposium featured delegates from Buena Vista, Cortez, Denver, Durango, Grand Junction,
    Ignacio, La Plata County, Montrose, Mountain Village, Pagosa Springs, Ridgway, Silverton, and

    On May 29-31, 2019, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI), the City of Durango, and the City of Montrose held the first Western Slope Redevelopment & Reinvestment Symposium in Durango, CO. The goal of the symposium was to blend informal connections, case studies, and interactive dialogue to reshape ideas for redevelopment and reinvestment in Western Slope communities. This will be the first of a series of symposiums that will be held across communities along the Western Slope. The next event will take place in Montrose, CO on September 16-17, 2019.

    The Symposium featured delegates from Buena Vista, Cortez, Denver, Durango, Grand Junction, Ignacio, La Plata County, Montrose, Mountain Village, Pagosa Springs, Ridgway, Silverton, and Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

    Brief Synopsis of Sessions

    Creating a Shared Community Vision

    Scott Shrine, City of Durango Ann Christensen, DHM Design, and Brandon Stam, Downtown Grand Junction opened up the main portion of the symposium by breaking down what redevelopment means; the importance of involving the community early on in the development process;  which tools to use when gathering community input and how to effectively visualize redevelopment ideas to the public. Case studies included vision work for Durango’s Camino del Rio district, Longmont’s St. Vrain District, and Grand Junction’s Downtown Plan update.

    Identifying Projects and Partnerships for Redevelopment

    David Fishering, Storm King Distilling Co., and Chelsea Rosty, City of Montrose, used an interview style format to open up discussion about the redevelopment timeline of the Storm King Distilling Co. project which saw a neglected site turn into a successful business. They discussed the financial tools, incentives, partnerships and grit required to create quality redevelopment. The conversation also looked at common misconceptions about the redevelopment process.

    What Does Successful Redevelopment Look Like?

    Savannah Lytle, City of Durango Ann Christensen, DHM Design, and Elizabeth Boone, Reynolds Ash + Associates broke down the fundamentals and history of crafting design standards to correctly guide redevelopment; what it takes to have a sense of what communities want buildings to look like and how they should function; and the importance of a building’s context, scale and relation to public realm. Examples included: Main Street Pagosa, 3rd Ave in Durango, and the Cheyenne West Edge neighborhood plan.

    Redevelopment & Reinvestment Perspectives

    Troy Bernberg, Northland Securities, moderated a lunchtime panel of Bill Bell, Monica Rosenbluth, Paul Benedetti, Diedra Silbert, and Doug Dragoo. Discussion topics included the importance of collaboration; knowing which partners are involved at different stages in the redevelopment process; what a municipalities needs from a developer to effectively evaluate a project and what a developer needs from a municipality.

    Urban Renewal Authorities 101 & 201

    This series of breakout sessions were led by Steve Art, Paul Benedetti, Bell Bill, Troy Bernberg, and Monica Rosenbluth is DCI’s signature session which gives an overview of how urban renewal authorities work in Colorado. Attendees gained an understanding of the tools, laws and structure that an urban renewal authority has. The 201 portion took a deeper dive into how tax increment financing (TIF) works and how to structure deals with developers.

    Brownfields, Historic Preservation and Other Unique Aspects of Redevelopment

    Doug Jamison, Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Virgil Turner, City of Montrose, and Savannah Lytle, City of Durango, gave attendees an overview of what brownfields are; where brownfields are  commonly located in communities; the history of redevelopment incentives involving brownfield remediation and the benefits associated with brownfield redevelopment. Virgil Turner shared case studies on how historic preservation efforts and brownfield remediation led to excellent redevelopment projects in Montrose. Examples include d Art Moderne-style City Steam Laundry building; the plans for developing the Bullock Power Plant and the Sharing ministries which utilized CBDG Grants and incentives granted by the City of Montrose to be completed

    Creative Districts: Arts & Culture as a Redevelopment Tool

    Diedra Silbert, Town of Ridgway, and Hayley Kirkman, Durango Creative District and Local First,  broken down the history and legislation behind Colorado Creative Districts; what defines a “creative” in terms of use for a district; how to navigate the process of becoming a Colorado Creative District.  Diedra broken down what it means to be a Creative District, examples of projects in Ridgway, Trinidad and Carbondale. Hayley Kirkman gave attendees a first-person perspective on how to navigate the process of becoming a certified Creative District as Durango itself is currently going through that process.

    Redevelopment Financing Tools & Layering Opportunities

    An expert panel of Troy Bernberg, Northland Securities; Doug Jamison, CDPHE; Laura Lewis Marchino, Region 9; Chelsea Rosty, City of Montrose; Brandon Stam, Downtown Grand Junction discussed the tools and programs that can be used in helping create vibrant downtowns. Brandon Stam gave an iverview of how Grand Junction is utilizing BIDs, DDA and a Creative District to plan for development, events, streetscaping and planning for the future. Chelsea Rosty talked about how Montrose uses a combination of URAs, DDAs and a development and revitalization team to help its downtown and businesses grow.

    Doug Jamison covered the incentive programs and grants targeted towards brownfield remediation such as Colorado’s Voluntary Cleanup Program; Colorado Brownfields Revolving Lof enterprise zones; the basics of opportunity zones and how layering different tools and zones can lead to successful projects. Examples of layering included the Commons Building in Durango. The Commons Building hosts the Durango Adult Education Center, Southwest Conservation Corps and other small nonprofits. It was developed by a combination of an Enterprise Zone, USDA Community Facility Loan & Grant Program, and New Market Tax Credits.an Fund; Colorado Brownfields Grant (H.B. 1306) Program and the Colorado Tax Credit for Remediation of Contaminated Land.

    Solving for Redevelopment: Breakout Exercises

    Attendees were asked to engage and interact with each other by breaking into groups and answering three dynamic questions focused on shaping the future of redevelopment on the Western Slope. The three groups were:

    • What are the components of equitable design and engagement to create successful projects?  How do we accomplish this in smaller communities? 
    • What does redevelopment and resilience mean to the Western Slope? 
    • How do developers and property owners navigate the development process? 

    Each group had around 45 minutes to an hour to answer the question(s). The guidelines for the exercise were to answer the main question(s) by addressing: the tools, methods, and/or polices that will help achieve the goal, the key partnerships and communication that need to take place, and to address the next steps.

    What are the Components of Equitable Design and Engagement to Create Successful Projects? How do we Accomplish this in Smaller Communities?

    Moderated by Diedra Silbert, Ridgway and Ann Morganthaler, Montrose

    FindingsEquitable design to this group meant meeting the community where they are, and recognizing that different people within the community have different needs. A major issue that was identified was how and when developers/ municipalities reach out to the public during the development process.

    StakeholdersThe group identified a list of stakeholders who are or should be involved in the development process. This includes: developers, property owners, tenants, local government, the planning department, architects, and the community-at-large. The group felt that it is coming for the tenants to be left out of the process, although a lot of times along the Western Slope tenants have been in the community for a long time and should have their voices heard.

    Tools for ImplementationNext steps and tools mentioned included a re-structured design review process that allows for greater review of the sketch design and sketch subdivision portion so there are less 11th hour challenges from the public. In conjunction with the idea of re-structuring the design review process was for those involved to use layman’s terms instead of “industry lingo”, as it will help the public understand and not become as frustrated with the idea of the project. Another tweak to the development process would be to offer meetings at different times (not just after traditional work hours), as different people within the community are available at different times of the day.

    What does Redevelopment and Resilience mean to the Western Slope?

    Moderated by Imogen Ainsworth, City of Durango and Kate Busse, Department of Local Affairs Resiliency Office

    FindingsShocks and stressors as related to resiliency were two major topics discussed by the group. Shocks are “external short-term deviations from long-term trends, deviations that have substantial negative effects on people’s current state of well-being, level of assets, livelihoods, or safety, or their ability to withstand future shocks” (Zseleczky and Yosef, 2014).  Shocks that effect the Western Slope include wildfires, floods, rapid loss of extractive industry and the pace of technological change.

    Stressors are seen as the long-term societal, economic, climatic or geographic issues that have negative effects on a communities or person. Stressors that were identified include affordable housing, climate change, long-term drought, connectivity/ transportation, lack of diversity, and .geographic remoteness.

    There was lots of discussion on how shocks and stressors affect the mental health of the community. The question “how are you supposed to create a sense of community after a shock such as a fire?” was raised.

    StakeholdersThe group identified a list of stakeholders that need to coordinate to in order to have a positive response to shocks and stressors along the Western Slope. Stakeholders included: Local government, DOLA, media, EMS, social services, teachers, local business leaders, developers, banks, mental health professionals, and other regional partners (county).

    Tools for ImplementationThe group discussed the need for communities to create readiness and/or resiliency plans. The need to define metrics or find metric on how to track success short-term as well as long-term is crucial for these plans to be successful.  There was discussion about creating a committee to search for funding opportunities to help begin the process of writing a resiliency plan for the region. An example of how Fort Collins has a “Futures Committee” that meets on a regular basis to discuss long-term trends for the community, and how they want Fort Collins to development over the course of the next 40-60 years. Communication is key, and a structure to elevate community voices in Western Slope communities will be an important step.

    How do Developers and Property Owners Navigage teh Development Process?

    Moderated by Monica Rosenbluth, Butler Snow and Brandon Stam, Grand Junction

    FindingsThe key finding for this group was how important building and nurturing relationships between the public and private sector are for successful development and redevelopment projects are. Clear definitions of the roles each of the stakeholder and how they interact with each other are important to share so groups do not get tunnel vision and lose site of the big picture.

    StakeholdersStakeholder include property owners, developers, local government, planning department, community-at-large, downtown organizations,

    Tools for ImplementationThe key takeaways revolve around building relationships within the community and to develop a cohesive vision for what future development in the community should look like. That should happen long before projects are brought to the table.  Private sector stakeholders should build relationships with those in the local government and define the role that each entity will play during the development process.

    An idea of creating business-to-business meetings or coffee dates between businesses, property owners, and developers was discussed as it has been successful in communities such as Grand Junction and Castle Rock. The creation of a “development checklist” that can be shared to property owners and developers on how to navigate the process would also allow for greater clarity and show those looking to redevelop property if it will align with the community’s goals as well as if it will work on said property.

  • 05/30/2019 9:35 AM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)

    Aaron Schultz has served at the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce in an Americorps VISTA capacity building position over the past year. He is finishing up his final month there and has shared what the past year in the Americorps program has meant to him: 

    Despite having visited a number of small mountain towns, I never thought I would end up living in one - at least not so soon. Still, I came across an opportunity in Manitou Springs, CO that seemed to tick all the boxes: experience in strategic planning and municipal governance through AmeriCorps VISTA. I interviewed for the position over the phone and had the fortune of visiting as DCI was giving a presentation to the local community. After a warm invitation, I took the plunge and accepted the offer.

    I spent much of my time in the first couple of weeks just trying to remember all of the new faces I’d met. I was surprised then when a near complete stranger invited me to have Thanksgiving with her family if I would be alone for the holiday. We shared a lot of conversations over a meal, and leftover food from a meeting or event would often be boxed and sent home with me. It was around that time that I started getting roped into community events, like volunteering for the community potluck or supporting the local heritage center fundraiser. Whether or not I had noticed, I was becoming a part of Manitou Springs.

    Spending a year in AmeriCorps in a small town comes with unique benefits and challenges that I am only beginning to understand at the end of my service. I got to see up close how cities work and play a role in shaping its future. The local volunteer parks group and a city council member asked me to help submit a grant to rebuild a flood-damaged park, and we ended up getting $293,000 to build out the first phase. I was tasked with piloting a new marketing campaign and with the help of some paint and power tools, I designed and built a selfie-station for a special event called the Fruitcake Toss. Each day has been an adventure, but I learned that Manitou Springs is full of people are willing to think creatively to solve their problems and I got to be along for the ride.

    Manitou isn’t the only Colorado community testing creative solutions. At quarterly trainings for AmeriCorps VISTAs, DCI gave us the chance to share projects in our host community. It was helpful to meet peers and build a support system for navigating AmeriCorps. Moreover, DCI provided opportunities to meet leaders from around the state. Not only was this valuable for building my professional network, it also showed me how they are tackling the issues facing their communities and the lessons other cities can learn from their experiences.

    I was skeptical moving to a small town, but as my service comes to a close the hardest part is knowing that I might have to leave. Over the course of a year, I have met incredible people who have put me to work. They helped me to grow personally and professionally every day. More than that, they opened up their homes, made sure I had enough to eat, and made me to feel truly welcome in an adopted home. I am so grateful for the experiences I have gained as an AmeriCorps VISTA and only hope that I have given as much with my service as Manitou Springs has given me.

  • 05/13/2019 12:40 PM | Carly Mazure (Administrator)

    In recent years, DCI has been lucky enough to work with Derek Berardi, a Colorado based graphic designer. He created our regional IN THE GAME map for us and has worked with various clients to help construct and share their story. He focuses on creating and sharing community identities through illustration, story-telling, and graphic design. As a guest on our blog, he's sharing a few benefits of infographics and visual storytelling:

    In the community planning world, we are often busy comparing ourselves to places or people that are doing it better. We limit ourselves with thoughts like, “Well, we just aren’t big enough.”, or “They have a fancy welcome sign...we need a fancy welcome sign, too.” We get lost in generic expectations and preconceived notions of what we think we should be to the point that we all end up with same goals and messaging. Say it with me, “…a downtown to live/work/play”. While vitality is not to be discounted, it’s the story that makes the place. Are you telling the story in a way that really captures your place?

    My name is Derek Berardi and I’ve worked with Downtown Colorado Inc. for the past several years during their annual conference. You may have seen the Colorado map that breaks down each of the member regions. In my work, I help “places” (municipal stakeholders) to extract and leverage their unique story through strategic graphic design. Whether that’s through infographics, data visualization or illustration, the idea is to step away from generic expressions and to highlight the authentic story of your place. Thoughtfully distilling the message down to the most interesting or surprising points adds value beyond traditional marketing approaches.

    So what gives infographics and data storytelling a leg up? This is a no-brainer. The way we consume information has changed. We live in an era of shortened attention spans. Gone are the days of producing or reading 130-page reports. Websites have simplified, articles have become more concise, and the consumer wants to cut through all the static to get to the juiciest bits. And then there are some things that don’t change. Since you were 5 years old until now, you’re probably still more engaged with the books that have pictures. There’s a reason for that. Infographics provide the following benefits:

    • Communicates to the viewer through two avenues, instead of one - Written and visual.
    • Tells the story in a way that engages people ages 9 to 90 - Reducing intellectual exclusivity and broadening the audience reach.
    • Trimming the fat - Focusing on the most important information means the viewer doesn’t have to work to find the takeaway.
    • Builds perspective - Presenting data is only helpful when you’ve supplied the context. This is where infographics shine.
    • Whimsy and wonder – Offer information in a way that leaves a lasting impression and is fun to consume.

    This design approach is especially effective in delivering another dimension to marketing within the planning realm. Sense of place is carried through visually and paired with quantitative and qualitative data. Instead of asking people to learn more about your locale through black text on white paper, you can capture their imagination and deliver high-quality information in a way that they’ll be excited to consume.

    If you’d like to learn more about infographics and how they might better capture the authentic story of your place, reach out or visit my website.



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