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Downtown revitalization taskforce formed, planning underway

By Ed Fincher
Staff Writer

A group of about 16 concerned local citizens referring to themselves as “Imagine Downtown” has formed a downtown revitalization taskforce and have invited a company called Downtown Colorado, Inc. to come to Pagosa Springs  Nov. 13-14 to do an assessment of the downtown district and make recommendations about how to improve that area and make it more vibrant, vital and lively.

This group, led by former town council member Shari Pierce, Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation board member Udgar Parsons and Chamber of Commerce director Mary Jo Coulehan, meets every other Thursday.

Reporting to the town council at their last meeting, Parsons said, “I just want to let the town council know of a downtown revitalization initiative that is presently underway, and many of you may have read about it in The SUN newspaper. There’s a company called Downtown Colorado, Inc. that’s been established for six or seven years. They go around and are invited by communities to look at the downtown and suggest improvements.”

At the first meeting, held last month, Imagine Downtown formed three subcommittees in preparation for the visit from the DCI assessment team. The first, led by Pierce, was made responsible for gathering all relevant documentation, plans and maps regarding downtown and assembling a study packet the DCI assessment team will be able to refer to as they evaluate the town.

“I told Mary Jo that one of the things that we thought was so old we would have to scan, I found online,” Pierce reported at Imagine Downtown’s most recent meeting.

“We submitted the town charter and a letter of application to DCI,” Pierce continued. “I didn’t get any feedback on it; just that they had received it. Then Courtney, Mary Jo and I met earlier today. We’re the documentation committee. We went over the list of the items they are asking for and we divided that up between us, so we’re getting going on that.”

The second sub-committee, led by Muriel Eason, was made responsible for identifying all possible stakeholder groups or people who might be interested in providing their input and suggestions, and then inviting those people to meet with the assessment team on Nov. 13.

Eason produced a two-page list of groups she had compiled — everyone from town council and town staff to the local arts community to the Farmers’ Market — but Parsons was quick to notice the first group on the list was the Realtors’ Association.

Eason explained, “That would be perfect to have a go-getter Realtor to help us assess the values and uses of the various downtown properties.” Pierce also pointed out that the Realtors would be perfect for helping to gather a lot of the relevant documentation for downtown.

“If we get a newsletter or a survey I can send a lot of information out through Facebook,” Hayley Goodman suggested, “and that’s how I would probably get a lot of young people involved.”

The Historic Preservation Board was another possible stakeholder group it was suggested should be involved and later, when Parsons reported to the CDC, Andre Redstone and Chrissy Karas were at that meeting to represent the HPB and explain the importance of cultural and heritage tourism.

“All of these undertakings are in some ways an exercise in futility,” Redstone said, “if we don’t foster a true sense of integratedness. A cosmopolitan environment of highly transient, highly-educated, highly-skilled and highly-interesting people come together and co-habitat here, and yet we do very little to acknowledge that.”

The third sub-committee, led by Muriel Buckley and Cappy White, was made responsible for providing hospitality for the assessment team when it visits the town in November.

“They haven’t set the group of people that will be coming here yet,” Pierce explained, “but they’re anticipating 6-8 people, and half of those would potentially be government employees, so we won’t need to provide lodging for that half, but we will still have to do the food for everybody.

“We have the south conference room of the Ross Aragon Community Center reserved on Nov. 13 from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.,” Pierce reported. “Looking at DCI’s sample agenda, they have the focus groups and everything, and after they get done with their focus groups they show some time to work in there, so we just kept it until 10. And then on Wednesday they can start at 8 a.m. and go however long they need. We have to be out of there by 5 p.m.”

Then the community visioning meeting, which will be open to the general public and during which the assessment team will present its findings and recommendations, will be held Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. in the senior dining room and north conference room at the community center.

“Town Manager David Mitchem was very gracious in getting everything organized for us,” Pierce reported. “We had the room just until 5 p.m. but I said, ‘Oh wait! We need it until later,’ and the town staff accommodated us on it.”

A release issued by DCI states:

“The town of Pagosa Springs is pleased to announce the upcoming district assessment visit conducted by Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) on Nov. 13-14, 2012.

“Local organization representatives, business owners, property owners and residents are invited to participate in focus groups on Nov. 13.

“The technical assistance program is designed to provide downtown revitalization and economic development technical assistance to Colorado communities hoping to support small business, create partnerships, and develop and sustain a viable and vibrant commercial corridor. The technical assistance is managed by Downtown Colorado, Inc. through a unique collaboration between Downtown Colorado, Inc. and the organization’s private and public sector member volunteers who provide expertise and practical application from downtown districts throughout Colorado and the United States.

“Since 2005, DCI has teamed with state and local agencies to identify how best to provide guidance and support to small businesses and other service providers that work in local business districts. Focusing on current conditions in the downtown, a team of six to eight professionals spends two days evaluating the community and facilitating focus groups to provide valuable information about the strengths and opportunities of the downtown, as well as creating the foundation from which a work plan can be developed. Through the DCI technical assistance program, one downtown assessment visit, valued at more than $19,000, is provided to accepted applicant communities for as little as $6,000 plus travel expenses. A majority of the team volunteers their services and the remainder provides services at a highly discounted cost.

“The schedule for the technical assistance visit will consist of a detailed tour of the community and a full day of focus groups with local government representatives, local organization representatives, business owners, property owners, and residents and will conclude with a presentation to the public providing an assessment of the community as well as action steps.

“Following the downtown assessment, a detailed hard-copy ‘to do’ list will be provided to assist the community in building local partnerships and generating some quick wins to build momentum.

“Contact Udgar Parsons udgar@frontier.net, Shari Pierce sharipierce@centurytel.net or Muriel Eason meason@centurytel.net  by Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 to learn more details about the focus group times and how to get involved.

“For further details on how the DCI Technical Assistance program works, visit the website at www.downtowncoloradoinc.org.”

ed.fincher@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on November 14, 2012.