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Who will have the next ‘vision?’

With sale of David Brown’s properties in downtown Pagosa Springs, we see the end of what was Pagosa’s most recent chance for a major change in the downtown business landscape.

Brown purchased a significant number of downtown properties, sought more, and set about creating a “vision” for the transformation of the area. That vision never materialized, due to missteps by developer and government alike, opposition by some residents, and the failure to acquire additional properties needed for the vision to be complete.

We have a hunch there is no one more relieved, in a way, than Brown that the project did not come to fruition. Had it succeeded, even in part, downtown Pagosa would now be blessed with numerous, high-end commercial buildings, and Brown would likely be cursed with empty spaces, lacking lessees in hard economic times.

As it is now, with only spotty improvement and rehab of buildings, the downtown area is riddled with empty, aging commercial structures and the problem of the rebirth of the area remains.

Who will solve that problem? Government can continue work on necessary infrastructure and, no doubt, business and building owners will complete projects whenever possible.

We wonder, with transitions occurring at the Community Development Corporation, whether this group could play a big role. CDC board members are surely considering the proper role of their organization, and the CDC could make a big impact on Pagosa Country.

For sure, there are things the CDC could do that trump a Golden Retriever Roundup and that swerve from the narrow vision of economic development that dominated its predecessor, the AEDA.

A CDC has many advantages as a private non-profit organization. Among them, it can solicit investment, receive grant money, and make loans. It can, and should, work on all aspects of development that will prompt and improve the economic and cultural health of the community.

Perhaps the first, nontraditional place to look to is daycare in the county. At present, there are spaces for 150 kids in local, licensed daycare and early education centers. There are as many as 600 kids under the age of 5 in the county; more than 400 of them are not in daycare. How many parents struggle to care for kids while earning a living? How many families are denied one income due to child care needs?

Another sector: With the demise of Colorado Housing, who besides Habitat for Humanity works to provide homes to working people? There is a surplus of affordable housing on the market. Can a CDC help, in partnership with banks?

Speaking of partnership with banks, what are the chances for small business lending in Pagosa Country, via the CDC?

The creation of a small business incubator has been on the table at the CDC. Can it acquire and provide low-cost or no-cost space for new small businesses, for owners in the area and for those seeking to relocate here? Real estate investment and development is a legitimate enterprise for a CDC.

Could the creation of an Arts and Entertainment district on the west side of town attract the funding necessary to bring artists and galleries, entertainers and venues here? Many structures sit empty, vacated by their commercial tenants. The spaces are available; they can be purchased and their use changed.

If nothing else, the CDC can provide a gateway to grant funding for other community organizations and projects.

The ideas and options are many; a new executive director will be hired. The question is whether the CDC board and management includes anyone with the “vision” of a David Brown. If so, this could be an organization that helps the community move in a new direction.

Karl Isberg

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