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All I want for Christmas is …

Dear Santa:

It’s me … Pagosa Springs.

It’s time to tell you what I want for Christmas this year.

It hasn’t been easy to figure this out — there are many things that I want, and quite a few things I need.

You might not know, as busy as you are, but the economy has been kind of slow around here, so I first thought I would ask you for more jobs, for more activity at local businesses. I could ask you to keep the tourists coming; in fact, I could ask you to bring more of them, soon. It’s great here in the winter, with plenty of outdoor activities and opportunities to shop, dine out and relax.

But, I got to thinking about me — you know, Pagosa Springs.

I’ve taken some blows since the economic downturn. Drive your sleigh down my main streets and you’ll see empty storefronts, vacant properties for sale. And, most noticeable: a nearly deserted shopping center, smack dab in the middle of things. I’ve got to tell you: I don’t look well when you see this.

Once, there was a supermarket in the shopping center. Shops and a restaurant occupied the adjacent wing. The supermarket was one of the main businesses in the downtown area.

When the company that owned the market decided to build a new, bigger facility on the west side of town, the folks who manage me worked overtime to make it happen. The company built the new store and later expanded it, and it’s a great facility. When the new store was built, the company kind of promised not to close the downtown store.

Kind of.

Some promises can’t be kept, can they? Let’s get real — people probably shouldn’t expect them to be kept, especially if an older store no longer pulls its weight. And that was the case.

The problem now is that the building and the wing next to it, all of it owned by the corporation, have been empty for quite a while. It’s not just an eyesore, it is obviously on a downhill path and it sends the wrong signal concerning my overall health. The company says it is trying to market the property, but nothing has happened. The center is a sad relic, a symbol of my problems, not of my potential, and it makes the development of my downtown area more difficult. I need progress downtown, a continuing upgrade, a facelift, and I am not going to get it as long as this center sits empty and decaying.

So, Santa, here’s what I want for Christmas: I want you to convince Kroger — the owner of the center — to give it to me as a Christmas present.

Well, not to me, exactly. To my Community Development Corporation.

That’s right, give us the building.

I know it sounds outlandish, but what if some sort of arrangement could be made with my town government that benefits the owner? Further, what if the move makes Kroger a hero in these parts and elsewhere? After all, what speaks better for a big corporation in this day and age than the fact it acknowledges that a small, mountain community has supported it for many years?

Plus, the center might be just the thing that encourages investment in my CDC, freeing it from taxpayer support and allowing those funds to be spent by local government, further improving me!

I know you’ll bring toys, electric gizmos and other items here at Christmas. How about tucking a shopping center into your bag?

Karl Isberg

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