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Groups envision a vibrant Pagosa Springs

Downtown Colorado, Inc., a nonprofit membership organization committed to building better communities by providing assistance to Colorado downtowns, commercial districts and town centers, was hired by Imagine Downtown, a local group of concerned citizens including members of the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce, to come here and help our community create a more vibrant and vital downtown area.

According to their website, “Every day Downtown Colorado, Inc. strengthens communities across Colorado by supporting local governments in their efforts to support small businesses and grow a sustainable local economy. We achieve this by providing advocacy, technical assistance training, and educational events, often with the voluntary services of our wonderful membership base of professional downtown revitalization experts. DCI approaches commercial district and downtown revitalization through a comprehensive framework of downtown management, marketing, design, and economic development.”

The DCI technical assistance team, which had spent the previous month reviewing a plethora of documentation on Pagosa Springs provided to them by former town council member Shari Pierce, Chamber director Mary Jo Coulehan, and CDC board members Udgar Parsons and Muriel Eason were in town on Nov. 13 and 14.

On Nov. 13, the team spent all day meeting with various focus groups, touring the town and digesting the information they received. On Nov. 14, they spent the day formulating feedback and a plan for the town. At 6 p.m., they held a meeting, open to the public, at which they presented their findings.

What follows is a summary of that presentation provided to The SUN by Ken Charles, one of the volunteers on the team who also works for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs:

“Recognize the progress that this community has made. The various groups in the organization are completing their roles and doing a good job.

“The largest problem appears to be the lack of clear information, mutually acceptable communications, and partnership amongst dedicated and hardworking factions. The community will need to heal wounds, open conversation, and form sustainable partnerships to succeed in future initiatives.

“Embrace your assets. The river is an incredible draw. The beauty and utility of water is something to treasure and accentuate. The environment is a finite resource. Consider carefully how you utilize and impact those resources, as they are not replaced easily.

“Geothermal is your unique niche. Get behind the Geothermal Greenhouse Project, help find the funding, expand the concept, and make it an educational, historical, and community gathering opportunity.

“History is a story to be told. The history of this community differentiates you from others and should be intertwined with all that you do. Human capital and organizational know-how are both broad and deep. Use the diversity for good not evil!

“There seems to be a lack of clarity around information distribution and decision-making. Simplify with one point of contact for communications. Focus on regular and transparent venues to discuss current initiatives. Consider having an open discussion that includes the town, county, CDC and the community as to what economic development and growth mean.

“Dividing resources makes impacts less evident. Communicate priorities and focus resources accordingly. There is a need for one entity to manage downtown. Identify a Downtown Champion by forming a DDA or BID.

“Increase capacity and reduce duplication through enhanced task distribution. Work with the school district, the Time Bank, and a coalition of non-profits to shape the community service and volunteerism to address needs for skills around downtown development.

“There are gaps in visual cues and activity around the downtown. Activate dormant spaces. Focus redevelopment on key properties through the CDC. Activate vacant buildings with active window displays, showcase students posters highlighting the history of Pagosa Springs, create geothermal diorama in windows, and each holiday have a contest for the best dressed windows. Light all property interiors with soft light all night.

“Install street furniture, receptacles, and include signage that highlights what services are around the corner. Include plantings, umbrellas, shade features, and banners to add color and excitement around the overlook. Develop a billboard that indicates the scenic overlook for town center. Include information kiosks at each end of town and rack cards for the whole downtown at all lodging and service establishments.

“Work with the gas utility and Century Link to partner for non-profits to access below market rate office space and share resources. Focus on a minimum of clean and safe priorities downtown. Work with the Colorado Department of Transportation to install cross walks with striping and blinking lights. Improve pedestrian connections to all parts of downtown. Lighting and visibility are key factors in increasing use of the downtown.”

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