In May 2010, DCI conducted a joint technical assistance visit for the neighboring communities of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. The communities have done a dynamic job of working together to implement the action steps to work toward downtown revitalization. We asked them to share their experiences
Walking out of an economic development conference in Pueblo in the fall of 2009, Westcliffe mayor Christy Veltrie knew she had found just what the small community she called home, and its neighboring sister community of Silver Cliff needed.
The downtown is the heart of the community and a healthy downtown helps the whole community grow, said Veltrie to all who would listen. The trustees, business leaders and other stakeholders in the two towns, did listen and decided to invite the Downtown Colorado Inc. team to complete a technical assistance assessment.
Before the team of 10 experts could arrive, the communities needed to do their homework, which included ensuring that representatives from various local organizations, residents, and businesses were willing to sit down with the DCI team for focus groups.
This was not an easy feat, but dedicated volunteers stepped up to the plate and went door-to-door to reach out to the community.
Nestled side by side in Custer County’s Wet Mountain Valley, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff had a history of rivalry. Many could not believe the two towns were willing to work together, but the trustees and mayors were committed to the project.
In May 2010, scores gathered at various focus group meetings with the DCI experts over a two-day period to share their thoughts.
On day three, the DCI team combined all they had heard into an assessment of the communities and action steps to create a vibrant commercial district that would be beneficial for both communities.
The fact that the DCI team could present the findings and plan so quickly was impressive. Many long-time residents commented the community had been involved in a number of assessments over the years; however, this one seemed to be better than most because of the quick turn-around.
Once the detailed, hard copy of the report was received, a workshop to discuss the details was held in September 2010 with attendees agreeing it was imperative to follow the report recommendations.
Committees were formed, and a vision and mission statement was written. We are now known as CART (‘Cliffs Action Revitalization Team) also known as ‘Cliffs Commercial District.
In October 2010, a ribbon-tying ceremony was held on Highway 96 where the two towns intersect to show solidarity, followed by an inauguration ceremony where resolutions in support of CCD were signed by the Board of Trustees for the Town of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, the Board of Custer County Commissioners, Custer County C-1 School District, Wet Mountain Fire Protection District, Custer County Medical Clinic, Custer County Tourism Board, Custer County Merchants and Chamber of Commerce and the Custer County Library. The Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District signed a letter of support, and many community stakeholders signed a board of support.
Organization, Economic Restructuring and Promotions committees are in place, and the Design committee is progress of gathering committee members.
A wide range of people serve on the CART board– Mayor of Westcliffe, Trustee from Silver Cliff, local newspaper reporter, Westcliffe Town Clerk, Custer County Commissioner; a Custer County Tourism Board member, Custer County Merchants and Chamber of Commerce member, Wet Mountain Fire District member, Custer County Medical Clinic personnel, and several retail business people and contractors.
In March 2011, ‘Cliffs Commercial District partnered with the local tourism board and chamber of commerce to host a booth at the 54th annual Colorado RV, Sports & Travel Show in Denver.
And, we are just getting started. CCD is partnering with a local business to provide rewards cards to encourage locals and tourists to shop locally. Other shop local campaigns are also in the works. By the end of May, a map of the ‘Cliffs Commercial District will be printed and distributed.
CCD is also holding its first fundraiser, a hoosegow. We are working on attaining 501© 3 status. Additionally, CCD is listed as a goal on the local economic development plan as part of the governor’s “bottom up” economic plan.
The town of Silver Cliff is also taking the lead to develop a park at the entrance to the town, and they are working on a sidewalk to connect the two towns.
Someone recently asked, “How are you getting all of this done?” Our response is, “Just like you eat an elephant, one bite at a time.” Remember, it’s an ongoing process, but it’s definitely worth the effort. That’s the best advice we can give to all small towns in Colorado.
Interested in DCI’s technical assistance program? Visit www.downtowncoloradoinc.org for details or contact us at 303.282.0625.