Archive | January, 2015

What’s the Buzz in Garden City?

27 Jan
Walkability Improvements

DCI Recommended Walkability Improvements

Downtown Colorado, Inc. kicked off its technical assistance program this year in Garden City, Colorado. You may not have known about this little four by four block town wedged between Greeley and Evans, but it comes packed with a whole lot of pride and history.

“Garden City is the place you could come let your hair down,” community members told us. The town was incorporated during the days of prohibition as a safe-haven for bootleggers and party revelers. It has maintained its reputation for personal freedoms and fun to this day. With four major recreational marijuana providers, Garden City draws thousands of visitors from around the nation and from across its municipal borders – Greeley and Evans are currently “dry” when it comes to marijuana. The resulting revenue has the Town and business owners eager to revitalize their community and create a vibrant entertainment district.

During DCI’s time in Garden City, we held focus groups, toured the town, formulated recommendations, and presented our ideas to the community. We discovered that Garden City is a major destination, and although many people do find their way to town, few know they are in Garden City or that there are other reasons to stay. To assist Garden City in communicating its unique offerings and heritage, as well as to create a more inviting environment, our recommendations for the town included walkability improvements to their main commercial corridor, signage and wayfinding placements with a new community brand, and landscaping. (Garden City should look like a garden!) There is a lot of energy in and around the Town, so we also recommended that Garden City tap into the student market nearby at the University of Northern Colorado, involve more businesses through the Garden City Business Association, and engage their large Latino population.

A.F. Ray, Garden City's founder and a persistent symbol of the town's rich history

A.F. Ray, Garden City’s founder and a persistent symbol of the town’s rich history

This is just the first chapter in DCI’s work with Garden City. We will be back throughout the year to assist with implementation. DCI Members may view our presentation for Garden City on our Resource Library at downtowncoloradoinc.org

DCI would like to thank our professional members who volunteered their time and expertise for this community assessment: Elisha Bartlett, DCI Volunteer; Michelle Claymore, Commerce City Economic Developer; Kristin Cypher, C+B Design; Will Kerns, Open Plan Consultants; Michael Tupa, University Technical Assistance, UCDenver. If you would like to participate in an upcoming technical assistance visit, please contact Nancy Sprehn, vista@downtowncoloradoinc.org

Urban All Along

20 Jan

DCI had the great opportunity to host a Downtown Institute in Aurora last month. Dynamic presentations from Stephanie Troller at DOLA, David Leavitt-D’Agnostio from the Small Business Association, and Aurora’s Urban Renewal Manager Andrea Amonick left attendees informed and excited.

Aurora is one of Colorado’s largest cities and boasts a rich history with many unique commercial corridors. Through unique public-private partnerships, Aurora has harnessed tools for urban renewal and business engagement to shape a vibrant Colfax avenue through arts investment, collaborative partnerships, impactful events, and a thriving business community.

Some of the most exciting changes in Aurora started with the redevelopment of the Fitzsimons Army Hospital. Built in 1917 to treat World War I Army patients, the hospital and was placed on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list in 1995, causing stirs of uncertainty over jobs, economic vitality, and Aurora’s future. A year later, however, the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority was created to imagine and govern the evolution of this historic medical center into a progressive biosciences innovation hub.

The City of Aurora adopted several Urban Renewal areas, beginning in 2001, to encourage development within the existing medical campus as well as the surrounding areas. Today, the Fitzsimons complex holds the University of Colorado Hospital, Colorado Children’s Hospital, General’s Park, and other medical facilities. There are 22,000 new jobs from this campus alone with much more development on the way.

Plans are underway for the Colorado Science and Technology Park (CSTP), a 6.5 million square foot development with laboratory and office spaces. This joint venture from the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority, City of Aurora, University of Colorado, and University Physicians, Inc. is expected to create 45,000 new jobs when completed and will anchor a new transit stop on Montview Boulevard.

Completed development along previously blighted areas of Colfax Avenue has helped to enhance the local area, including ground floor shops near Fitzsimons, Corporex Office Building, and Springhill Suites. Future development south of Colfax, however, has many Aurora residents even more excited.

A 30,000 square foot conference center and full service hotel will serve the Fitzsimons area and is set to be surrounded by mixed use developments featuring housing, commercial, and retail spaces.

Concurrent to the massive developments in medical and biosciences, Aurora has invested significantly in in its own Cultural Arts District with redevelopment ongoing since 2002. Aurora visitors can catch a show at the Vintage Theatre, check out a book at the MLK Library, or simply stroll through the city admiring the many public art exhibitions and local galleries.

Soon, Aurora guests and residents will be thrilled by an adaptive reuse development of the Stanley Aviation plant. This former industrial site and brownfield area will be resurrected as the Stanley Marketplace, an urban market concept with unique retail, offices, a beer garden, outdoor recreation, and an event plaza.

In Aurora, redevelopment opportunities have been popping up throughout the city from cooperative partnerships. These new developments, coupled with expansions in the light rail system, continue to make Aurora an exciting place to visit, work, and live!

Content from this article relied on a presentation from Andrea Amonick. You can find her presentation, Aurora: Urban Unexpected, on DCI’s website here.

The Resurrection of the Vali-3 Theatre

6 Jan

KINDLE_CAMERA_1378375998000

Since late 2012, DCI has been working with state agency and private foundation partners to provide funding and technical assistance to independent theaters that are looking to convert to digital systems. To learn more about the Save Our Screens program, visit our website

In January of 2014, the Vali-3 Theater in Monte Vista closed its doors. The cost of digital conversion was simply too difficult for the owners to financially justify; they donated the theater to the City of Monte Vista later that month. The City tried a number of ways to get the theater re-opened, including a Request for Proposals designed to attract local and statewide in reviving the theater. This process revealed, however, that the cost of converting three screens to digital proved financially unsound for a single organization, even without significant physical renovations.

When that potential did not materialize, Monte Vista struggled to find a suitable direction. The City Council and citizens became inspired by the success of other communities after receiving information from Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) showing that a theater could be taken on as a community project. Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) featured an enticing program, in conjunction with DCI, which could provide $20,000 towards the digitalization of the Vali 3 Theater. The City and its partners, including Bob Bryning, President of the Monte Vista Community Fund, began to contact organizations that had been successful in revitalizing movie theaters in their communities. This momentum lead to organizational meetings in Monte Vista that brought fundraisers, operational volunteers, and other stakeholders together and produced a targeted effort to the get the largest, 220-seat theater back in business first.

Kammie Cathcart, who is the inspiration and catalyst of a community effort for the Holly Theater in Holly, Colorado volunteered to come to Monte Vista and explain how their theater has been run successfully for over 25 years through volunteer efforts. Mrs. Cathcart’s impassioned speech motivated volunteers raise significant funds and form a volunteer group to ultimately run the theater.  The Monte Vista Community Development Corporation (CDC) President Jim Poston took on the mantle of volunteer coordinator, while Bob Bryning and MVCF were able to partner with Rio Grande Savings and Loan to create a financial system that would work for operations.  The fund raising efforts began to coalesce; a business plan for the theater was created and sent to OEDIT and DCI with a request for $20,000 in grant funds. The City was awarded the full grant amount and also received a very generous donation from local couple Ray and Colette Skeff.

The City Council also played a significant role in the re-vitalization of the building with the provision of long-term insurance and utility coverage for the effort. The City’s status in an Enterprise Zone allowed Mike Wisdom and others from the San Luis Valley Development Resource Group to provide Colorado tax credit enhancements for donors who contributed more than $100.  Over the course of four months of concentrated work with volunteers and professionals, the theater regained its visible position and returned to life as an anchor in downtown Monte Vista.

On December 12th, 2014, the Vali-3 Theater re-opened its doors with a Friday, Saturday, Sunday showing of Polar Express.  On the weekend of December 19th, 2014, the theater showed the first run film Night at the Museum.  There has been a great turnout at the theater to date, and the volunteers have done an incredible job preparing the theater for weekend runs throughout 2015.

Fundraising for the Vali-3 continues, as the conversion costs total nearly $80,000 with equipment, installation and minor rehabilitation work continuing at the theater.  Public Works Staff, under the direction of Rob Vance, made significant contributions to remove and demolish old equipment from the theater.  Mrs. Cathcart’s connections to well-minded professionals allowed the City to get a significantly good price on the equipment and to obtain a booking agent with a strong sensibility and understanding of small theaters.

The City and the great core of volunteers who have worked on this project are looking forward to a bright future of film and fellowship in downtown Monte Vista.