A city’s downtown area is more than just a place to shop; it’s also an expression of the town’s character. In many cities, the downtown area is the face of the community, an expression of its individuality. It can also be the determining factor in whether the town makes a good, bad, or indifferent impression on visitors.
A vibrant, lively downtown can make a major difference to a community’s economic and social well-being.
Montrose is no exception, which is why the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and its stakeholders work hard to keep Main Street looking and feeling good.
DDA chair Kirk Hartman and executive director Lance Michaels recently presented a history and update of the organization’s work to the weekly meeting of The Forum, at Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli.
Michaels pointed out some of the recent capital improvements facilitated by DDA’s design committee. “For example, there was a ‘pocket park’ that was done last year.” While DDA is funded by a mil levy paid only by businesses and residents of the downtown area, they got some money from the State of Colorado for that project. “We were able to obtain some DOLA (Dept. of Local Affairs) funding, in addition to the money that DDA put into that,” Michaels said. The pocket park is on E. Main St., between San Juan Construction (the old Bank of the West building) and Brown’s Shoe Fit. There are normally a couple of tables in the mini-park, but they are in storage for the winter.
Michaels said that the City of Montrose is pleased with the results of the pocket park project. “The city thought that was pretty cool. As a result, they’re going to match those pieces of equipment, and put a small stage in there.
“So, we’re looking forward to having music venues, and we can put beer gardens in there for occasions, and so forth. We expect to liven up downtown a bit with that program,” Michaels said enthusiastically.
The pocket park project should not be confused with the “parklets” that the DDA tried awhile back, which weren’t quite as successful, according to Michaels. “They were, shall we say, mildly successful? They were the wooden structures that you saw, with seating, tables, and umbrellas. They were part of an effort to make downtown a little more inviting.
What’s going down downtown?“It was also part of a test program,” to make downtown Montrose look a bit more like downtown Grand Junction, which has wide sidewalks, Michaels explained. “It takes lots of money to widen sidewalks. A lot of people said, ‘You need wider sidewalks. You need to look like Grand Junction.’ Well, without a doubt, we certainly do so we can have outdoor seating. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite come to fruition.”
One of the main reasons that the parklets weren’t too popular is that they ate up too much parking space, which is often at a premium downtown. “The parkets were a test, and I’m not sure that we’ll be putting them in parking places, because we’re heavily sensitive about taking up parking.”
DDA is also working on a plan to make downtown more colorful. “We’re leading the charge on pole banners,” Michaels explained. “We know that in order to have a colorful, inviting downtown we need to have some banners on our light poles.” Some banners bearing the city’s new logo have been placed on light poles downtown. But, vandals have found them a bit too attractive in the wrong way. Some of the arms that extended from the poles and bore the banners are now missing. “We have a committment from the city to repair those,” Michaels said. “We once again invested some money, and also got matching funds from DOLA. Most importantly, we got funding from the city to do prints of four seasonal banners.”
Michaels would also like to see a lighted canopy along Main Street, similar to the one in Denver’s Larimer Square. But, a project like that would be very expensive. “We’re going to figure something out,” he said optimistically,”but it’s probably going to be on a little smaller scale.” For example, Michaels said that he and Phil Zimmer, of DMEA, are talking to Main Street store owners about possibly upgrading their window lighting, in exchange for credits on their electric bills. “We could end up with more awnings and lighted windows that could help to illuminate downtown.”
There are many other ways in which DDA works to enhance the social and business environment of the downtown area. For more information, please visit their website at montrosedowntown.com.