RIDGWAY – Three months ago a team from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs came to Ridgway for a whirlwind two days to get a sense of the place, which had just been named a “candidate community” (along with Montrose, Fruita, Rifle, Victor, Westcliffe, and Silver Cliff) in the state’s Main Street Program.
Now the nine-member consultant group has released its Resource Team Report, based on what it heard from stakeholders interested in Ridgway’s economic-development future – from town government to arts groups, from business people to volunteers to just plain citizens – and has invited the community back to the Ridgway Community Center to discuss it Tuesday, Jan. 8 from 5-8 p.m.
Local activist Paula James was so impressed that she printed out the entire 105-page report, calling it “the driver’s manual for many of us for the foreseeable future.”
DOLA manages the Main Street Program, which is funded by a grant from the State Historical Fund. It is not the same thing as the town’s as-yet-unrealized Historic Downtown Streetscape Plan, though the two share overlapping goals to revitalize the downtown core.
DOLA’s experts – in design, marketing, economics and the arts – combined their wisdom with the experience of Main Street “graduate” communities (Steamboat Springs, Granby, Arvada, Berthoud, Brush, Lamar, and Lake City) to come up with sets of strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities and assessments and recommendations for Ridgway. The goals, as formulated in the stakeholder meetings in October, included: moving ahead with the streetscape campaign, branding Ridgway as a recreation hub and a creative center, attracting a broadband Internet service provider and more.
Among the report’s recommendations were to create “a unifying organization that serves as a coordinating umbrella body for the downtown and creative district efforts.” This umbrella could be jointly coordinated by the Town and the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce until it is able to fund its own staff person.
The main body of the report addresses “Economic Restructuring,” so as to “create a destination using existing assets and activities in the areas of recreation, wellness, arts/creativity, and alternative energies.” The report also notes that Ridgway is the only town in the program that has been awarded both Main Street and Creative District designations, involving technical and financial help from both DOLA and Colorado Creative Industries. “We are going to be studying you,” said team member Maryo Gard-Ewell, of Gunnison and CCI.
Challenges to this “restructuring,” according to the report, include: the town’s lack of short-term beds and its vacant storefronts, as well as its poor connectivity, hard-to-read signage, lack of a clear brand, and dearth of affordable housing. In addition, there is an endemic lack of coordination, and duplication of efforts, among local groups.
The final section of the report, titled “Action,” includes recommendations for “Promotion, Historic Preservation, and Design.”
The Tuesday meeting will answer questions, take comments, and “create committees to realize community desires,” according to a flyer prepared by the Town.