Original Post on the SEH Website
In Colorado, you can find amazing projects that exist because the community formed an urban renewal authority (URA).
The historic Denver Tramway Powerhouse was reimagined as a flagship outdoor retail store. The City of Pueblo formed a public-private partnership with one of the world’s largest steel producers. And the City of Montrose built a recreation center and reeled in a big fly-fishing manufacturer.
Across the state, communities large and small are leveraging URAs in creative and powerful ways. But what exactly is a URA? Would a URA benefit your community? Where should you begin? We answer these questions and more below.
Why does your community need a URA?
Currently, 62 Colorado towns and cities have an urban renewal authority – a number that is growing each year. Let’s talk about your Colorado community. Does it lack affordable housing? Does cost prevent your town from upgrading a specific water line or extending a sewer line? Does your city need higher paying jobs but struggle to attract private investment, industry growth and entrepreneurism? If any of these descriptions apply, then you should think about forming an urban renewal authority (URA). In Colorado, a URA must be formed first, before renewal projects and activities can begin. Consider it a creative redevelopment tool that can help break the gridlock that can occur with development.
Do you need to extend infrastructure? Preserve open space? Revitalize a historic property? A URA may be your answer.
A URA Can Help Your Community:
What exactly is a URA?
A URA is a local organization that your Colorado community must form before starting an urban renewal project. Legally referred to as a “statutory body,” a URA’s singular purpose is to prevent and eliminate blight in your community.
What does a URA do?
A URA provides an opportunity for your town or city to target investment, public improvements and new development. It helps remove factors that are known to stand in the way of sound development. Under Colorado state statute, a URA is authorized to borrow money, issue bonds, and accept grants from public and private sources. Tax incremental financing, or TIF, is the most common way that a URA can help fund an urban renewal project.
Wait…is urban renewal really a good thing?
Yes! Urban renewal is a great resource for Colorado’s communities, but it had what some might consider a rocky start. The concept’s negative connotations stem from the 1950s, when the federal government initiated large-scale urban renewal programs such as the Interstate highway system and the Federal Housing Administration’s public housing projects. The upside was economic growth and opportunity, but the downside was questionable development patterns in our cities and towns. Although Colorado’s Urban Renewal Law was adopted during this time and bears the same name, urban renewal today is very different than how it was conceived 70 years ago.
So urban renewal is good for Colorado?
Today, urban renewal in Colorado is a community-led initiative. Unlike the top-down, heavy handed, bureaucratic approach that defined urban renewal planning in the past, Colorado’s URAs today are powered at the local level. It is where the planning process and the development process can work together to enact community change. Through a URA a community’s plans and visions – such as comprehensive plans, multimodal plans and housing plans – can influence the development process to produce the goals laid out in those living documents. We could say that URAs are where the rubber meets the road.
What if your community is really small?
URAs can be especially powerful in small communities. A small town may not have the budget to pay for large infrastructure improvements. It may be experiencing stymied growth. Or it may need to attract a certain type of development, such as affordable housing.
Urban renewal can provide smaller Colorado communities with a competitive way to attract new development. It’s a local vehicle for transformative public-private partnerships.Andy Arnold, SEH regional planner
Can URAs help municipalities and developers work together?
Public-private partnership is the name of the game. Formed by local petition, a URA is made up of a board of elected officials from the municipality, the county, the school district and other local taxing bodies. Its charge is to adopt plans for alleviating blight and targeting redevelopment in a community. What sets a URA apart from other planning processes? It takes the public’s vision and adds incentives to attract private developers. A URA is authorized to issue grants, bonds, loans and other financial mechanisms to help produce public improvements and redevelopment. These incentives allow the public to partner with a developer to make the project more feasible – and to shape the project to better meet community needs.
A successful URA is fully backed by:
Where do you start if you want to form a URA?
The most important steps in forming a URA are organizing public participation, communicating with taxing entities and identifying blight.
1. Start with a public outreach campaign
Develop and implement a public outreach campaign to help educate the community about the benefits of a URA while identifying local concerns and issues that can inform the URA’s vision. Because a URA is a local planning body, its projects and activities must align with your community’s needs and desires. The public outreach campaign is an opportunity to understand the public’s concerns about the future of their community, such as:
By holding events such as meetings, presentations and workshops, you can provide a platform for these issues and communicate how a URA can address these worries. Productive dialog provides momentum to form a URA and helps cultivate a clear and supported vision.
It’s also a good idea to ask organizations that participate in the public outreach campaign to draft letters of support for the URA’s formation. Although not required by Colorado’s urban renewal law, these letters can chronicle each organization’s goals for the URA and provide a city council or town board with the confidence to vote yes to form a URA.
2. Petition elected officials to form a URA
After kicking off the public outreach campaign, it’s time to petition elected officials to form a URA. At least 25 registered electors must file a petition with the municipal clerk stating that there is a need to form a URA. Once this petition is filed, your town’s governing body will hold a public meeting to discuss the need to form the authority, consider its implications and vote on its formation.
3. Before the vote, commission a conditions survey
Before a vote can take place, your town must determine that certain conditions called “blighting factors” exist within areas of the community to warrant a URA. A conditions survey will provide the framework to research and analyze the presence of blighting factors.
These photos represent some factors that may constitute blight under Colorado's Urban Renewal Law.
The conditions survey can vary in scope – these are two common starting points:
Either type of conditions survey is acceptable, but a communitywide, general conditions survey is best to determine the need for a URA while also informing the URA of possible locations for future renewal projects. A holistic analysis such as this requires more work up front, but your URA will be more informed and more strategic regarding future urban renewal projects.
The City of Durango elected to do a City-wide Conditions Survey to find areas that qualify for urban renewal.
4. Now it’s time for the vote
After the petition and conditions survey is complete, your town’s governing body will vote on the URA’s formation. Assuming the vote passes, the next step is to form the URA’s board of commissioners. Typically, the governing body designates itself to the URA board. It’s also recommended that board members or staff of other major taxing bodies, such as the local school district and the county, as well as the county assessor, be invited to serve as board members. The composition of the board is contingent on local circumstances, however, and should reflect your community’s preferences.
The City of Durango formed their urban renewal authority in May 2020 and named it the Durango Renewal Partnership.
5. Identify your first urban renewal project
Once your town forms a URA and designates a board of commissioners, the exciting work can begin. Revisit your conditions survey along with the issues raised during the public outreach campaign to determine an appropriate area to start your first urban renewal project. Also consider any adopted planning documents, such as your municipality’s comprehensive plan or sub-area plans. And if a developer or business is already looking to redevelop within the community, the URA should evaluate the proposal to see if it is appropriate for an urban renewal project.
6. Next, 3 reports are needed
Once the URA board of commissioners has settled on a specific area for the urban renewal project, it’s time to complete three reports.
Urban renewal plan
Start with the most important of these: the urban renewal plan. The urban renewal plan outlines the vision for the project area, defines its boundaries, and describes proposed actions and incentives that will be used within the project area.
The conditions survey supplements the urban renewal plan. Now that you have a specific plan in place, you may need to update the previous conditions survey to reflect the specific project area, which is a straightforward task if a comprehensive conditions survey was completed during the formation process. The conditions survey will clearly demarcate the boundaries of the proposed project area and analyze the blighting factors present in that area.
An impact report is the second document that supplements the urban renewal plan. If the URA anticipates using tax increment financing (TIF) within its project area – and TIF is the predominant incentive a URA can offer – then an impact report is required by Colorado law. Much like the conditions survey, the impact report should take a holistic look at potential impacts of the urban renewal project. The impact report will do the following:
The impact report should forecast tax revenue for each taxing body within the project area. Your URA can use these forecasts in its negotiations with these taxing bodies – such as the local school district – to determine the percentage of incremental revenue that will flow to the URA instead of the taxing bodies. These negotiations are known as “TIF agreements,” and they are instrumental for incentivizing urban renewal projects.
Beyond tax revenues, the impact report will evaluate potential impacts on infrastructure and municipal services that would affect local taxing bodies. Some examples of impacts that could result from development:
The impact report looks beyond negative impacts to identify positive impacts as well. When done right, an impact report can be your URA’s roadmap for redeveloping the project area. It can highlight properties that will generate large amounts of incremental tax revenue. It can help the URA board of commissioners strategically use incentives during negotiations with potential developers.
RELATED CONTENT: City of Durango’s first urban renewal authority lets residents guide community redevelopment, offers incentives to developers
SEH assists towns and cities with a wide range of urban renewal needs, such as forming a URA or just trying to get a renewal project off the ground. Our team partners with communities to develop and implement URA-focused public outreach campaigns, urban renewal plans, conditions surveys and impact reports. Urban renewal in Colorado affects both sides of the public/private spectrum, and our experience as a trusted advisor to both municipalities and developers helps us provide the data, reports and guidance needed for long-term success.
Andy Arnold is a regional planner focused on the public and private sectors to ensure that development is politically, financially and equitably feasible. His work spans the community development spectrum, with a strong emphasis on community URAs and other financial tools to extend public infrastructure and encourage development with significant community benefits. CONTACT ANDY
Daniel Botich is dedicated to helping communities grow and businesses expand. He specializes in urban renewal authorities, land-use planning, economic development planning, capital improvement planning and the designation of financial incentive instruments and documents. CONTACT DANIEL
Your community in Colorado has formed an urban renewal authority (URA). What’s next?
Start a project:
Draft the project’s urban renewal plan:
Work with your assessor:
Always start working the next project:
Interested in learning even more about URAs? We invite you to read on.
How does a URA differ from “economic development” in Colorado?
Eliminating blight is a URA’s purpose as defined by Colorado law [C.R.S. 31-25-102]. A common misconception regarding URAs is that they’re all about economic development. This is incorrect. Now, if eliminating blighting factors manifests redevelopment that proves to be sound economic development, all the better.
So, what is “blight” and how do we define it in 21st century Colorado?
In 1958, when Colorado’s Urban Renewal Act was adopted as law, slums and blight were prevalent throughout America’s cities. The federal government responded by spearheading urban renewal projects. Today, the language of the Urban Renewal Law may still reflect this history by defining “blight” in strong terms, but its definition of the statutory factors that constitute blight are more in line with the contemporary realities facing local governments in Colorado.
The Urban Renewal Law (C.R.S. 31-25-103) states that to form a URA, certain conditions or “blighting factors” must exist. State statute defines 11 factors for blight (see sidebar), and if four or more factors are found in an area of the municipality, the area may be declared “blighted.”
Conditions or blighting factors as defined by Colorado’s Urban Renewal Law (C.R.S. 31-25-103)*:
* C.R.S. 31-25-103(2) lists a twelfth condition, which applies only with unanimous agreement among affected property owners that their properties can be included in a URA. In this rare occurrence, only one blighting factor from the list of 11 needs to be identified to declare the area blighted.
Keep in mind that the word “blighted” may not sit well with property owners within a proposed urban renewal area. But the presence of a blighting condition does not mean a specific property is blighted. The purpose of a URA is to identify areas of the community that have certain conditions that prevent sound development. These conditions can be natural features (such as steep topography) or exist in the public domain (such as dangerous street networks or poor pedestrian access). Whatever the case may be, it’s important to make clear to property owners that a URA’s intention is to reverse the further decline of an area through both public and private investment – and this will benefit all property owners.
How do URAs aid public-private partnerships?
A URA is a powerful example of a public-private partnership (P3) done right. By bringing together a developer’s plans, a town’s needs and public support, a locally led URA is an effective vehicle for implementing P3s within your community.
Developers can benefit from the soft power of a URA. Developers with a great project – such as a mixed-use building that could provide workforce housing to the community – can work with a URA to make the project a reality because the project has a better chance of being approved quickly and efficiently. After all, a URA’s purpose is to alleviate conditions that can stall sound development. A URA, therefore, lowers a developer’s risk in a project, which makes that project even more possible.
A URA can also incentivize development that yields major benefits for the community, especially if TIF is involved. TIF could help fund the project’s public improvements, such as roadway improvements or stormwater drainage, and make the project financially feasible. TIF can help close funding gaps for a developer, assuming the developer meets certain public interest conditions (such as more residential units that are affordable, public facility access or higher quality construction). A URA provides public equity for private investment – the public is a partner in the development and has a voice in the project’s design and overall purpose. A URA can also supplement TIF by issuing grants and loans for developments within its designated project areas.
Infrastructure Renewal, Community Development and Project Funding
On Thursday, March 4th Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) hosted our Rethinking the Nonprofit - Economic + Community Development Organizations call where we had our own Executive Director Katherine Correll lead the conversation with a panel consisting of:
Kris Mattera, Basalt Chamber of Commerce
T.J. Sullivan, Superior Chamber of Commerce
Kristin Clifford-Basil, Morgan County Economic Development
Kim Keith, Steamboat Creates
Trends to Follow
Growth + awareness
Economic development organizations do well during a recession
Work from home trends during the pandemic
Populations in communities are aging, so how do we integrate younger generations into our community mission?
Staffing and succession planning are important for the long term success of an organization
Inclusion topics have been at the forefront in the last year
What is your purpose in your organization?
Strategic planning to identify mission statements
“I want the community to become a place where children want to come back to as they age”
Mission statement: Respecting our past while promoting our future
Steamboat Creates has been around since 1972
Mission statement: Steamboat Creates enhances the quality of life and economic vitality for our creative sector through advocacy, promotion, education, infrastructure, and connections, and for our community and visitors by growing engagement in arts and cultural experiences
We want to build a strong community so that families can raise kids here who want to come back and make a living wage
Basalt is a resort community, so the cost of living is high due to property costs
Superior is a residential enclave outside of Boulder that is surrounded by other chambers of commerce
Our goal is to meet the advocacy needs of small businesses since most of the businesses in the community are small and/or home-based businesses
How to Share your Mission
Plan for your people
Consider the personnel structure and compensation practices to support your values
Continue to have one on one time and make connections while everyone works from home
Words can carry baggage
There are sometimes challenging messages around our work
How do the words chamber or economic development impact your mission and what you’re able to accomplish?
Chamber is a loaded word locally because of the political climate
I try to explain what our chamber specifically does and highlight how we are different from other organizations
I want to do things that add excitement to the community
We did a huge food drive that the community loved
Businesses want to see that we are doing stuff that matters to the community
I think about how I can work for the investors to help expand business or identify values
How can we partner with other local organizations to create a stronger network and community
Since we are an arts association some people think of creatives as crazy and unpredictable and that they stir up trouble or change
Status quo people like consistency, so we are constantly having to invite ourselves to the table in order to be involved in the community
Communicate your Value
Consider your spheres of influence
Understand local ecosystems
Focus on partnerships
What is your relationship like with local government and how do you support them?
The relationship we have with local government got stronger after wildfires two years ago
We do advocacy work
Some people have businesses in the community but dont live here, so they are unable to vote about stuff that affects them
We receive financial support from the county
Have a small business center
North West Chamber Alliance
We all come together and learn once a month
We sometimes put all our names on a joint statement to increase the impact
Partnering with the town allows us to cover more ground together
There is competitiveness that arises when you have a small donor pool in a rural area
We advocate for individual arts organizations and partner to do outreach with them
We have lots of competition among organizations
Sometimes there are different groups trying to accomplish the same thing and get nothing done
I aim to be the source for everyone to create collaboration among organizations
About the panelists
Kristin joined MCEDC in January of 2020. As the new Executive Director of Morgan County Economic Development Corporation. Kristin brings over 15 years of experience in real estate appraisals, management, business development, and design & merchandising.
As a native of Northeastern Colorado Kristin has a respect and appreciation for rural communities and what they provide not only to the economy but the quality of life they provide to their residents.
Kim Keith is a catalyst for creative-oriented endeavors in Northwest Colorado with an eye for innovation and creative problem-solving. She is the Executive Director of Steamboat Creates and also serves on the CO Humanities Board of Directors, Colorado Mountain College Advisory Committee, the Routt County Economic Development Council, many task force and community collaborations. Her prodigious creative skill set and experience revolving around design, marketing and event coordination, advocacy and community development ensure a multi-faceted approach to Steamboat Creates (formerly: Steamboat Springs Arts Council) a 501(c)3 non-profit, benefiting the entire region of Routt County and Northwest Colorado.
Kris moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Boston, Massachusetts in 2016, following years of visiting Colorado and a summer working at a dude ranch in Buena Vista.
Kris is fascinated by the intersection of community, technology, society and the digital space, and how it can be leveraged to build personal connections and tell great stories. She moved to the Valley due to its great mix of job opportunities, recreation, culture, mountain town charm and natural beauty. Kris has found Chambers of Commerce to be the lifeblood of mountain communities. Chambers, especially those in smaller towns, have a huge opportunity to build community, not just through commerce, but through the relationships that they develop with the public, private and non-profit sectors.
T.J. Sullivan is the Executive Director of the Superior Chamber of Commerce in Boulder County. In 2020, he was named “CEO of the Year” by the Association of Colorado Chambers of Commerce for his innovative leadership during the pandemic. He has owned numerous companies throughout his career and earned a national reputation as one of the most impactful speakers at U.S. colleges and universities, speaking to nearly 3-million students in all 50 states. His book, “Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations” is used in more than 100 college leadership courses.
On February 25th, DCI hosted Trinidad Downtown: A Rural Redevelopment Case Study call with Ed Griego with Trinidad Urban Renewal Authority, Mike Scholl of Ayres Associates and Wally Wallace with the City of Trinidad. DCI first started working with Trinidad in 2008, with a downtown assessment to support the reformation of urban renewal, creating a Creative District, and joining the Main Street program. One by one, Trinidad checked off the 70+ tasks in the plan and today Downtown Trinidad is seeing investment in housing, healthcare, and hubs for tourists.
We started the conversation off with Wally Wallace who serves as the Economic Development Coordinator in Trinidad. He dove into details on how Trinidad has redeveloped in recent years and the plans they have for the future.
Old historic buildings have now been bought with plans to get housing and local businesses in them
A New Hilton Garden House hotel will be the first significant downtown hotel development in a long time
Space to Create
Affordable live/work space for artists and other creatives
Focus on retail and placemaking in commercial space
Fox West Theatre (builtin 1907) will be restored and used as a performance art space
Gravel race for cyclists coming to the Trinidad area in October 2021
Trinidad now has:
Main Street Board
Urban Renewal Authority
Designated county enterprise zone
Downtown District serving as an entertainment district
Fishers Peak State Park
Established as a state park in 2020, Fishers Peak can help drive economic growth in Trinidad and surrounding areas. It is the second largest state park in Colorado.
Mike Scholl from Ayers Associates continued the conversation about Trinidad by sharing that the city has the highest number of historic buildings in Colorado along with other information about Trinidads redevelopment story.
Urban Renewal Authority was created in 2014 and certified in 2015
Re-opening of the New Elk Coal mine for metallurgical coal mining will increase job opportunities in the area
Space to Create is serving as an affordable housing project
25,000 square feet of retail and commercial space
San Rafael Hospital development finished and will also help to create more job opportunities
Plans for a food court at the marketplace
Multi-tenet restaurant space
4 new restaurants opened
Plans for 7 more to open after the develop the rest of the property
Future bank, mental health facility and holistic medicine center
Plans for a community gathering space and more housing development to keep up with the demand
Questions + Answers
Question: Have you incorporated walkability in Trinidad, including multi-use?
Wally Answer: Yes, in addition to the holistic health center we are looking for ways to incorporate walkability. We currently have the Trinidad river trail system and a bike path to Trinidad Lake. Bike lanes and paths have been partially funded by CDOT grants.
Question: Do you have one piece of advice thats valuable for redevelopment projects?
Mike Answer: Be persistent and don’t get frustrated with road blocks early on in redevelopment efforts. If you can control the real estate in your area you have more opportunities to develop the projects you want.
Wally Answer: Be very optimistic about the town and excited to see its potential!
Named by the Denver Post as “Trinidad’s Pied Piper”, Wally Wallace has used his experience in project management, creative marketing, and community building to lead the former coal-mining boom-and-bust town of Trinidad, Colorado through a major economic resurgence. Born and raised in the foothills of Colorado, Wally's work is driven by his passion for the Southwest and his vision for building creative, healthy, sustainable economies as a base to strengthen rural communities. His work in Trinidad was recognized by Denver Westword as one of the top Arts and Culture stories in Colorado in 2020. He believes that by creating collaborative partnerships within communities, and between them, and by utilizing the support of Trinidad's Urban Renewal Authority, Enterprize Zone, and Opportunity Zones, Trinidad and its regional partners can develop strategies to bring economic prosperity and sustainability to Trinidad, Southern Colorado and the surrounding region.
Mike has two decades of nationwide planning experience with consultants, community groups, and most recently as economic development manager for the City of Loveland, Colorado. More than five years as a legislative assistant to U.S. congressmen adds to the depth of Mike's understanding of planning, from funding through community implementation.
Mike's vision and persistence have brought success to many development projects. He managed Loveland's Gallery Flats redevelopment project, which was awarded the Governor's Award for best 2015 infill project in Colorado.
Mike's responsibilities include research and evaluation of data related to social, housing, economic, population, environmental, and land use trends; developing planning studies and reports; performing plan reviews; preparing permits; researching and analyzing residential and commercial development projects; reviewing and preparing environmental assessments, plans, and documents; and conducting field evaluations and assessments.
On Thursday February 18th, Aaron Abeyta and Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding joined Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) for a presentation and discussion on recovering from racism. We began with a poetry reading by Aaron Abeyta, mayor of Antonito and poetry director at Western Colorado University. He read his poem Ancestor Of Fire, and discussed how we must get grounded in our past to be invested in our future. Then we dove into conversation with Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding about how the past has an impact shaping present-day and future communities.
A theme we focused on in this talk is the realization that many of us are not comfortable talking about diversity and inclusion, and how that hinders the creation of a fully inclusive society. If we are not comfortable or know where to go to get resources to be more inclusive we are not going to enter a space of full inclusion.
We continued by talking about the stories about race in Colorado, and the audience and speakers share narratives of what they have experienced or learned about race in the state.
Colorado is very white
Be quiet and lay low to not draw attention to your race
University of Colorado Colorado Springs has a hard time keeping diverse staff
Narratives will not attract more diverse folks to the state
The stereotypes that exist about our communities are an incomplete picture of who we are
People don’t want to be honest about the existence of stereotypes
It’s a challenge to break these stereotyping thought patterns
Stereotypes affect who wants to invest in and live in your community
We need to create different policies to ensure diversity in communities
The differences and diversities in our communities bring us value
We must honor these differences in a valuable way and not look away from the issues we face
Equity and inclusion are inseparable from diversity in communities
We need to avoid tokenism and push through the pain and discomfort in order to create a more inclusive world
It is essential to create opportunities that people will invest themselves in so that they feel included
When people feel they are part of the story they feel better about coming to the table
Question: What are your thoughts around getting comfortable with starting conversations about race?
Aaron: People fear saying the wrong thing and do not have the resources to get more comfortable with these conversations. In the United States, we feel we always have to be correct because we are so uncomfortable with being wrong. It’s okay to be ignorant and ask people questions. People like to educate others on their identity and ethnicity.
Stephany: Some people don’t have the knowledge base to feel comfortable in that practice, so it is important to invest yourself into having these conversations and doing the research.
Question: What are some of the communities on this call doing to expand equity conversations and practices?
La Junta: Encouraging people to get educated on these topics.
Northglenn: Created a board/committee of residents, businesses and city council members. Created a book club to spread knowledge and feel more comfortable talking about equity and race.
Downtown Denver Partnership: Educational programs and talks with speaker Tamika L. Butler.
Aaron A. Abeyta is a Colorado native, MFA Poetry Director at Western Colorado University, Professor of English and the Mayor of Antonito, Colorado, his hometown. He is the author of four collections of poetry and one novel. For his book, colcha, Abeyta received an American Book Award and the Colorado Book Award. In addition, his novel, Rise, Do Not be Afraid, was a finalist for the 2007 Colorado Book Award and El Premio Aztlan. Abeyta was awarded a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship for poetry, and he is the former Poet Laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope, as named by the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival. Abeyta is also a recipient of a Governor’s Creative Leadership Award for 2017. Abeyta was a finalist for Colorado Poet Laureate, 2019. Aaron has over 100 publications including 'An Introduction to Poetry, 10th ed.,' Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, & Drama, 8th ed.' ‘Conversations in American Literature: Language, Rhetoric, & Culture’ ‘The Leopold Outlook’ ‘Colorado Central Magazine’ ‘The High Country News’ and numerous other journals.
Aaron Abeyta's Website
Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding
Public speaker, social and political commentator, equity and inclusion consultant, professor and pastor, Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding is a force of nature. With a Ph. D. in American Studies, she is a thought leader on race and gender in American culture and society. Her keynotes and trainings help people reach higher heights and deeper depths on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and social transformation. Additionally, as a woman in several leadership positions, she mentors and coaches others to unlock the power within to build healthy, empowered and holistic lives for themselves and the beloved community. She is a former candidate for U.S. Senate (CO, 2019) and Founder of the Truth and Conciliation Commission.
Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding's Website
Reading List to Get Started
White Fragility - Dr. Robin DiAngelo
How to Be an Antiracist - Ibram X. Kendi
The Sum of Us - Heather McGhee
The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander
The Danger of a Single Story - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Deconstructing White Privilege - Dr. Robin DiAngelo
For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies - Courtney Ariel
103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice - Corinne Shutack
On Thursday February 11th Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) had the pleasure of hearing Kristin Cypher of Michael Baker International speak about Inventorying Assets and Activating Places in communities across the state!
Why is it important to identify assets?
See your everyday space with fresh eyes
Engage with your community
Those that don’t usually have a voice at the table, how to get them to participate
Meet people where they are
Meeting people physically in their space
Temporary activations- easy, quick
Identify special and unique community places
Paonia - winery area
What is an asset?
Think of creative areas of opportunity - Trinidad example
Unique cultural & historic places and resources - creative districts
Gathering places, hang out places, destinations - both existing places and potential places
Questions to ask yourself when identifying assets
Identify what are you passionate about & where in your community can that be realized
What is the engine that drives your community?
Activations can tell a different story
What is one word to describe assets in your community?
What does it mean to activate a space?
Activated uses & events - with COVID - automobile space to people space
Activated Redevelopment - vacant storefront and use --- pop up space of further area - burst of an event, show what can be done there
Vacant lot activation
Lamar - more active and community members, vacant lot in middle of downtown
Meeting people where they are - use materials that are accessible and ways to reach out to people
Lights, chairs, tables, heat
Programming - food truck, artist come, games, live music
Led to creating available funding for more permanent activation - community driven and funded - created
Gathering space now -- used by community and as regional space
Historic Storytelling Activation
Wanted to tell story of history
Creative signs spread throughout the city
Catch people where they already are - hanging around areas ex: in front of performance center where people wait in line for show
Art, Culture & Connection Activation
Start with temporary stuff - murals, temporary tree pieces
Turn into permanent
Beautify space - activate vacant property
Meet people where they were
Some crazy ideas for activation
Vacant lots - outdoor dining with multiple restaurants seating
Use your spaces to ask people what they want to do in the spaces
Food trucks, spaces for food trucks
Pop up main street
Goal for activation - more vibrancy, see the potential for your community
What is your activation idea?
Often the ideas are much easier to get than City permission. How much do you suggest engaging City staff? Oftentimes they can be great, but they also often have more rigid supervisors that lack creativity and say no. How do you balance all the community time and energy with naysayers and obstructionists in the City government?
Engage with city council early on in the process
Stand on stronger foundation - special places are, tell special stories
Kristin's Worksheets for asset identifying and community activation planning
Community Asset Plan Worksheet
Community Activation Plan Worksheet
Michael Baker International
On Monday, January 18th, 2021 the Downtown Capacity Builder’s DCI VISTA team participated in MLK service day as “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” in a virtual capacity with VISTAs from Community Resource Center (CRC) and Colorado Nonprofit Development Center (CNDC). The day included digital transcription for History Colorado, with an option from three varying projects. The three projects included Out of the Archives, Colorado Women’s Suffrage, and medical advertisements.
The DCI VISTA team committed to 2 hours of digital transcription, which was then followed by a service day reflection event which had a turnout of 14 VISTAs from the varying VISTA teams, with 6 of the attendees being from DCI’s team.
The service reflection event included introductions, and then we watched some Martin Luther King videos together. The two videos included Rare Video Footage of Historic 1965 Marches and NBC Interview: MLK Talks New Phase of Civil Rights Struggle . Following the viewing of the videos we went into three breakout rooms which included
Ice breaker/ get to know each other Room Name, VISTA position, what have you been filling your time with during the pandemic, what is one of your passions
What was your biggest takeaway from the MLK videos you watched?
What is one of the most impactful legacies MLK has left on our society, and how do his teachings apply to today’s world?
The breakout rooms encouraged conversation, increased participation and sharing of ideas. Some of the major takeaways from reflection on the MLK videos was the way in which MLK’s points made in 1967 that needed to change and topics that needed to be addressed, are topics that still need to be addressed today. Many of the topics that need to be addressed have been further highlighted, and more people became aware of through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the breakout rooms, the VISTAs reconvened and completed a short service day survey, with feedback from the day and written reflection on why one chooses to serve.
What was the most impactful part of your day of service?
“I really enjoyed talking with other vistas about social justice and how we can continue forward with our own commitments to building capacity and eliminating poverty. As a historian, I really love that part of our service was transcribing materials because it truly helps historical work and it makes historical information more accessible for all.”
“Listening to MLK speak in the videos - not only is he a master of language, the themes and messages still apply today.”
“Watching the MLK Jr. interview and reflecting on it was most impactful - a lot of what he said connects directly to what we are seeing and living through now.”
Why do you serve?
“I serve because there is so much important work found within the non-profits of the U.S. I'm proud to complete a year of service for my organization.”
“To serve the community and make a direct impact to those who live in the community.”
“I serve because I want to make education more just and equitable for all in this country. In a lot of ways, education is liberation and I truly hope that I can help to make education more accessible and equitable.”
The Downtown Capacity Builder’s DCI VISTA team, who commit to a year of service, were happy to participate in the MLK day of service, with people across Colorado and across the United States. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.
On Monday, January 25th Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) hosted a Support For Colorado Small Businesses meeting to share the current and future federal and state resources available to small businesses. We heard from theSmall Business Administration about PPP funds, shuttered venues operating grants, and economic injury disaster loans. We also heard from theDepartment of Local Affairs regarding their state small business relief program and from Colorado Small Business Development Center regarding their COVID relief technical assistance program.
Small Business Administration Federal Relief Programs
SBA Core Program Temporary Incentives
SBA Debt Relief Continuation
Economic Inquiry Disaster Loan (EIDL) Programs
Shuttered Venues Operator Grant
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Click here to visit the Small Business Administration COVID relief website
State Small Business Relief Program - Department of Local Affairs (DOLA)
Businesses in 32 counties are eligible based on COVID restrictions
Restaurants, Bars, Caterers, Movie Theaters and Gyms/Recreation Centers are eligible
Businesses must be headquartered in Colorado with at least one employee
Show a 20% decline in revenue due to capacity restrictions
These funds are grants that are not expected to be repaid
Businesses that have revenue less than $500,000 = eligible for $3,500 in grant money
Businesses that have revenue between $500,000 & 1 million = eligible for $5,000 in grant money
Businesses that have revenue between 1 million and 2.5 million = eligible for $7,000 in grant money
Apply directly to your local government
Click here to visit the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) website
Colorado Small Business Development Center
15 centers located across Colorado
They offer services in many different languages
Free COVID relief technical assistance
Virtual consulting and workshops
Technical assistance for federal and state COVID relief loan and grant applications
Click here to visit the Colorado Small Business Development Center website
Watch the video recording here!
2020. There’s nothing that I could write to open this that you haven’t heard or could even sum up this year. First, we want to say that we hope no matter what you have been through this year, that you are healthy. Next, we would like to especially thank all of our members, sponsors, and partners for making our work possible. This year has been very different but we have been so blessed to work with you all virtually and from a distance. Despite the disruption of the pandemic, we have had a busy and fun year working from our kitchen tables, armchairs, and make-shift standing desks. 2020 has inspired us in many ways: the return to the local, the power of partnership, and the opportunities of disruption.
Believe it or not, we were once able to gather for events in-person. So, in the beginning of the year we gathered to discuss the enduring challenges of small-scale development in the face of rising property taxes/rents, increasing costs for small business, high construction costs and a regulatory framework that does not support the vision. The goal of this event was to start a wave of development possibilities that protect and enable small business and property owners to stay put, grow, and thrive! While challenges have grown for small business and property owners this year, there was one win this year that will make doing business in the future just a little easier. That win is, of course, the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment. DCI partnered with EDCC to put on a month of Gallagher education this year to advocate for education and spur informed action around this complicated amendment and the effects it has had on our businesses, special districts, and cities.
Early in the year, we were also in the full throws of planning our annual IN THE GAME event and very excited to be in Colorado Springs this year. With all the uncertainty of what would occur next, we found that we still needed to show that there was a certain freedom to dream and share ideas because no one knew for certain where we would be in a few months. We created the 2020 Virtual COVID Challenge Summit in order to do just this. We decided to share our dreams and ideas together in April, at the time where there were no limits to the change we could imagine. The goal of the Summit was to share inspiration and gather ideas to ensure that Colorado has the resources needed to support our communities, districts, and small businesses! DCI used discussions, polls, and engaging processes in our first major virtual event to develop an action plan together to move into our new reality stronger and more resilient than ever. We tried to encompass what DCI is all about (FUN!) in this engaging event and we continued to incorporate these ideas into our many virtual events this year.
Katherine Jarvis from Denver Economic Development and Opportunity, who attended the Summit, remarked that, “The speakers were really excellent, and I appreciate the past, present and future perspectives of each.”
(Another benefit to virtual events is that everything can be recorded and encapsulated as a future resource. You can watch the virtual summit here.)
Since the start of the pandemic in mid-March, DCI began a weekly series for Downtown Champions to connect with peers, learn best practices and need-to-know information regarding the COVID shutdown. DCI also created an online resource library full of trainings, resources and best practices. As small business, districts, and local government were seeing budget reductions and adaptation to the new normal, DCI also hosted numerous events focused on urban renewal, redevelopment, and districts events to discuss mitigating risk and predictions for the future. The Developer vs URA knock-down, drag out mock debate between Carolynne White and Paul Benedetti was the event of the season! We also completely revamped our URA + District Resource Center to better serve our members and clearly organize all of the training, case studies, and guiding documents that we have to share. DCI has proven this year to be Colorado's Downtown Champions' go-to place for innovative, timely, and practical solutions through the 2020 Pandemic.
We also wanted to focus on big ideas and keep the conversations going about the important topics of equity, streets, housing and more with our “Future Of” Big Talk series. This dynamic platform shared big ideas to shape the next phase for commercial districts and downtowns. DCI has been hosting thought leaders and innovators who provide our members with tools they need for today and the future. Highlights include the “Future of Equity” and the work of Nita Mosby-Tyler of the Equity Project. This conversation examined the actions and the ways to support a more equitable future. The question comes down to each individual, each organization, and each community. The “Future of Housing” highlighted Ismael Guerrero’s work with Mercy Housing. This discussion included the topics of understanding redevelopment and displacement and how we can raise our standards for retaining residents as well as considering in a post pandemic world, what are the trends that will shape the future of housing in successful urban and rural communities? We are planning more Big Talks for 2021. The first one of the year will focus on the “Future of Building Community Wealth” with Yessica Holguín. Register Here!
The DCI Colorado Challenge Accelerator Program was created as a dynamic program and approach capable of adapting to specific community needs. The pandemic has showcased how this program, when paired with amazing community partners, is able to address unexpected challenges. The 2020 Challenge Communities have demonstrated innovation and provided their businesses and residents with hope during this time. We have been inspired to witness and provide support for these five communities with overcoming pre-existing challenges, creating a COVID response, and building a plan to create stronger communities into the future. Each community has a unique profile and challenge. The Challenge Program approach has helped each community move the needle this year. The communities this year include Cañon City, Center, Durango, Old Colorado City, and Rocky Ford. Read about all of their accomplishments here.
“Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) played an integral role in La Plata County’s economic recovery. The Challenge Program brought community leaders together during our Challenge Community Virtual Studio Workshop to plan for a safe and efficient economic reopening,”Alex Rugoff from The City of Durango remarked. “The Workshop led to the formation of the La Plata Economic Recovery Task Force, which has been instrumental in providing local businesses resources to survive and adapt to the changing environment. I would strongly encourage other communities to get involved in DCI’s Challenge Community Program.”
Another project started this year has stemmed from our Challenge Program called the San Luis Valley Placemaking and Engagement project. The purpose of this initiative is to inspire the people of the San Luis Valley to reclaim and restore beloved community places in their region through community connectivity, cohesive vision, and partnerships to ultimately leverage local and outside investment for local social entrepreneurship. The project’s focus will directly impact five communities: Antonito, Center, La Jara, Saguache, and San Luis, but the impacts will work toward the vision and needs of the region by furthering the push for a unique and dynamic development. We have created an engagement site and will implement placemaking within the built environment in 2021 for residents from the Valley to share their vision for their community and help shape opportunities for the future. Check out the SLV Places site here!
In addition to the Challenge Program and the San Luis Valley Placemaking and Engagement Project, DCI offers support for DOING with the Downtown Capacity Building Americorps VISTA Program. DCI is a sponsoring organization that manages and places VISTA members across the state which included the placement of 12 VISTAs this year at 9 sites. The VISTAs work on objectives that relate to community and economic development, housing, transit, education access, and more.
While none of us could have predicted this year and all of its twists and turns, we are extremely inspired by the way our communities have been able to pick up, innovate, and survive in the midst of chaos. We hope that you have been able to take part our special events, programming, and collaboration. It is an honor to serve all of our Colorado communities. We look forward to a brighter 2021. We are developing programming to GET IT DONE in 2021. We will focus on topics for Capacity Building, Tactical Activation, and Building Inclusive Places. Look into becoming a member or renewing so you don’t miss out! THANK YOU for being a Doer!
Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) celebrates the successes of Colorado Challenge Communities including Cañon City, Center, Durango, Old Colorado City, and Rocky Ford in moving objectives forward during the 2020 COVID 19 Pandemic. DCI has been inspired to witness and provide support for these five communities with overcoming pre-existing challenges, creating a COVID response, and building a plan to create stronger communities into the future. Each community has a unique profile and challenge. The Challenge Program approach has helped each community move the needle. Watch short videos from each community here.
“It has been incredible to work with the Challenge Communities throughout 2020. The Colorado Challenge Program was created as a dynamic approach capable of adapting to specific community needs. The pandemic has showcased how this program, when paired with amazing community partners, is able to address unexpected challenges. The 2020 Challenge Communities have demonstrated innovation and provided their businesses and residents with hope during this time. The whole DCI team has been honored to be a part of it.” said Katherine Correll, DCI Executive Director.
2020 Colorado Challenge Communities include Cañon City, Center, Durango, Old Colorado City, and Rocky Ford. Each community worked with DCI to engage the Economic Development Class at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver to identify and connect with stakeholders, outline opportunities, and establish a plan of action. When faced with COVID 19 mid-semester, the Colorado Challenge Communities, DCI, and the students adapted the plan and have demonstrated the resiliency of Colorado ingenuity! Below are some of the incredible accomplishments from these communities in 2020.
Cañon City Challenge: Loving the Local
Through the Challenge Program Assistance at the beginning of the pandemic, Cañon City established a Recovery Taskforce, an auction to support small business, and garnered $70,000 worth of grants to support permanent restaurant patio expansion. Since then, the town has hired a Main Street Program Manager who has worked to identify catalyst sites and incentives to spur reinvestment as well as cultivate unique Cañon City events and symbols to get more businesses and people downtown.
“I am so grateful to be a member of the DCI Challenge Program,” said Ashley Smith, Mayor of Cañon City. “It has been a great asset to us in Cañon City to have DCI as intensive mentors and also all of the resources they’ve provided for us to help us get through COVID-19 and help us advise our small businesses. We’ve been able to secure funds and programming support our small business during this pandemic.”
Durango Challenge: Affordable Housing
The City of Durango was selected as a DCI 2020 Challenge Community to address the challenge of “Creatively Financing Development”. As the pandemic emerged, DCI and the City of Durango were able to quickly adapt to develop a strategic approach to slowly reopening of the community to ensure economic viability of re-opening their economy once and responsibly. DCI and Durango are now exploring next steps for a strategic approach to affordable housing.
“Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) played an integral role in La Plata County’s economic recovery. The Challenge Program brought community leaders together during our Challenge Community Virtual Studio Workshop to plan for a safe and efficient economic reopening,” Alex Rugoff from The City of Durango remarked. “The Workshop led to the formation of the La Plata Economic Recovery Task Force, which has been instrumental in providing local businesses resources to survive and adapt to the changing environment. I would strongly encourage other communities to get involved in DCI’s Challenge Community Program.”
Once the recovery effort was well underway, The City of Durango was able to approve the formation of their Urban Renewal Authority in May. Since then, The Durango Renewal Partnership has been working closely with DCI to connect with DCI’s network of statewide leaders in urban renewal and affordable housing development. Durango has taken great strides recently to support place-sensitive, creative redevelopment to address pressing community needs such as attainable and affordable housing. DCI is excited to continue working with the City of Durango and the Durango Renewal Partnership.
Center Challenge: Business Attraction
DCI and the Town of Center in the San Luis Valley, a 2019 Colorado Challenge Community, has continued to flourish following a temporary placemaking installation to engage around attracting investment. The Town has seen impressive impacts including change of ownership and investment in six long-standing vacant buildings, two commercial and two housing units currently under renovation, approval of funding for beautification, a partnership to bring an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub to the Town of Center, funding for a Downtown Capacity Building AmeriCorps VISTA, and connecting with property owners who will donate a property for youth run coworking.
“The Town of Center decided to shape our own future and stop kicking the can down the road,” said Brian Lujan, Town Manager. “The Challenge Program and DCI has helped the Town build a team of dedicated partners, consultants, and resources that keep momentum going and help us move our strategy forward.”
The Town of Center has also embarked on a series of trainings for long-term financing mechanisms, taking part in a $270,000 Valley-wide housing study, and considering two annexations. The Town of Center will begin working with Mass Design, an international housing and design firm, to develop a proposal for assistance to plan for a 90 acre parcel the Town owns with housing, broadband infrastructure, and a civic and educational campus.
Old Colorado City, Colorado Springs Challenge: Community Engagement.
Population:5,259 (district population)
DCI works with districts in larger cities as well as smaller communities, and has worked with the Old Colorado City Partnership (OCCP) President for several years. The Old Colorado City 2020 Challenge has been to build awareness, a unified voice, and resources for this historic, creative, and foodie district in Colorado Springs. One target focus of the challenge was to build stronger partnerships with Manitou Springs and Downtown Colorado Springs to link the physical districts and the dynamic leadership in this corridor.
“The Old Colorado City Partnership is excited to be a part of the Colorado Challenge Program and partner with Downtown Colorado, Inc. as part of the continued effort to connect OCC with regional partners and revitalize the district,” saidJonathan Neely, OCCP President. “The work done through DCI this past year has created a foundation for the OCCP to enhance our advocacy efforts and connect with regional efforts.”
The OCCP is now engaged in the corridor planning, participating in collaborative events and marketing, and supported business through the pandemic with events like Virtual First Friday. To-date the OCC Partnership has completed a utility-box wrap program, created a welcome center in a historic building in Bancroft Park, and secured over $148k in grants to create appealing and engaging outdoor spaces and options for business expansion and social distancing.
Rocky Ford Challenge: Building Identity
The City of Rocky Ford is dedicated to building a stronger sense of place and sustainable job economy that supports job growth and opportunities for the community to invest and grow. The Colorado Challenge program has worked with a dedicated team, to establish a strategy for engagement and inventorying opportunities so the City emerges from the pandemic stronger than before. The City of Rocky Ford has established a broad working group that brings expertise, training, and identifies resources to support potential entrepreneurs, property owners, accessing information technology, and helps employees upskill for enhanced work opportunities in the future.
“The City of Rocky Ford is seeing more interest in skills that allow residents to invest in the community.” said Shannon Wallace, City Manager. “The role for the City is to help build public private partnerships that will empower our citizens to make the change they want to see with businesses, buildings, and collaboration for a sustainable economic future.
The City of Rocky Ford is establishing partnerships and resources to eventually foster new business development through a business incubator. For the initial phases of the work, The City has received a grant to guide property owners and real estate professionals in conducting due diligence and marketing vacant opportunity spaces and another grant to facilitate training and business creation within the community. An initial training was held in Rocky Ford in November, and a virtual session will be held on Dec 11. In 2021, the City will host a wide range of training expanding dialogue around Entrepreneurship, Information Technology, Workforce Training and Upskilling, Development Readiness, and Building and Construction Trades.
On Thursday, November 12 Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) was joined by Kat Stewart from St. Charles Town Company LLC, a Denver urban real estate development company. Kat discussed the top challenges that retail, restaurants and commercial tenants face and how commercial districts can help overcome those challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges are as follows;
Real Estate Tax
The COVID-19 Pandemic has created new challenges and exacerbated already existing challenges for tenants in Colorado. The major challenges of COVID-19 are;
Increased staffing levels
Disruption of supply chains
Kat stressed the importance of landlords doing whatever they can to keep their current tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic because the cost to re-tenant a commercial space is large and it tends to be a long-drawn-out process.
Some tips to keeping the same tenets during the COVID-19 Pandemic are as follows;
Monetize all day-parts
Day-part: morning, mid-day, afternoon + evening
Making sales all day long by changing menu, operations and partnering with different retailers + restaurants
Landlord, tenant and City Collaboration
Tips for keeping up with Rent
Tenants and landlords to partner on rent solutions
Business Improvement District connections
Public Improvement Fees - reducing operating expenses
Creative leas solutions - deferring rent
Tips for dealing with Rent and Real Estate Taxes
Take the lead in protesting real estate tax assessment
Large increases in commercial real estate taxes are detrimental
Time and expense of these protests can be shared between tenant and landlord
Gallagher repeal will help with this
Tips for dealing with City Building Departments/Building Codes
Cut through the red tape of building departments and building codes
Stakeholders need to advocate for the tenant
Building department flexibility
Time = Money, timeframe for entitlement and development to be cut so that tenants can move in and begin generating revenue
Reducing the point of contact in the city and building departments to streamline the process
Fast Facts Document that is a shortlist of requirements that will increase productivity
Ensure more collaboration
Reduce Cost Burden
Eliminate code interpretation driven by opinion
Relax rules for small tenants on some high-cost improvements
Rural municipalities to incorporate more progressive codes
To watch the full video recording please click here
Kat is a freelance project and operations professional. Kat began her career with a local, full-service real estate development company and later moved into commercial real estate as the Vice President of Finance for Shift Workspaces, a shared workspace provider. Kat most recently was the Vice President of Operations for St. Charles Town Company and was responsible for the oversight and asset management of the company’s real estate portfolio. Kat has extensive experience working with tenants to maneuver through the City of Denver's building department and permitting process.