The third season of bump-outs came to an end last week in Durango, but the program that allows businesses to use parts of Main Avenue for dining and retail will return in future years.
Durango City Council approved a five-year extension of the bump-out program. But going forward, businesses must pay a fee and adhere to more stringent design standards if they want to have a bump-out.
While design standards haven’t been finalized, the decision to amend requirements is yet again bittersweet to some businesses. And the introduction of an annual fee might dissuade some businesses from having bump-outs at all, which would free up parking on Main and Second avenues, said Tim Walsworth, executive director of Durango’s Business Improvement District.
Downtown businesses are torn on whether to keep the program at all, he said.
In an August BID survey with about 140 responses, 47% of businesses said they wanted the program to continue, possibly with changes, while 45% said they wanted bump-outs gone and 8% said they prefer something else, according to data shared by the city in September.
Walsworth said restaurants favor bump-outs more so than retailers by about a 60/40 margin.
The BID endorsed continuation of the bump-out program in a letter to City Council earlier this fall, on two conditions: No. 1, a fair fee was administered to bump-out owners for using the public right of way (parking spaces), and No. 2, enhanced design standards are put in place, including Americans with Disabilities Act requirements are applied to all bump-outs.
Katie Burford, owner of Cream Bean Berry at 1021 Main Ave., said she is glad the city will continue its bump-out program for the foreseeable future and she is fine with the approved annual fee of $6.30 per square foot, but she would prefer current design standards be left alone.
City Council was presented with two annual fee structures on Tuesday: A $2.88-per-square-foot fee that factors in projected sales tax revenue and a $6.30-per-square-foot fee that doesn’t include sales tax projections. City Council approved the higher of the two.
For an average sized bump-out that is 28 feet long and 9 feet wide, the chosen fee totals about $1,600 a year, said Tommy Crosby, economic development coordinator. He said that roughly matches parking meter revenue lost to bump-out space.
Burford said the fee is fair.
“I know there is the loss in parking meter revenue and there is some cost to administer it, so I’m not at all opposed to the fees,” she said.
But it’s likely that not all businesses will feel the same, Walsworth said.
“It will not make sense for some current users to continue with these changes to the program,” he said. “And that’s why I say some of the parking that’s used for these will be freed up during the bump-out season.”
He said the BID doesn’t know how many businesses will drop out of the bump-outs program as a result of the fees and the costs associated with the new regulations.
City staff members are determining what new design standards should apply to bump-outs in 2023, but they’ve zeroed in on a few key elements.
The city has received complaints from Durango residents, tourists and business owners that roofing and signage on some bump-outs make Main Avenue feel congested, block the view of historic downtown buildings and obfuscate pedestrian crossings, Crosby said.
City Council also acknowledged another common criticism of bump-outs: that they make downtown feel more akin to a flea market than a historic block.
Next year, advertisements, business names and other signage won’t be allowed on or inside bump-out spaces. Also, tents and merchandise won’t be allowed to be displayed on bump-out structures. That means the RV parked at Outdoorsy’s bump-out and merchandise such as rugs or clothing hanging over bump-out railings or from rafters won’t be permitted, Crosby said.
Roofing may also appear on the city’s chopping block to improve sight lines from street to buildings, although that element remains under consideration by city staff members.
Cream Bean Berry uses umbrellas in its bump-out instead of a temporary roof, but umbrellas also came under scrutiny by City Council. City staff had no plans to prohibit umbrellas in the next set of design standards, but Councilor Kim Baxter questioned why umbrellas would be allowed if roofing isn’t because both interfere with street-to-building line of sight.
“I understand what they’re trying to achieve in terms of standardizing some of what we have and also not obstructing the view of the historic downtown Main buildings,” Burford said Thursday. “But it’s tough. Because there is no obvious best option and we’ve had to do changes already every year. I would be most happy if we were able to keep what we already have.”
Design standards for bump-outs have shifted from year to year since the temporary program debuted in 2020, creating some uncertainty for business owners about what will and won’t be allowed in the future, including whether bump-outs would be allowed at all, Walsworth said.
Burford said some businesses, including Cream Bean Berry, have made “significant investments” into their bump-out structures. Since 2020, Cream Bean Berry has spent a total of about $40,000 on its bump-out structure, plus another $1,500 for breaking it down and storage every year.
Cream Bean Berry used the city’s iron parade barricades and pop-up tents in 2020. The next year, the business used steel barricades fabricated by Modstreet to designate its bump-out space and also introduced umbrellas to the setup. This year, it added decking to the structure.
“These past two years I’ve used umbrellas because I feel like that gives us the most flexibility and I think it’s aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “My preference would be to do the umbrellas again.”
She said having no shade for relief from the summer heat would be a detriment to customers, who are largely families with kids and grandparents.
“I see lots of elderly members of families there all summer,” she said. “I just sympathize because I’ve had small children and when you’re traveling and you’ve been out in the heat and you’ve been walking around, you’re just kind of exhausted and need a place to collapse for a little while.”
She could see the relief on people’s faces when they grab a shady spot in her bump-out and are able to relax with a cold treat, she said.
Crosby said on Friday he and staff members have already reached out to bump-out owners to determine solutions for roofing and line-of-sight concerns. He said they are exploring multiple options.
“One thought after talking with our transportation team was possibly allowing a smaller pitch of the roof,” he said. “Instead of a 4 foot or a 5 foot rise, maybe we only allow a 6 inch or a 12 inch rise.”
Shorter roof pitches would not obstruct buildings facades, he said.
Shade sails are another option. They would need to be anchored properly so they don’t get swept up in the wind and cause damage to a building facade or people.
“The nice part about those shade sails is, depending on how they’re oriented, we could really reduce the amount of vertical sight line that’s obstructed from the street or from the opposing sidewalk because those (sails) are very thin,” he said.
And umbrellas are still under consideration, he said.
Crosby said design requirements are still a work in progress, but he hopes to have a finalized set of new standards by the end of November. The city will apply ADA standards to all bump-outs requiring them to be flush with the sidewalk or include ramps from the sidewalk to the bump-out space.
The city will also enforce design compliance more stringently than in past years, he said.