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Respecting the past while embracing our future

Don’t you love acronyms? (I’m thinking you just said “not.”) It’s as if we speak in code with a bunch of letters.

Well, I apologize, I’m going to give you another one, one that you perhaps have already heard, but either way, get to know it because it potentially means something good for Durango.

It’s “URA,” which stands for Urban Renewal Authority. I won’t bore you with the mechanics of how a URA works, but suffice to say a URA provides a funding mechanism for communities to redevelop “blighted” areas of the community. It helps developers positively pencil out projects to build new commercial and even residential projects, helping the city generate additional tax revenue in the long run. A URA means new opportunities.

I grew up in Arvada. I don’t think any of my contemporaries while I was a kid would argue that downtown Arvada was “blighted.” Truth be told, it was a declining town, but the city’s mothers and fathers implemented the URA, and with that assistance Arvada now has one of the more charming downtowns in Colorado.

Now, I’m not saying Durango is blighted, and to the credit of developers and business owners, our town has truly been undergoing transformation in the last 20 years. Most recently, we’ve seen owners of businesses such as Zia Taqueria, Bird’s, 11th Street Station, Union Social House, Catacombs, Durango Outdoor Exchange and more, take the proverbial bull by the horns and transform old properties into new and exciting resources for all of us, and for our guests.

But there’s more we can do, so the city has identified several “areas” predominantly downtown and along Main Avenue to utilize a URA. First up is essentially the section of Camino del Rio from Ninth Street to 15th Street, including sections such as Narrow Gauge Avenue and on up to East Second – the MidTown plan.

The MidTown plan is the inaugural project of our Durango Renewal Partnership that will have a variety of financial tools available for growth and redevelopment, one of which is the URA. Once complete, the MidTown plan is projected to have the potential to generate up to $10.3 million over 25 years to devote to additional improvements in Durango. The DRP plan and supporting documents can be found at https://bit.ly/3cjEvXc.

Change is tough, but having a little vision helps get us through the planning, construction and all the other details that go along with redevelopment. I can speak from experience here at the Chamber. Remember, when we moved from our building in Santa Rita for the water treatment plant, we underwent redevelopment of that little A-frame building on Main Avenue across from Durango High School. It was quite the project, but we’ve ended up with a beautiful enhancement to Brookside Park with a functional and energy efficient building that is serving our Chamber members even better than we could before.

So just keep in mind, our city and developers never want to destroy the flavor of Durango. With the financial backing of the URA, we all can respect our past while embracing our future.

Jack Llewellyn is executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at jack@durangobusiness.org.