By the end of September, Woodland Park will have a new look and a positive direction. The economic snap is a result of the work by the Downtown Development Authority authorized by district voters more than 10 years ago.
“It’s been an up and down relationship with the community relative to project activity,” said Brian Fleer, executive director of the city’s office of economic and downtown development.
Fleer’s list of DDA projects begins with the construction of Woodland Hardware and the build-out of Center Street south of U.S. 24 to Saddle Club Drive.
The name, Saddle Club, pays tribute to the city’s frontier past and the vitality provided by the ranchers and cowboys, who held rodeos and gymkhanas where Woodland Station is today.
Today, the Downtown Development Authority owns the property that, when developed and enhanced, contributes to the authority’s coffers with tax-increment financing for new projects.
In the hopper are a beer garden expected to open by Arden Weatherford and several investors on Lot 2 within Woodland Station. Now in the due-diligence phase, nonetheless the garden is expected to be open by mid-August. “We’re going through design considerations,” Fleer said.
As the Great Recession caused a rash of foreclosures in Woodland Park, those losses are now providing the fuel for new projects. “Within the DDA boundaries, a lot of bank-owned buildings and properties went back to the lender and have been acquired or are under contract, for development,” Fleer said.
Another project, with a TIF agreement, is Trail Ridge Apartments, a $19 million project with 168 units west of Safeway in the former location of a trailer park.
Close-mouthed about the developer of a large project, Fleer nonetheless divulges the particulars about land at Midland and Colo. 67, which was sold by the owners of Foxworth-Galbraith to a national chain.
While out of the DDA boundaries, the proposed nursing facility by Mid-States Senior Living is moving along. “I’ve just submitted a grant to DOLA for water lines around the hospital for the nursing facility that’s going to start construction this year,” Fleer said. “It’s going forward.”
Along with the development in the downtown center, Woodland Park has been accepted into the Colorado Main Street program which is managed by the Department of Local Affairs.
The program relates to development, historical preservation, community design, organization, promotion and marketing. “The program is the umbrella to other organizations already in place, such as the chamber, DDA, school district, local government, faith-based groups, for instance,” Fleer said. “One of the challenges will be how to make Highway 24 work for us and not against us, as a retail\commerce component.”
Colorado Main Street Designation gives the city access to funding opportunities geared toward development of the downtown area, said Gary Brovetto, city councilman who is working on the project with Fleer’s office.
The project takes off with an assessment of the downtown by Colorado Industries. “Before that we hope to have a board of directors and a coordinator, a paid position,” Brovetto said. “The design committee creates a vision for Woodland Park, develops projects to accomplish that vision and programs to protect community character while developing depressed areas for business opportunities.”
Among the designated cities in Colorado are Lamar and Steamboat Springs.
CREATIVE ARTS DISTRICTS
In conjunction with Fleer’s office, Brovetto is working behind the scenes to achieve designation of the downtown as a Creative Arts District.
With a number of artistic groups in town, such as the Woodland Park Arts Alliance, the district would unite the organizations under one umbrella. “Through that effort, we would create a synergy,” Brovetto said. “District designation would provide a platform to promote the Woodland Park creative arts community statewide and nation-wide.”
In Colorado, arts districts are managed by Creative Industries, a division of the state’s office of economic development and international trade. “We’re trying to infuse new energy and innovation to enhance the economic and civic capital in the community and to vitalize and beautify Woodland Park,” Brovetto said. “Certification brings regional and international legitimacy and credibility to the business and arts organization of Woodland Park.”
Other cities that have achieved the designation in Colorado are Denver, Pueblo, Salida, Ridgeway and Telluride and in New Mexico, Santa Fe. “We’re trying to make life a little bit nicer here, to provide an opportunity for people to increase their quality of life by highlighting the creative arts community.”