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Letter: ACEDC makes progress today with Pink Elephant project

Posted: Friday, Dec 7th, 2012

Donna Wehe, Director of the Alamosa Small Business Development Center asked me today if we were celebrating tonight.

She was right. A celebration could easily be in order! This community has been working for several years to do something with the buildings that have become an eyesore since the Pink Elephant closed down.

It might have been taken care of long ago, but the asbestos and lead based paint kept an investor from being able to make the numbers work. And those contaminates really confused any progress that we all tried to make. The buildings themselves weren’t in great shape either as has been demonstrated by the condemnation of the upstairs apartments a few years back.

So in order that we might remediate the “hazardous substances,” a term I’ve learned to use well lately, the Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation took point and applied for an EPA grant to help offset some of the cost of cleanup.

However, in order to even apply, we had to own the buildings first. And in order to own the buildings, we had to have an environmental investigation done to relieve us from liability issue from “hazardous substances.” Are you starting to get the picture? And every step of the process demanded money.

The problem with that was that this whole project was upside down from the beginning financially. In fact, if all goes well, the project will probably lose three times what the final lot will be worth when we’re done! But we, the community, felt that it was worth it. So the real question became, how do we come up with that kind of money?

This is Alamosa. This is the San Luis Valley. If it were somewhere else, somewhere that didn’t have 2 of the poorest counties in the state, if it was somewhere with an abundance of good paying manufacturing, technical and other jobs, it may have been a challenge. But our community, Alamosa, the San Luis Valley, came together to give. We always have, even when we don’t have it.

The City Councilors, the Mayor and the City Manager all stepped up, financially and with other forms of help and advice. The Marketing Board tried to beat the City as the first donator and missed by just a few hours! The County stepped up and offered help with the demolition process. The local banks have committed financial assistance both through donation and short term, low interest loans. Other businesses come up with donated services of various kinds, from contractors to realtors to the media to appraisers.

And thanks to the Developmental Resources Group for facilitating the Enterprise Zone, other local people have been able to donate and still are. They get significant tax credits, and the project gets funding. It’s a huge win, win.

And none of them did it for the recognition. They did it for the community! You all know who you are. A Special thanks to all of you!

Colorado Brownfields, a State non-Profit group helped in huge ways when it came to the long month we spent working on the EPA Grant Proposal.

And finally, I have to thank my Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation Members. These are local business people who are interested in local economic development and they are willing to become members. Without their support, without them going out on a limb or two along the way, and believing in the project, it could never have gotten to this point.

So, why should we be celebrating? Because today, we bought most of the quarter of a block that includes the Pink Elephant building! In fact, everything in that quarter of a block except for Sicc & Twisted is now owned by ACEDC. Sicc & Twisted is still owned by the same owners, and will be operated as such. I wanted their customers to know that there are no changes there.

But we still have a long way to go. The “hazardous substances” still have to be abated. If you are the praying type, ask that the grant be funded.

But even then we’ll have to be patient as that money won’t be released until late next summer or early fall. Then we’ll begin demolition. That means that the other businesses operating in the buildings will still be open for business too!

And after that, a developer will be chosen to build what we hope will be a new crowned jewel for retail downtown with shops to serve the nearby residents and tourists. And once they’ve stopped, we hope the vacationers will take the time to enjoy our entire downtown shopping district helping those businesses grow too!

So when is the party? Well, there will be a few more good days just like today between now and then, but how about at the grand opening of the new building? There will be plenty of room for all of you, and you’re all invited! The whole San Luis Valley! Because without you, we would never make it!

Randy Wright

Executive director

Alamosa County Economic

Development Corporation

Alamosa County Chamber of Commerce

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