ALAMOSA — There is a conundrum that follows a chicken and egg path in some governments. Who will make the first move with regard to progress. Government asks why they should make financial obligations when the private sector doesn’t care for their businesses. And when the private sector gets no help with progress they do the reverse ask. Well, government isn’t helping why should we make the effort.
Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks spoke for city council stating that there is no such conundrum in Alamosa, “We’re doing our part, and we know people will start jumping on board to do their part.”
With Alamosa taking a big step in progressing towards a finalized downtown plan last month, it is becoming apparent that business owners are on board, “We’ve got more people doing façade grants than we ever have,” says Brooks. Façade Grants are meant to encourage property owners and tenants of buildings to make exterior improvements to help revitalize the area and attract customers to shop, dine and, in general, do business.
“We have next to no vacancies on storefronts facing downtown. And some of those decisions to do their business was because they knew we were doing this plan. And they were excited about this plan,” says Brooks.
Since having won the Governor’s Award for Downtown Excellence, the design plan for Downtown Alamosa is beginning to take shape. The latest step in what is hopefully a fruitful journey was taken with narrowing three blocks of downtown. Which has been met with something of a mixed reaction. Before that, Alamosa took the opportunity presented by funding from CDOT, CHFA and DOLA, as well as money from the CARES Act, which was given to municipalities and allowed Alamosa to kill two birds with one stone. The parklets make outdoor dining a reality for COVID compliance as well as satisfy an existing part of the downtown plan.
While many parts of the plan remain unfunded, Alamosa will not be staying stagnant. Which begs the question, what is next. There are some rather tantalizing features in the Downtown Plan but what are improvements can we expect to see soon.
The city will be looking to pick up some low-hanging fruit to keep the ball moving. One upcoming project is alleyway activations. The first two of which are slated as Fourth and State behind the incoming Altitude Appliance and Sixth Street between Walsh and May Was. Both of which will be expressing an expansion of the public realm as well as advertising for downtown.
“We want this to be vibrant, so people are like, ‘hey if that alley is that cool, let’s go downtown and see what’s going on,’” says Baird.
Vibrance and attraction will be achieved using simple facelifts in the form of murals and overhead lighting as well as overall trash cleanup and amenities including moveable seating and planters.
The city is being sure also not to bite off more than they can chew. Price quotes for Alley Activation have been done individually meaning the projects won’t bunch up and become insurmountable.
Still, portions of the more attainable parts of the plan will require grants.
“We used to write grant applications that were so complicated that the only people who used to apply for them were Aspen and Vail because they have dedicated grant writers,” says Alamosa Development Services Director Rachel Baird “In the old days, we never had a chance with those and now we do.”
A financially aggressive Alamosa is made possible by the creation of the Development Services Director position. Now Rachel handles developmental services and grant-writing putting Alamosa on the path to accomplishing their downtown goals with flexibility, not having to redirect money from other city projects into downtown.
“It’s going to go out, it’s going to be spent. It either comes here or it doesn’t... we either bring it to our community or we let it go to other communities,” says Brooks of dedicated grant money.
Said grants are entirely dedicated to certain uses, so when Alamosa collects downtown grants from the state they are specific, and cannot be used for anything other than their intended purpose, a built-in measure to prevent misuse.
Similar beautification will be carried over to San Juan between the SLV Brew Pub and Woody’s for a designated Festival Street. Since San Juan is a city road, Alamosa will have the availability to beautify using overhead string lights and banners. Also in the plan for Festival Street are removable bollards at the Main and Fourth intersections, allowing for temporary street closures for events. Plenty is in play for Festival Street, including a painted street and maybe down the road integrated utilities like power outlets and water connections to support events and vendors on the street.
Wayfinding will be receiving a facelift in Alamosa’s downtown as well. The City is partnering with the marketing board, Alamosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, to update wayfinding signage in the downtown in early 2022.
Getting into the thought process Baird credits traffic engineers Fox Tuttle with constructive insight, “They literally stopped us saying, ‘you know that you can’t read this going 25 miles per hour, the print is too small.’ There are set standards for how big your print should be based on how fast a motorist is traveling. ”
Though Colorado law is pedestrians are granted right of way, the City will be taking steps to ensure downtown safety with the addition of pedestrian crossing signs that flash yellow to encourage a friendlier and safer traffic pedestrian exchange. Crossing signs will be going up on San Juan at both the Sixth and Main street intersections, and Hunt street where it intersects with Sixth and Main. Which will grant dedicated pedestrian crossing on every road downtown.
Leading to something that could be in the 5-year plan, the Hunt Cultural Trail. Hunt street offers another opportunity for the City to potentially draw a line between form and function. As Hunt street deteriorates Alamosa can seek a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to both repair a street in need and also possibly add the necessary streetscape to bring the Cultural Trail in line with the Downtown Plan. The plan includes everything from permanent seating to botanical accents and perhaps further down the road accented paving and historic statues acknowledging Alamosan history. A fully realized Cultural Trail could serve as a home for artistic expression and farmer’s markets. It will also help to draw visitiors at Cole Park for events to the downtown.
Many of the plans being employed will be relying on impetus from business owners to get in on the action.
“We’re really looking this at a partnership with businesses to activate that space”
Owners are invited to take charge of back door spaces in conjunction with alley activation plans and storefront space created by a narrowed Main Street. Giving owners a chance to flex their creative muscle, ideas have spanned Bags game set-ups and even oversized checkerboards. All of which hopefully takes Alamosa further down the path of accomplishing their goal of becoming a destination.
To view the downtown design plan be sure to visit https://cityofalamosa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Alamosa_Downtown-Design-Plan_FINAL_small.pdf
Business owners - to apply for a Façade Grant visit https://cityofalamosa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Facade-Grant-Program-Application.pdf