Expert: Revitalized downtown depends on time, effort

Craig's downtown has all the elements needed to implement a successful Main Street program. What it needs is a core group of people dedicated to making it happen.

"The main part is that it's not someone coming in from the outside, it's you working on the project to get it done. There's no magic about it, it's you working and following through," said Jon Schler with the Colorado Center for Community Development.

Schler spoke Wednesday to a group of 40 Craig residents, business owners and elected officials about what it takes to create a viable -- and profitable -- business district in a community.

"It gets down to the people right here in Craig, Colorado. It's the time and effort people put in," he said.

Schler recommended that those interested first know their market. Sixty-five percent of all retail sales occur after 6 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday. Improving business means being there when customers are, Schler said. But,that doesn't mean businesses can't use night lighting and creative window displays to lure customers back if they pass by when the store isn't open.

The next steps are outlined on the Colorado Community Revital-ization Association's four-point approach to main street regeneration.

The first is organization. A successful effort will need a strong group of committed volunteers and lasting partnerships.

"You want to pull from all parts of a community and try to form a base that lasts from now until from now on," Schler said.

The next steps are promotion, design and economic restructuring.

"A lot of communities spend a lot of time on design, and it is important, but in the Main Street approach it's treated as equal with the other three," Schler said.

What downtown has over big- box retailers, he said, is that it is pedestrian friendly, provides entertainment and makes shopping an experience.

"It relies on quality," he said. "Everything you do, if you can't do it good, don't do it at all."

Schler provided participants with contact information and related Web sites, but no one talked about where the program will go from here.

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