Downtown Craig revitalization not impossible, experts say

DCI reps present recommendations to community

Quotable...

“There’s going to be a lot of baby steps when we get started, but the first thing we need to do is get organized and create a central location for information dissemination. From the city’s perspective we were interested in the DCI assessment because a vibrant downtown core is good for all of Craig.”

— Craig City Manager Jim Ferree about recommendations presented by Downtown Colorado, Inc. to revitalize historic downtown Craig

— It’s no secret Craig’s historic downtown district is in need of a more than a good old-fashioned spit shine.

Though it’s going to require a widespread community effort, revitalizing Craig’s core is far from impossible.

But economic development is a team sport, said Downtown Colorado, Inc. team member Stephanie Troller, and increasing foot traffic to downtown businesses begins with better organization and communication among Craig’s various governmental and community entities.

“You have a lot of great organizations in Craig, from the city and the county to the (Craig) Chamber of Commerce, the (Moffat County) Tourism Association and the Downtown Business Association,” Troller said. “They all have your best interests at heart, but there is a lack of communication. There’s a lot of overlap and they need to work together on a common message.”

Troller and eight colleagues from DCI arrived in Craig on Monday to conduct a two-day business revitalization visit that featured a walking tour of downtown and four community focus group meetings.

On Tuesday, the DCI team unveiled its initial recommendations about how to revitalize Craig’s downtown district, from infrastructure improvements and beautification projects to better marketing strategies.

The recommendations were based on themes DCI team members heard from the community.

In addition to better organization and communication among Craig’s various organizations, DCI team members said infrastructure improvements and making downtown a more attractive place to visit were chief among the concerns raised by local residents.

A big reason why so many people said historic downtown Craig is an unattractive place to visit stems from the rash of vacant storefronts.

Genevieve Zeman, preservation and design specialist for DCI, said concerns about vacant storefronts doesn’t necessarily mean the challenges are insurmountable.

“Vacant storefronts represent a missed opportunity (in terms of marketing and promotions),” Zeman said. “Empty businesses are a great place to advertise local events or display works by local artists.”

Considering so many Craig residents talked about their love of eating out, the DCI team recommended Craig focus on restaurants as part of its downtown business recruitment plan.

One way to do that, Zeman said, is by organizing “pop-up” restaurants.

A pop-up restaurant is an event staged in a vacant store that provides residents with the opportunity to showcase their cooking skills.

“It’s not just a fun event to bring the community together, but it also provides potential business owners with the opportunity to see how a vacant space might work for a restaurant,” Zeman said.

After Tuesday night’s presentation, Karen Brown, president of the Downtown Business Association, said she was overwhelmed by the wealth of information and all of DCI’s good ideas, specifically in regards to communication gaps within the community.

“It was well worth the investment,” Brown said. “I’m so impressed with the amount of work they got done and I think it was great to have a group of professionals come in who aren’t from Craig and give us these really good suggestions. Now we need to take the ball and keep it rolling.”

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said he expects to receive the DCI presentation today and will have it posted by the end of the week on the city’s website.

In about six weeks DCI will deliver a narrative and an action matrix on how to get revitalization plans under way.

“There’s going to be a lot of baby steps when we get started, but the first thing we need to do is get organized and create a central location for information dissemination,” Ferree said. “From the city’s perspective, we were interested in the DCI assessment because a vibrant downtown core is good for all of Craig.”

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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