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March 7, 2013
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Grand Lake downtown assesment provides points for possible improvements

GRAND LAKE - Citizens were treated to an outside, in-depth look of their town on Tuesday when a Downtown Colorado Inc. team presented a 74-slide PowerPoint about possible changes and improvements in town.

The downtown assessment, supported by the town board, is taking place at the timing of the recent Hotel Impossible filming, from which the town and chamber received special help for marketing and event planning.

Now, the town is receiving an even greater injection of economic development advice from experts of the Colorado Department of Local affairs as well as landscape architects and planning professionals.

The downtown assessment team made up of Katherine Correll and Isabel Waldman of Downtown Colorado Inc., Marc Cittone and Greg Winkler of the Department of Local Affairs, Planning Director Chad Phillips of Routt County, Landscape Architect Elena Scott of Norris Design, Frisco, and Laurie Findley of the Granby Area Chamber of Commerce spent two days in Grand Lake conducting meetings and gathering information for a comprehensive report they will present to the town toward the end of March.

The team kicked-around ideas about ways the town can better market itself, improve the town's traffic and pedestrian flow in the downtown core, and make updates to government code to make it more developer-friendly.

The total cost of the assessment is about $10,000, with $3,500 of that paid for with a grant form the USDA Rural Development and another $2,000 from the Department of Local Affairs and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

"I was pleased with the turnout," Grand Lake Town Manager David Hook said of the packed Community House on Tuesday night. "I was excited how the team took everything they heard and gelled it into something that ended up being a presentable format."

The next step, Hook said, will be discussing the presentation with Grand Lake board members as early as during the March 11 town board workshop, and perhaps setting some priorities. Hook anticipates the chamber and the town will take the lead organizing groups to see assessment suggestions come to fruition.

The downtown core of any town is "the smile" the town casts on its citizens and residents, said Correll during Tuesday's presentation, and it's up to citizens to define the town center and tier resources in a way that brings about the best outcome.

Attracting tourism, she said, is only a part of a town's sustainabiity not to be outshined by business development, retention and expansion.

In the presentation, the team suggested improved communication among business leaders by having semi-annual get-togethers.

They pointed out a "lack of engagement in the community despite great passion for the town," and suggested ways to spark citizen involvement in government and business-owner involvement in the chamber.

Besides "removing (government) barriers to development" and aiding development by creating a relocation package, including on the planning commission a member who is a second-home owner or surrounding-area landowner, the team also encouraged community members to explore ways the Grand Arts Council Building and former elementary school can bring "economic diversification" to the town, not dependent on the season or weather.

During the design portion of the presentation, Landscape Architect Scott said the most pressing matter in her view was the entrance to Grand Lake. A major redesign of the traffic flow at the entrance is in order, she said, so it's less confusing to motorists. Presently, visitors leaving the park and considering turning left into Grand Lake encounter "Do Not Enter" signs of an egress at their seemingly first opportunity.

Scott also suggested consolidating information signs in the town park, implementing better wayfinding signs in the downtown, ridding the town of its $10,000 parking fee requirement for developers, and limiting the boardwalk implementation to Grand and side streets Ellsworth, Garfield and Pitkin, while Park, Vine and the eastern end of Grand Avenue remain "transitional streetscapes."

Scott also suggested business owners engage in a colorful "chair program," placing rocking chairs, benches and Adirondack chairs in front of businesses to make more seating available and a more inviting downtown.

And Winkler suggested a sales tax program whereby town sales taxes are redistributed after a base amount to help businesses with boardwalk maintenance to help preserve one of the town's greatest assets.

The full PowerPoint can be found on the town of Grand Lake website, www.townofgrandlake.com.

- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Mar 7, 2013 07:11PM Published Mar 7, 2013 07:10PM Copyright 2013 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.