Designing a Vibrant Downtown Through Local Leadership
Gunnison, Colorado | Completed 2018
Gunnison, Colorado has a rich history and is home to an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities. The community exemplifies the true beauty of Western Colorado and has many great assets. Downtown Gunnison is the historic, economic, and cultural heart of the community and the location of Western State University. It also serves as a gateway to the Gunnison Valley.
Despite its strengths, Downtown Gunnison is not without challenges. Many residents and businesses feel the area is falling short of its potential. Local businesses struggle to thrive. Pedestrians and cyclists feel unsafe on downtown streets.
After their involvement in the Community Builders One Valley Prosperity Project(OVPP), the City of Gunnison applied to our Technical Assistance program to focus on developing a downtown strategy. The revitalization of Downtown Gunnison had been prioritized in the OVPP regional economic strategy.
The Gunnison Vibrancy Initiativeremains a community-driven effort that worked to establish a vision, goals, and strategies for the downtown, as well as identify the tools, resources, and leadership capacity needed for implementation.
At the start of the project, the City and Community Builders partnered with a committee of local leaders from downtown businesses, nonprofits, schools, and government agencies. This committee, dubbed the Downtown Leadership Committee(DLC) was tasked with developing and carrying out an effective community engagement process in addition to providing on-going support for implementation efforts.
Early in the project, members of the DLC participated in a two-day tour of successful downtowns in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The tour served as an opportunity to educate members of the DLC on the projects and programs in these communities that worked to strengthen their downtowns.
To this day, the DLC actively meets to move projects in the downtown to implementation. They’ve already had a great start as the City made significant changes to their code to allow for better development and affordable housing in the downtown. They’ve made further improvements to their bike and pedestrian network, resulting in a shared-use trail that connects the downtown to the university. Substantial placemaking projects have also resulted.
In addition, the conversations we had with the community inspired a downtown land owner to change his development plans. He is now in partnership with the City to utilize his land to extend their downtown street grid, making way for dense, downtown housing. This project also sparked conversations within the community about a plan that will take care of the next 100 years of growth in Gunnison.