Some Durango store owners fear Main Avenue redesign will limit access to stores – The Durango Herald

75 businesses sign a letter to the city opposing the new downtown vision

Residents spoke out against downtown Durango’s Next Step program at a city council meeting in August. Seventy-five businesses signed a letter in June expressing their dissatisfaction with plans to redevelop the main avenue downtown. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Seventy-five business owners and managers have signed a letter opposing existing downtown Main Avenue redevelopment plans, saying the proposed changes are costly, unnecessary, short-sighted and would “seriously affect” their businesses.

The letter was addressed to the city of Durango, its director and the city council. It was emailed by Antonia Clark, owner of the Toh-Atin Gallery on West Ninth Street, to the city manager’s office on June 3.

Clark sent the letter to the city manager’s office in June and distributed copies to city council members at the Aug. 2 council meeting, city spokesman Tom Sluis said Friday.

Durango’s Downtown’s Next Step project aims to transform Main Avenue to improve the downtown experience for pedestrian traffic while supporting local businesses. But some business owners and managers oppose the designs, saying they feel ignored by the city.

Councilor Kim Baxter said she has had conversations with some business owners since the letter was sent. She said city staff members have been working with business owners and managers to address their concerns about the downtown Next Step project, particularly around the location of bus stops. buses, disabled parking and downtown accessibility.

She said an extensive traffic and parking study is underway and will inform the final design. The current preferred design likely won’t be the absolute final design, she said.

Signatories to the letter say city surveys sent out in the winter and spring of this year did not include options for respondents to say they preferred no or limited changes to the downtown landscape.

“We believe that recent surveys, carried out by planning consultants, have missed important options,” the letter said. “Of the 4 Main Avenue concepts presented, there was no option to choose to ‘leave Main Avenue as is with some minor improvements.’ such as East Second Ave. and vice versa, is short-sighted.

Clark began knocking on doors to businesses along Main Avenue after hearing about the downtown Next Step project. She helped lead the charge by collecting signatures for the letter submitted to the city council.

A page of a letter signed by 75 business owners on or near Main Avenue asking Durango City Council to consider less drastic changes to the central business district than those proposed in the preferred final concept of the The city’s next step downtown. The signatures are spread over 17 separate copies of the letter. (Courtesy of Antonia Clark)

She said less than one in 20 businesses were aware of the Downtown Next Step Project when she first approached merchants after the city released its first survey which ended in January.

“We felt that business people whose livelihoods and those of their employees depend on Durango’s accessibility and convenience to customers, we felt were not included in investigation,” she said.

Karyn Gabaldon, owner of the Gabaldon Fine Art Gallery at 680 Main Ave., said Durango’s proposed plans for downtown would further limit on-street parking, which is already diminished by the bumps. Reducing parking would in turn affect customer access to stores, especially for elderly and disabled customers.

She has a 92-year-old mother who already struggles to visit downtown, she said.

Durango artist and gallerist Karyn Gabaldon is gearing up for a 2020 exhibition. She fears Downtown’s Next Step project could harm her business and other Main Avenue businesses if it comes to fruition as existing sketches show. . (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

“She’s either in a walker or in a chair. And so with the bulb failures, I think it’s going to make it very difficult for the disabled or the elderly,” she said.

Gabaldon said the proposed design would leave older people and people with disabilities without the same level of downtown access as other residents and tourists.

“It’s very biased for me that I can’t include everyone,” she said.

She said she was also disappointed that her company did not receive an exception for bulbs, rounded ends on sidewalks as opposed to 90-degree corners.

“The Strater was once exempted from having a light bulb due to the inability of its buses to move,” she said.

Her art gallery features her contemporary paintings of Durango-area landscapes, and she also sells jewelry, glass, woodwork, carvings, and other items. With the current design plan, it would be difficult for her patrons to carry large works of art down the street and load them into her car as there is no parking lot in front of the gallery, she said. .

Clark said the business owners who signed the letter prefer small improvements to a total revamp of Main Avenue. But she and other business owners who have attended town hall meetings to voice their concerns feel overlooked or ignored.

“I’m a little disappointed,” Gabaldon said. “I attended most of the meetings and I just don’t feel like there was any communication between the city and the traders unless we show up to the meetings,” she said. declared.

One of Clark’s biggest concerns is potential “festival blocks” for the 900 and 1000 blocks of Main Avenue, although this idea received less support from survey respondents than wider sidewalks and a lane. center turn.

“There will be street closures on Main Avenue,” she said. “And we’ve said over and over that street closures are good for restaurants and bars because people come downtown and then they stay downtown and they eat. But they’re really bad for retail and other businesses because they take away access to our businesses.

Clark said East Second Avenue is a successful street for weekend festivals because it is home to the La Plata County Courthouse, city offices, and private offices that are typically closed on weekends, in addition to hotels and restaurants.

“It’s the perfect place to hold a festival and shut down the streets,” she said. “It brings people downtown, it’s a very good thing and it doesn’t close access to retailers.”

Clark and the signatories of the letter also said the redesign of downtown to alleviate security concerns was unnecessary.

During a public attendance segment of the Aug. 2 city council meeting, Sharon Taylor, owner of Tippy Canoe on Main Avenue, said she and her customers were frustrated with parking changes that have already had place on Main Avenue due to bumps that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the city pursues a Boulder or Denver vibe.

“We have a unique town with charm and character that stands out from all other towns in Colorado,” she said. “That’s why we’re ranked #1 for travel in so many magazines. The new concept (Downtown’s Next Step) takes away the charm of Durango with the parking lot adding more work for the city.

Support for the next stage of downtown

However, not all business owners on or near Main Avenue are concerned about new designs. Jesse Ogle, founder of iAM Music, and David Woodruff, president of the Durango Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, spoke at the same August city council meeting in favor of the downtown design plans.

“We have tons of people who just entered Camino del Rio from north of the Main right there,” Ogle said. “When the traffic was two lanes, we almost got hit several times by cars. I’m in favor of some sort of way to slow traffic down so it’s not speeding out there at about 35 mph.

Woodruff said those concerned about the loss of parking hang on to “less than 1% of available metered parking spaces downtown.”

The pandemic has presented a silver lining in that it has caused Durangoans to rethink how their community works and how downtown works, he said.

“We strongly believe this project will make downtown a destination for everyone and inherently boost sales tax revenue generation, especially during off-peak seasons,” he said. “We believe it is short-sighted to look at short-term impacts and not long-term benefits.”

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