By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE—(January 15, 2014) Sometimes, along with a polar vortex comes a breath of fresh air. New Montrose Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Director Wade Nichols has moved into an office at the former City Council annex on Centennial Plaza, bringing with him an extensive skill set, a comprehensive background in community economic development and outreach, and an attitude of adventure.
“My joy comes from heritage development,” said Nichols, a Yale graduate and longtime economic development professional from North Carolina who intends to combine “spectacle” events with extensive “nuts and bolts” work as he and his team move forward with Downtown revitalization efforts.
“We have some very good resources to work with, like Region 10 and the Small Business Resource Center—I am very thankful to have them here,” Nichols said. “As a leading economic development agency, I see them as an amazing catalyst for development and change; I am also hoping to develop strong tie-ins with Colorado Mesa University, and I have joined the board of the Montrose Farmers Market.
“We have begun to get our Downtown committees reactivated,” he said, “which is very important to the Main Street Approach to downtown revitalization.”
Among those committees is a design task force that will be exploring the needs of various Downtown buildings.
“We have some very good buildings, and we have some that need TLC,” Nichols said. “I hope to create an environment where building owners identify that they can renovate and that it makes sense financially for them—there are grant funds out there, and ways that financing can be encouraged.”
Working with the Montrose Public Art eXperience (PAX) committee and the Montrose Historical Museum to expand opportunities for arts and cultural experiences up and down Main Street will be a priority in the coming months, said Nichols, who said that he looks forward to an increased residential presence and more foot traffic as the business community grows.
“We’re going to make this a place that is fun, and active as a business center,” he said. “By building our businesses and helping them make money, we make people want to come here and spend money.”
Even issues commonly considered problematic may have silver linings, he noted.
“I’ve heard a lot about parking,” Nichols said. “In all honesty, when I hear we have a parking problem, I am 60 percent overjoyed to hear it! You want enough vitality Downtown that you have to think of parking. And there may well be parking issues, but we do have 3,000 spaces in our Downtown.
“Obviously, the resources are here,” he said. “We just have to work to make them more visible and comfortable to use”
Raising awareness and generating community involvement are also essential to the Main Street Approach, which was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the 1980’s. In addition to his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University Nichols has undergone training through the national Main Street program. He has worked with a number of successful projects, including one of the program’s original projects in North Carolina, and knows what can be achieved. He looks forward to helping Montrose coordinate and highlight its own assets to achieve success.
“We will be taking the resources we have and building inventories,” he said. “In some cases we will modify things, and we will promote our history while also looking at the latest trends in business. It’s about pulling up your socks and getting about it, and in some cases it’s about creating new socks.
“I think we are poised to see some good developments,” he said. “As a board and staff, we want to communicate with the whole community, and get everybody involved.
“We hope to inspire people and help them out whenever we can,” he said.