By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE—(September 3, 2013) With the search for a new Downtown Development Authority Director Closing Sept. 3, the expedited hiring process is expected to yield a slate of strong candidates for the position formerly held by the DDA’s first director, Scott Shine, who resigned in June. Montrose City Manager Bill Bell, whose staff is handling the search, said that he hopes whoever is chosen will be ready to roll out the city’s Main Street program.
“We really like the DDA,” Bell said. “We’ve done some joint projects, like our revolving loan program, which has helped put $100,000 back into Downtown this year through approved projects.
“Now, it’s time to roll out the Main Street program, and get a committee in place.”
For now, former DDA Chair Bob Brown is serving as interim DDA director. Though he draws “a modest salary,” to fill in, Brown said that he looks forward to handing over the reins to a new director shortly.
“We got off a on a good footing, and we are very proud of what has been accomplished,” Brown said. “We’ve had a lot of support, and things really started rolling when Scott came in. He was very focused on creating interest Downtown—there were an awful lot of things he did for us.
“We are just trying to keep it together.”
A recent tempest among some Main Street merchants who objected to street closures for the Zombie movie filmed in Montrose over the weekend of Aug. 23-24 could have been avoided with better communication from the City’s Office of Business & Tourism, which was promoting the movie, and a more thoughtful approach to street closures, said Brown, who suggested incremental closures based on actual need rather than a blanket closure based on the city’s capacity to schedule within the confines of a four-day work week.
“The DDA did not promote this, though we welcome filmmakers and know that a lot of people in town had fun,” Brown said. “The city’s Office of Business & Tourism saw value on the tourism side, but it was probably an error to create such a long closure.”
The next DDA director will need to focus on building the financial health of the DDA, which works to be transparent but is cash poor, Brown said, noting that the annual budget of the organization is currently $125,000 most of which is gleaned from taxes and from what the City has been able to kick in.
“Our TIF (tax increment financing) has not really kicked in yet,” Brown said.
Among the most exciting projects currently underway is the partnership the DDA has established with the City of Montrose to restore the old Salvation Army building on 514 South First Street, he said.
“(City staffer) Virgil Turner and Scott really put that together,” Brown said. “We have a memorandum of understanding that allows us to lease the building, and they are sharing the $100,000 we are expending to fix it, plus providing in-kind work where possible.”
The building has already been rented to Chet and Karen Byler of Straw Hat Farms, who will occupy half of the structure with a market when renovations are complete.
“We should commend Chet, because he is actually doing a lot of the work,” Brown said. “We have put in restroom facilities, for his store and for the events plaza. The other half has not yet been rented, but our plan is to enhance the west side to complement the Montrose Farmers Market, which has really been gaining ground.”
The building should serve as a small example of the kind of project the DDA can bring about, Brown said.
“Once it is done, we need to sell, get the DDA and the City out, and turn it over to the private sector,” he said.
Though Brown did note that sales are down slightly within the DDA compared to last summer, the organization’s outlook is excellent.
“I think our Opportunity Fund has been very successful, because we are willing to take risk and we offer a lower rate,” he said. “I hope in future the DDA will be in a position to broker both public and private funding, and create critical redevelopment, rescue and business retention. Now that we have created our first parklet, we are looking at bigger projects, and we hope to strengthen our relationship with the state’s Main Street program.”
A+Y Gallery owner and Downtown volunteer Yesenia Duncan, who has helped coordinate the Main in Motion Downtown street fairs on Thursday evenings this year, said that she believes the DDA is headed in the right direction.
“There is always a silver lining,” Duncan said. “Change is good, new ideas and new visions are good. Without a thriving Downtown, we won’t see a thriving South Side—Main Street is key. “I would love to see the DDA move in the direction of Main Street training,” she said. “Let’s be positive! We have to think about tourism, retail enhancement and what is best for our community as a whole, and we have got to treat outsiders with respect and gratitude.”