DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS FORGE AHEAD DESPITE VANDALISM, THEFT, FLAT SALES TAX REVENUES

By Caitlin Switzer

DOWNTOWN MONTROSE—For Main Street shoppers, Downtown Montrose offers more variety than it has in years, with an emerging mix of bou- tiques, eateries and galleries that reflect the increas- ingly diverse local community.

However, with the City’s most recent sales and use tax report (released Oct. 11) showing year to date revenues of $7,790,067—an increase of just 1.8 per- cent over the 2011 figures—the need to make the most of existing resources is obvious, and efforts to bring more energy and enthusiasm to the Montrose’s historic district continue.

A recent spate of vandalism has also pointed up the need for vigilance in protecting the improvements made by property owners and others. Broken flower pots, vandalism and theft to Downtown sculptures— a bronze horse valued at $4,500 was recently stolen from a pedestal display at Main and Cascade while another piece on that corner was damaged—followed  the news earlier this summer that a man had fallen from a Downtown sculpture and been injured overnight.

Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Director Scott Shine acknowledged the ongoing problem that has frustrated some Downtown business owners.

“Vandalism has been a real issue lately,” Shine said. “A lot of communities place cameras in strategic places, which is some- thing we could explore doing here.”

In addition to the recently announced DDA/City loan fund, which will allow local businesses to borrow up to $20,000 for façade and other improvements, the Downtown Development Authority contin- ues to work with property owners and oth- ers to alleviate the problem of buildings that have been vacant over the long term, according to Shine.

“We are not really targeting specific properties; my approach has been to make contact, let the landlords know about the DDA, and try to establish relationships,” Shine said. “Our new loan program is a tool that allows us to invest in Downtown; while it won’t cover major rehabilitation projects, it is a way that we can help.”

Shine cited the recent façade improve- ments to the Creative Photography build- ing (308 East Main St.).

“She saw what had been done at D’Medi- ci Footwear (316 East Main) and Simmer (320 East Main),” Shine said, “and she took down her awning, improved the his- toric façade, and repainted. It’s a subtle incentive for others to do the same—I be- lieve once the ball really gets rolling, things will snowball.”

One of the downtown district’s most visi- ble vacancies is the former Reeves Depart- ment Store and Wild Rose space at 337 East Main.

“That is a really nice block, and there are opportunities for that space,” Shine said. “However, it needs a lot of work.”

Realtor John Renfrow, who has the his- toric building listed, said that it is probably best suited for a retail clothing store.

“The space is 10,353 square feet,” Ren- frow said, “and it includes the very first elevator in Montrose. The roof needs a little help, but the price has been reduced to $299,000—just $28 per square foot. It’s a great deal!”

As the real estate market improves, the empty spaces should diminish, Shine not- ed.

“We have had a lot of new stores come about, and new momentum and excitement Downtown,” he said. “We are seeing a number of business and property owners doing cross-promotions, and sharing ideas. I think a lot will happen as the market changes—values will go up, and people will fix their buildings.”

The DDA is bounded by San Juan Ave- nue to the East and the Uncompahgre Riv- er to the West, so tying the Main Street shopping district to new developments along the river will be essential as Mont- rose grows, Shine said. Efforts to revitalize and brand the area West of Main and East of the River have already begun; the newly completed streetscape project at Sampler Square was celebrated with a city ribbon cutting and DDA cash mob event on Oct. 4.

“I see Main and Grand as an opportunity area,” Shine said. “Sampler Square is such a cool space, and the new sidewalks make it safer for walking. There are some prop- erties for sale nearby that have interesting potential too.”