Englewood advocates still have their eyes on creating a downtown master plan for the city, and while those plans remain in the works, the team is focusing its attention to helping businesses impacted …
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Englewood advocates still have their eyes on creating a downtown master plan for the city, and while those plans remain in the works, the team is focusing its attention to helping businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January, the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce and the City of Englewood announced their intentions to create a downtown plan by the end of the year for the city — known as the Downtown Matters initiative. Part of that plan includes creating a downtown development authority that would act as a steward for Englewood's commercial core, managing new development, supporting local business and strengthening the city's economic sustainability, Englewood documents say.
“Our strategy is to stay the course and see if we can still make a November 2020 date for the downtown development authority. One of the things we've seen is that across Colorado and the states, downtowns are looking how to utilize their downtown districts, including downtown development authorities to become important recovery tools,” said Englewood Chief Redevelopment Officer Dan Poremba. He added that the Downtown Matters initiative will have a big focus on helping businesses recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
Poremba says the COVID-19 pandemic is clearly an upsetting event, but he says the consulting team for the plan is meeting at least once a week online.
The Downtown Matters initiative is focused on creating an economic development tool to rebuild and reposition downtown Englewood and to encourage private investment. It will cover South Broadway, the Englewood City Center and areas around Craig Hospital and Swedish Medical Center. Englewood residents and business owners are providing input and participation into the plan.
“It is going to be challenging to keep the retailers and property owners involved to the extent we would like them to be. The financial impacts are going to be such that the funding for the ultimate downtown development authority is probably going to have to be less initially than what was anticipated,” said Poremba.
“The property owners and business owners just won't have as much financial capacity to contribute to the downtown development authority. We are going to have to adjust the budget requirements, at least in the initial year or two to reflect that,” he said.
The Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce, which promotes Englewood businesses, still believes in the process of the Downtown Matters initiative, according to the chamber's executive director, David Carroll. He added that the process for the plan could possibly get pushed out into the future.
“I don't think the pandemic negates the idea of a downtown development authority. I think it almost strengthens the idea of why it is important,” Carroll said. “What the downtown development authority can do during the pandemic is do the same kind of work the chamber has done in a more direct focus in the central downtown district.”
The chamber has launched efforts to assist Englewood businesses like Time for Takeout, a promotional list of city restaurants that offer to-go meals, curbside pick-up or delivery options.
Cities that have a downtown development authority like Longmont are playing a role in helping businesses weather the storm through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Longmont's downtown development authority (LDDA) is part of a coordinated response team in the city that meets daily to help local employers and employees impacted by COVID-19 . One of the ways the LDDA has assisted businesses is by setting up virtual calls each week with different business sectors to talk about best business practices — how businesses are functioning during these times and more.
The LDDA is currently working on a resiliency plan to assist businesses once they can return back to operating normally. Non-essential businesses like barbershops are closed until at least April 30 while restaurants are not allowed to offer in-person service on that same timetable as well, due to an order from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“We worked hard to get to know our businesses and to be that connector and advocate for what they need not only during these times but during the recovery. We are trying to gather all the information we can about how these impacts are real, what they look like and what people are struggling with,” said LDDA Executive Director Kimberlee McKee. “You can only respond to what you know.”
Brad Nixon, owner of Nixon's Coffee House in Englewood, is part of the Downtown Matters initiative's steering committee — a committee responsible for providing regular updates to Englewood City Council about the plan.
Nixon said he thinks it is important to think about how Englewood can build a downtown area, but now that idea is secondary to getting economic activity started back up in the city.
“Everybody shutting down, having to close their businesses for a period of time — that is rough. There are businesses that are going to need help getting started back up,” said Nixon.
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