Kaufman knows that it will be money well spent. The goal with the trolleys is, literally and figuratively, to drive traffic past Downtown businesses. “If you could get 1,000 more people down to the Riverwalk, other businesses would want to be there,” Kaufman said in a recent phone call. The question is: Will trolleys draw thousands? Maybe not, but that’s not the extent of the PCCP’s plans.
Citing a recent retailer’s trouble with their first inquiries through the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, whose focus is not on retail but on primary jobs, Kaufman says one goal of the PCCP is to “keep a warm lead warm.” The Partnership will “become a single point of access for retail and business inquiries” not handled elsewhere, he explains, and the PCCP may be able to include incentives for companies who want to expand in the Downtown area.
In an effort to make evidence-based strategic planning decisions about the viability of current businesses, the City Center Partnership (CCP) will be cooperating with The Healy Center at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The Healy Center, established in 1999 at the Hasan School of Business, will be executing a student-led study of Downtown real estate and businesses. The goal is to determine what issues businesses are currently facing – ADA accessibility, asbestos, and the like – and then use that information to find incentives or grant funds that will help both current and future businesses.
In addition to research and funding, the CCP is also focused on communication. According to board member, Chris Markuson, the Partnership has plans to implement a Fast Track program. “When a business wants to open Downtown, we’ll assemble all of the agencies that have some responsibility in approving permits for the project into one room, with the business owner. We’ll go over the business’s needs, and instead of bouncing the business from one agency to the next over a long period of time, we’ll get most of everyone’s input all at once. This way, a restaurant won’t be sent back and forth several times between the Health Department and Regional Building when one agency suggests a change is needed in the plans, triggering the need for the other to review the change.” More specifically, Kaufman explained, “If you choose to work in the Downtown area, we’ll get you open in 60 days.”
The defined area may continue to grow. Though City Council has tabled further discussion of allowing Urban Renewal to establish a north- Downtown project area until its February meeting, the Partnership defines its coverage area as Mesa Junction to Parkview hospital, and from Goat Hill to the Midtown Shopping Center according to the map on their website. As Urban Renewal adds to its portfolio of project areas around Downtown, the City Center Partnership will be looking at ways to recruit new businesses and further establish the longevity of the Downtown community.
This could mean that Downtown becomes a lot more active in a relatively short time. In addition, as the Urban Renewal Authority of Pueblo grows, the City Center Partnership will grow as well. As it does, cooperation among CSU-Pueblo and the agencies and organizations that are vested in the developing Downtown business community will create definite change for all of Pueblo.