Stakeholders Oppose Next Step Design, Want Smaller Upgrades – The Journal

Small businesses are the backbone of Durango’s economy. Surviving the Gold King Spill, the 416 Fire, the 2020 pandemic, and now the labor and supply chain shortages of 2022. Businesses wonder why City Council wants to eliminate downtown parking and tear up the main avenue?

One adviser called it “the future”. Still, visitors appreciate Durango’s unique history. Questions that council has not answered leave residents and businesses feeling frustrated and unheard. None of the councilors specified the cost of construction. How long will the construction of 14th Street at College Drive take? Who pays for the construction? Why change the historic city center? What happened to the parking fund? Why not build a parking lot?

Love for Durango and our downtown is essential to me. My family owns a business on Main. My last job for the family as a dishwasher and waiter brought to the fore the delicate balance that every business faces in our small town.

Unintended consequences will damage the relationship between residents and council.

Major construction and the elimination of parking spaces will kill some retailers and restaurants. Small businesses have narrow margins in which to operate. Construction is chasing customers.

Elderly people won’t come downtown, people with disabilities won’t come downtown, locals won’t come downtown, and tourists will find it difficult to park. The narrowing of parking spaces, traffic lanes and the central lane will make Main Avenue less safe. The proposed changes will harm our local economy which fuels sales tax for municipal budgets.

Employees will be required to park further in the Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenue East neighborhoods. At a recent council meeting, the police chief said he had to park on Fifth Avenue to get to work. Why do neighborhoods become parking lots?

A recent letter to council from 75 business owners and managers said Main’s downtown redesign is expensive, unnecessary and short-sighted. Small businesses are the lifeblood of Durango. Yet companies feel ignored by the board. Major stakeholders oppose Next Step’s designs and demand small improvements instead of Main’s total redesign.

No current board member owns a business on Main. Downtown is already a destination, offering a warm and welcoming vibrancy to locals and visitors alike. Eliminating parking without building a parking garage will hurt owners and employees who cook, serve tables and work in retail.

During the summers of the 90s, I worked in a small retail store in the 800 block of Main. When festivals and art exhibitions blocked Main, no sales took place in the store. With more than 200 events a year, the city has learned to place street closures on East Second Avenue and Buckley Park. Somehow, current city officials have forgotten that Second Avenue is the place to be. Proposed festival blocks with reduced parking will hurt retail sales and businesses. Durango is not Boulder, Denver or Grand Junction.

Off-peak seasons frequently see seniors travel to Durango by car or bus. Durango’s reputation as a destination is valued by Europeans and global citizens. Visit Durango is supposed to help with off-peak advertising to further appeal to our community and not a redesign of Main. Durango is not Disneyland. Many love it like us. Say you’re from Durango and watch the eyes shine. Make improvements to downtown Durango but don’t kill small business livelihoods, that’s my opinion. What is yours?

Sweetie Marbury, a former city councilor for eight years and two-time mayor, has lived in Durango since 1974.

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