Group proposes steps to spruce up downtown Fruita
Better defining area, creating 5-year plan among ideas
If Fruita city officials were wondering whether there is support for a downtown revitalization effort, the roomful of citizens and stakeholders Tuesday evening provided a pretty good answer.
Dozens of people turned out to learn the results of two days of analysis from Downtown Colorado, Inc., who presented a laundry list of ideas to get the downtown push going.
The nonprofit group’s executive director, Katherine Correll, started by describing downtowns generally as the “smile” that a city puts forward.
“We’re here to help you fill in the missing teeth,” she said.
Continuing a related anatomy analogy, “If the downtown heart functions well, it pumps life out to the rest of the community,” Correll said.
Looking broadly, Correll said the group believes Fruita is highly dedicated to developing downtown, but that there’s a real energy lacking because of an absence in clarity of the mission.
Her immediate recommendations included better defining the downtown area, establishing some five-year objectives, and identifying a dedicated champion for downtown.
Neighboring Grand Junction and its longstanding Downtown Development Authority were often used as a reference point, and the formation of a similar group in Fruita was a repeated recommendation.
Then speakers got into more detail.
Heidi Ham, former executive director of Grand Junction’s DDA, had a number of marketing ideas for the crowd.
She said the city should conduct a detailed analysis of all the events that happen during the year and figure out what’s working and what’s not. She saw potential in the existing shop local campaign and hoped it could fit in with Fruita’s “funky and progressive” image. She urged continued support for the grassroots Home Grown Fruita effort, as well as for edgy and creative guerrilla marketing campaigns like the recent WTF — Welcome to Fruita — campaign.
Economic development was another pillar of the group’s report. Many of the recommendations focused on making it more desirable and easy for businesses to set up shop downtown: waive permitting and other fees, provide support for facade improvements and create a “relocation package” that guides new businesses through the process.
The consultant team provided even more detailed recommendations regarding design.
First, the team suggested defining Fruita’s downtown in three distinct areas — the downtown commercial core, extended downtown and the downtown transition zone. Importantly, each area should have its own specific design standards, the group recommended. Along those lines, consultants lauded the downtown as walkable and pedestrian-friendly but said there is room for improvement safety-wise, especially in the Circle Park area. They also encouraged more connection of city amenities through improved trails, better signage and striping of bike lanes, as well as the need for improved signage near Interstate 70 and within city limits.
One unique idea put forth was to partially close a half block of Mulberry Street just north of Aspen Avenue, creating a pedestrian-only area that could have a water feature, kids play area, movies presented on the wall, or even a fossil dig attraction.
Other topics that were discussed — and will be included in an official report from the group due in about six weeks — were ways to improve parking, strategies for maintaining historic character, and available funding sources to get some of these ideas put into place.
“There is no silver bullet,” Correll said. “But you have all of the potential in the world.”