Leslie Wing-Pomeroy, co-owner of East Simpson Coffee in Lafayette, is helping lead a revival of the street downtown. Jonathan Castner/For BizWest

East Simpson leads renaissance in Lafayette Street that once was city’s hub sees new popularity

LAFAYETTE — Downtowns across Boulder County are an interesting mix; often with cyclical periods of prosperity and neglect. But by far the most forgotten over much of its 130-year history had to be East Simpson Street in Lafayette.

Until now, that is.

“It’s one of those streets that you fall upon by accident,” said East Simpson Coffee co-owner Leslie Wing-Pomeroy, who founded her business roughly eight months ago. “But I really got a sense that something was going to happen with this street.”

Once the center of a bustling mining and farming community founded in 1888, East Simpson Street was home to most of the commercial and government offices in the beginning of the town. Named after John Simpson, the first coal miner in the area, this three-block downtown area once sported the town hall, two grocery stores and what may have been the only woman-run bank in the nation – Lafayette Bank, which featured town founder Mary Miller as its president.

Lafayette also was home to the Denver-to-Yellowstone Highway that eventually became U.S. Highway 287. Gradually businesses began to abandon East Simpson for the traffic along the highway, known in town as Public Road.

The highway was realigned through Lafayette in the 1980s, but by then East Simpson was largely just a memory, with a handful of ongoing commercial ventures hanging on.

Today, redevelopment of East Simpson is one of the hottest topics in town.

The city of Lafayette has been engaged in an overall effort to encourage redevelopment in the downtown area, including Public Road and East Simpson, but a great deal of the interest is coming from business owners looking to invest, regardless. Some of the interest is a remarkable bit of symbiosis between them both.

In 2011, the city completed a Vision Plan for downtown in which consultants noticed a dearth of multi-family homes near the core commercial areas. The city in the next year amended its urban-renewal plan to allow for multi-family residential in an extended area around the downtown core commercial zone.

“When that was changed, it opened the door for the Simpson Old Town project to happen,” said Jennifer Ooton, executive director of the Lafayette Urban Renewal Authority.

The Simpson townhome project consists of 18 luxury townhomes in the commercial area of East Simpson, which will list from $294,000 to $419,000, said listing agent Patrick Brown. Building them there was a no-brainer, said Brown, who discovered the lots and sold developer Gene Hansen of Hansen Homes Colorado on the project.

“I came across this spot almost two years ago,” Brown said. “I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had in my car that can’t afford Boulder, so then I’d take them to Louisville and they couldn’t afford that or there was nothing on the market.

“Lafayette is the next logical progression. It was only a matter of time until it happened,” he said, “but I couldn’t believe how fast it happened.

“We have 11 under contract right now, so more than half,” said Brown about the townhome project now under construction.

While LURA has to spread a rather thin budget in the entire downtown area, including Public Road, it has made some significant inroads in kick-starting things. One of the first projects was the Lafayette Commons office building, a renovated building formerly housing Boulder County agencies, for which LURA reimbursed the developer $200,000 to match the original building facade, that of Lafayette Bank.

Similarly, LURA has plans to help Wing-Pomeroy and her husband and business partner, William Pomeroy, with the patio on the outside of their building. The couple already has plans for music and art activities, which isn’t a far reach for the former film actress and her husband, an accomplished set designer.

The couple found their way first to a residential area – their home is only a block from the business – but quickly found they wanted to join in the community in a very direct fashion.

“We really wanted a place where the neighbors could venture out and walk into an establishment they could all be together,” she said, adding that the business may soon have a wine and beer license for evening events. “We’re really hoping that we’re the long-term anchor of this (east) end of the district, with Odd 13 being the other.”

Odd 13 has been in business for two years. The brewery and taproom already is moving most of its production and packaging to a 3,800-foot expansion at South Boulder Road and U.S. 287, but leaving a small-scale production operation at the 301 E. Simpson St. location, home to the popular neighborhood taproom.

The 2011 downtown visioning plan created a slogan of “Creative, Diverse and Eclectic,” and so far East Simpson is meeting the marquee. Along with the brewery, there are a number of very diverse businesses, including a yoga/pilates center, a photography studio and a center devoted to courses in professional healing and support services, as well as group activities for children and, especially, their often-overlooked moms.

“The truth is, I was trying to get a place on Public (Road), but I saw this place (424 E. Simpson) as I was driving around,” said Satica Synnestvedt, owner of A Mom’s Space. “But it’s more perfect than I could have imagined; as soon as I rented it this area exploded” with business activity.

“We all opened up at the same time,” said Synnestvedt about the flurry of activity roughly nine months ago. “This whole area is filled with new families; it’s pretty amazing how it all worked out.”

LAFAYETTE — Downtowns across Boulder County are an interesting mix; often with cyclical periods of prosperity and neglect. But by far the most forgotten over much of its 130-year history had to be East Simpson Street in Lafayette.

Until now, that is.

“It’s one of those streets that you fall upon by accident,” said East Simpson Coffee co-owner Leslie Wing-Pomeroy, who founded her business roughly eight months ago. “But I really got a sense that something was going to happen with this street.”

Once the center of a bustling mining and farming community founded in 1888, East Simpson Street was home to most of the commercial and government offices in the beginning of the town. Named after John Simpson, the first coal miner in the area, this three-block downtown area once sported the town hall, two grocery stores and what may have been the only woman-run bank in the nation – Lafayette Bank, which featured town founder Mary Miller as its president.

Lafayette also was home to the Denver-to-Yellowstone Highway that eventually became U.S. Highway 287. Gradually businesses began to abandon East Simpson for the traffic along the highway, known in town as Public Road.

The highway was realigned through Lafayette in the 1980s, but by then East Simpson was largely just a memory, with a handful of ongoing commercial ventures hanging on.

Today, redevelopment of East Simpson is one of the hottest topics in town.

The city of…