Economy & Economic Development  January 12, 2023

Greeley downtown plan calls for investment, restored vitality

GREELEY — A 10-year plan to build on and restore economic vitality to downtown Greeley got its first rollout before the City Council and Planning Commission Tuesday. The council will consider incorporating it into the city’s Strategic Work Program at its meeting next week.

If it gets serious consideration as its authors intended, downtown could see marked improvements not only in economic vitality but also public safety, walkability and incorporation of the 55-block downtown area into the neighborhoods that surround it.

“The great win to me is setting downtown up as economically thriving for the future,” said Downtown Development Authority executive director Bianca Fisher, who participated in creation of the plan. 

The DDA in 2011 commissioned a study that resulted in numerous improvements to the district in the 10 years since then. The new report, Fisher said, was a collaborative effort of the DDA, the city of Greeley and the University of Northern Colorado, which borders on the downtown area.

“This time, the work that needs to happen downtown needs everyone’s involvement. … It’s far beyond our [the DDA’s] capacity as a little organization.”

The plan is built on history and on extensive market research. The consulting firm that did the work — Progressive Urban Management Associates Inc., or PUMA, based in Denver — told the city council Tuesday that the plan “is anchored in extensive market assessment. We’re real estate economists.”

The consultants said that the nearly half-square-mile downtown represents just 1% of the city and 3% of the city’s assessed value but each downtown acre generates “three times more value than citywide land.”

Only 3%, or 1,637 residents, live downtown, and 14% or 7,112 people, work downtown with 60% of them engaged in manufacturing and government. About 15% of the city’s restaurants, bars and retailers are downtown. 

The study area for the downtown Greeley plan was, roughly, from Third Street on the north, Fifth Avenue on the east, 17th Street on the south and 11th and 12th streets on the west. Source: Greeley planning documents

The report notes a perception among the public that there is insufficient parking downtown, but it also points out that numerous surface parking lots are an opportunity for redevelopment.

Among the report’s findings:

  • The housing market and demand in the downtown “remains robust.”
  • The industrial sector anchors the downtown and offers “a differential advantage” from other downtowns.
  • Low cost of office space lowers barriers for entrepreneurs looking for space.
  • Retail could be improved by increased housing and tapping into opportunities among UNC students and “younger and Latinx households.”
  • Connections with UNC remain underutilized.
  • Areas of the downtown need significant capital investment; some areas “lack basic sidewalks.”
  • Public spaces are “unequally distributed.”
  • Downtown “has a disproportionate amount of land area dedicated to vehicles, including surface parking lots …”
  • Bike connections downtown can be built upon and connected to other parts of town.
  • Lighting could be improved in some areas.

Strategies for working the plan:

  • Stimulate in-fill development.
  • Encourage vibrant storefronts.
  • Diversity housing.
  • Attract more primary employers.
  • Enhance connections to the Poudre River.
  • Improve connections to UNC.
  • Create new public spaces.
  • Enhance connections to surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Promote arts.
  • Ensure downtown is clean and safe.
  • Celebrate historic character.
  • Activate downtown through programming.
  • Market the downtown’s assets.
  • Consider an amphitheater or permanent stage downtown.
  • Improve programmatic synergy with UNC.
  • Attract a full-service grocery store.

Members of the city council took no action Tuesday but did indicate general satisfaction with the findings and recommendations. Mayor John Gates said the plan would likely fit with the city’s Strategic Work Program.

Councilman Tommy Butler said he was excited about the railway district, where much of the downtown’s industries exist. He was disappointed that the report did not include a discussion of a need for a parking garage. “We’ll need this if we re-use surface parking lots.”

City staffer Becky Safarik, who led the city’s involvement with the plan, said the city has discussed incorporating parking into developments. A multi-level garage “is a timing issue,” she said.

Councilman Johnny Olson said he would have liked to have seen “more emphasis on ‘safety and clean’ before discussion of the arts.

Fisher said that, pending council approval of the plan, “to me, the most logical next step is creating a steering committee to shepherd this action plan forward and also determining what things we can go after.”

She said that since the plan would require significant investment, prioritizing those will be important. 

“We’ve got the investment, involvement, commitment, the collaboration — that hasn’t always been the case. This is a positive moment with the right people in the right places, on the public and private side,” she said.

Ten years from now, Fisher said she would like to see that the city acted on the recommendations regarding surface parking lots. “How can we make this [the downtown] the most productive economically and from an experience standpoint, so people feel safe and excited to have fun with family and friends.”

GREELEY — A 10-year plan to build on and restore economic vitality to downtown Greeley got its first rollout before the City Council and Planning Commission Tuesday. The council will consider incorporating it into the city’s Strategic Work Program at its meeting next week.

If it gets serious consideration as its authors intended, downtown could see marked improvements not only in economic vitality but also public safety, walkability and incorporation of the 55-block downtown area into the neighborhoods that surround it.

“The great win to me is setting downtown up as economically thriving for the future,” said Downtown Development Authority executive director…