The Development and Revitalization Team (DART) and the City of Montrose hosted an everyone-is-welcome meeting on Oct. 30 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. in the Community Room of the Public Safety Complex Monday to discuss the future of Centennial Plaza.
That’s the area that is most known to host the Farmer’s Market every Saturday and has been a meeting place for individuals and medium-sized gatherings for over four decades.
The meeting was very well attended by a cross-section of the Montrose population—free pizza and cookies helped—and was made more inclusive via simultaneous Spanish interpretation.
This was the first of a multi-part, multi-year effort to solicit public input for ideas to improve, renovate, overhaul or even entirely replace and repurpose the public space.
It was a brainstorming session which welcomed all suggestions. Michelle Wingfield, DART coordinator, kicked off the meeting telling everyone in attendance that “every idea is valid” and that “nothing is off the table” at this time.
Centennial Plaza was established in 1982 to commemorate the city’s centennial anniversary. Back then, the population of the entire county was about 25,000—roughly the population of the city today.
And back then the Montrose Downtown Improvement Plan commented, “The function of Centennial Plaza is to enhance the atmosphere and visual appeal of the Downtown Business District while promoting added usefulness for the area.
Unlimited types of programs and activities will be scheduled with the aim of attracting people downtown. As events bring people into town and downtown, significant spin-off to retail sales should be realized.”
For a while, the atmosphere was appealing, and the Plaza has certainly been useful. Significant spin-off to retail success downtown due to the Plaza is arguable, however, but the intention in 1982 was pure and remains the same today.
The last major renovation was in 2005, but even those upgrades —tiled murals of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Uncompahgre Valley, for example—are long gone and the site has succumbed to time and the elements.
Improvements to the surrounding area — CMU, the new public safety complex and the still-under-construction Rathbone Hotel, for instance — have outpaced the slow deterioration of Centennial Plaza.
To keep up with the Joneses and to make the site a fun, safe, and enduring place for residents, visitors, families, and small businesses all, it is time to reinvest in the future of the Plaza.
Sheryl Trent, a meeting facilitation expert, was provided free of charge by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) as part of its Main Street Program.
She divided everyone into five groups and encouraged any and all ideas to be written onto the large sheets of paper hanging around the meeting room which also spilled out into the entryway of the Public Safety Complex.
Groups of eager participants shared and debated ideas, documenting them as they went.
The ideas are being collated by Ms. Trent as this is written and will be submitted to the University of Colorado University Technical Assistance Program (UTAP). UTAP students will take the notes and comments generated on the 30th and create a variety of redesign ideas — from the most modest renovation to the wildest ideas presented during the meeting.
This collaboration between Montrose, DART, DOLA and CU is saving the City of Montrose tens of thousands of dollars in research and design fees and will generate more ideas and spur more conversations than contracting with one design firm alone.
After UTAP returns their designs, DART, the City, and the public will have a chance to further focus on the final idea for the future of Centennial Plaza. Construction and completion of the renovation—or repurposing, or replacement—will occur in 2025, so there is plenty of time to have your voice heard and your ideas considered. DART has a survey which is available until Nov. 6 that you can take in either English or Spanish:
Survey in English: forms.gle/tgXFuMq1T4xT6q4h7
Survey in Spanish: forms.gle/vEKRqDHyvFqxqXQD6
Contact Michelle Wingfield for more information. Better yet, make plans to attend the next DART meeting which will be held on Nov. 14 this month.
This story is by Kevin Clay, a local business owner and a freelance contributor for the Montrose Business Times.