Downtown in the spotlight
as businesses fill storefronts
There are no longer any vacant storefronts on the core of Main Street – between State Ave. and Edison Ave. The few remaining vacant storefronts are along the perimeter streets.
Matt Abbey was telling the Alamosa City Council two weeks ago the story of how he and his wife made the decision to relocate their HobbyTown store to downtown Alamosa along Main Street.
The Abbeys were contemplating the future of HobbyTown a few years back when Abbey told his wife about the city’s newly adopted Downtown Design Plan. “Is this really going to happen?” she asked. He assured her the city was intent on repositioning Main Street Alamosa as a destination attraction catering to pedestrian foot traffic, developing the side streets to host festivals, farmer markets, and other community gatherings, and importantly enforcing the existing 25 MPH speed limit on Main Street by reducing traffic lanes and installing other traffic-reduction measures.
to expand its footprint and has taken over the former Early Childhood offices near St. Ives, and is beginning construction on a new 45,000-square-foot building on San Juan between Main and 6th Street to go along with its existing headquarters on Main.
There’s other movement downtown and across Alamosa: a new restaurant is opening along State Street across from Ruby Slipper; Boys and Girls Clubs is opening a Teen Center on State near Milagro’s Coffee; two new boutique women’s retail clothing stores and an art gallery are adding to the mix downtown. And for all the existing restaurants on Main Street, well, their challenge has been keeping up with business.
In some respects, Main Street Alamosa has arrived, or at least improved its chance of becoming the hub of civic and tourist activity intended when the city council adopted first its Comprehensive Plan in 2017 and then the companion Downtown Design Plan. It wasn’t until after a series of public hearings, presentations, design charrettes, resident surveys on the desires for Main Street, did the downtown plan move to more public comment and ultimately city council adoption in September of 2019.
There were public presentations on the design ideas for Main Street that showed a reduction of lanes, a tighter Main Street to help pedestrians. But when the Main Street lane reduction went into effect in August, people got their first glimpse of a new Main Street and many didn’t like it.
The social media comments are harsh toward city officials. A petition to get the city to reverse course on the lane reduction, citing safety hazards, is underway and probably will get presented to city council at its next meeting on Wednesday evening. The city council accepts public comment at the beginning of its meetings and citizens need to sign up beforehand to tell the council their thoughts.
The city will be prepared as it’s been to explain its overall downtown strategy.
“We know the downtown is important. We know it needs help,” says City Manager Heather Brooks. “So that’s why we paid to have the downtown plan. The city had no preconceived notions of what needed to come out of it, just that we want a strong downtown.”
Brooks and Rachel Baird, the city’s Development Services Director, said the city continues to look at ways to give motorists coming into Alamosa from the east an earlier heads up on Main Street’s lane change, and put in place other traffic measures to help motorists feel the need to slow and maintain the 25 MPH speed limit. Everything the city does on Main Street has to meet the approval of the Colorado Department of Transportation because Main Street is also state Highway 160.
“It’s a busy thoroughfare and we wonder why people don’t stop,” says Baird of the city’s challenges. “We wonder why pedestrians don’t wander around downtown. It’s not a climate where we’ve taken away our motorists rights. It’s just a climate that’s more balanced. We care about both now. We care as equally about pedestrians as our motorists.”