Delta Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) isn't waiting to see how many hotel developers respond to a request for proposals, but instead is already considering complementary businesses for the riverfront development.
At a DURA board meeting Feb. 27, Better City consultants sat in via video conference to discuss commercial development that would complement, but ideally not directly compete with existing downtown businesses. Better City surveyed several communities with successful downtown economics, including Palisade, Montrose, Pagosa Springs, Buena Vista, Gunnison and Salida. Targeted businesses included unique restaurants, wineries and wine tasting, boutique craft/art shops, dessert shops, craft beverages and spirits, and recreational businesses that sell or rent bicycles, kayaks and other outdoor equipment.
Delta's existing businesses were also surveyed, to identify gaps that could help diversify offerings within the community.
As the discussion unfolded, emphasis was given to equipment rentals, a microbrewery or wine tasting facility, and a national restaurant chain. Commissioner Tom Huerkamp said it would be wonderful to have a wine tasting facility that featured locally sourced wines, hard ciders and distilled products.
Don Suppes agreed, saying, "If we're going to be growing these businesses, we should start locally."
That's where economic development comes in, said Huerkamp -- helping existing businesses establish more than one location.
The conversation got trickier when DURA commissioners considered national restaurant chains.
Everyone has their local favorites, but they believe tourists traveling through an unfamiliar area prefer to eat at a restaurant with a name they recognize.
The Better City consultants said it would be prudent to try to leverage any relationship the hotel developer might have with a restaurant chain. But even if tourism increases, it's unlikely the numbers would support an Applebee's or a Chili's. Huerkamp urged the consultants not to "oversell" the numbers.
"Playing devil's advocate, we've got restaurans here trying to eke out a living," Suppes said. "Now we're basically using taxpayer subsidies to bring in a new one. We've got to make sure it's a good fit, one that's going to inflict the least amount of pain possible."
Huerkamp stressed that DURA's goal is to generate a new body of revenue by providing goods and services that aren't available here. "We want to do everything we can to protect the people who have worked and sweat and survived in this county. Will there be a rotation of smaller shops on Main Street? Yes, that's been going on forever but key businesses in our communities need to be given some consideration. It's a balancing act."
The key is looking at the long-term effect, said board member Ron Austin. "We have to keep the vision of something bigger than just supplying the citizens who currently live here. We need to look beyond that, at having additional people coming in to town -- tourists and new businesses."
On Monday, city manager David Torgler was asked about interest from hotel developers, who were given until the close of business March 6 to submit proposals for a 70-room upper midscale hotel. Torgler declined to comment, saying he preferred the process remain completely open until the close of business Tuesday.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.