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Downtown both venue and model for upcoming conference

Katherine Correll

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Downtown Grand Junction will serve as both a venue and model for a conference focusing on revitalization efforts.

With a downtown development authority as well as a business improvement district, a long history of  renovation projects and a popular sculpture installation program, Grand Junction demonstrates the range of what can can be done, said Katherine Correll, executive director of Downtown Colorado Inc. “You have a fabulous case study.”

Participants in the annual  DCI conference will have the opportunity to study downtown Grand Junction up close during the event, set for Sept. 10 to 13 at Two Rivers Convention Center.

A nonprofit association with more than 165 members, DCI provides technical assistance, education and advocacy to organizations and individuals involved in downtown and community development.

Correll said she isn’t yet sure how many people will attend the upcoming conference, although more than 200 attended last year and 150 the year before that.

The annual conference offers a venue in which participants can share ideas about  the challenges they’ve encountered, solutions that have worked and available resources they can tap, Correll said.

The conference will feature a new format this year, she said, in offering longer presentation sessions with more discussion and problem-solving activities. The goal, she said, is to not only offer information to participants, but empower them to make changes and implement programs.

Presentations will cover a variety of topics, including creative redevelopment, mobile marketing, revitalization trends and urban design. Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities,” will serve as the keynote speaker at an awards gala set for Sept. 12 as well as the closing presentation on community engagement on Sept. 13.

In addition to the presentations, the conference will include tours of the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction and Grand Valley wineries as well as a bicycle tour of downtown. Participants also will have ample opportunities to explore restaurants and stores, Correll said.

Harry Weiss, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority in Grand Junction, belongs to DCI and said he’s looking forward to attending the conference.

The event will expose participants to new approaches to solving problems during the formal presentations as well as informal networking, he said.

The longer presentations will offer an opportunity to dig into the topics in a deeper way, he said.

Having previously heard Kageyama to speak, the keynote address will be well worth attending, Weiss said. “He has a great presentation.”

But just talking with other participants affords a chance to learn what’s happening in downtowns in other cities as well hear suggestions on what could happen in Grand Junction, Weiss added.

A bicycle tour of downtown will highlight successful efforts, but also point out challenges, Weiss said. That includes the question of how best to redevelop a vacant site formerly occupied by White Hall and take better advantage of the public spaces offered by Whitman and Emerson parks.

The conference likely will prove helpful to local participants involved in revitalization efforts along North Avenue and Horizon Drive in Grand Junction as well as downtown Fruita, Weiss said.

Correll said local restaurants and stores will have opportunities to make connections with conference participants from outside the area — some of whom likely will want to come back.

At the same time, though, there’s a lot to be learned  from what’s occurred that makes downtown Grand Junction a good venue for the event, she added. “It will make a great learning laboratory for our people.”

 

Downtown Colorado Inc. has scheduled its annual conference for Sept. 10 to 13 at Two Rivers Convention Center, 159 Main St. in Grand Junction. To register or obtain more information, call (303) 282-0625 or log on to www.downtowncolorado.org.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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