Gypsum Town Council members are concerned the town will miss out on commercial development and sales tax revenue if the town doesn’t do something in the near future.
With Gary Lebo absent from Tuesday night’s meeting, the council agreed to hear a proposal from a company for improving the town’s west entrance on Interstate 70.
Council member Tim McMichael said the town’s image from I-70 is not flattering. He theorized that such a drab image doesn’t encourage drivers to exit the freeway and see what the town has to offer. Since traffic isn’t coming into town, he said, developers are not interested.
“You’re going to see a major redo in Eagle over the next two years,” McMichael said. “When you talk about the two communities competing for sales tax, it’s going to put us behind the eight ball. If we really want to do something, it’s going to take a company that can deal with the Colorado Department of Transportation.”
McMichael encouraged the rest of the council to hear a proposal from Design Workshop to landscape the Gypsum interchange. Design Workshop recently created a series of signs for the town that were designed to solidify a brand image for the town and be more visually appealing. McMichael said the interchange would only be the tip of the ice berg.
“This is a project I would like to carry through all the way into town and it would probably take 10 or 12 years to complete,” he said. “We have to do something to get cars off the highway – that’s key to attracting development. I don’t know what it’s going to take but we should at least be looking at it. We have more ability for commercial development here and the developers aren’t coming, even when we offer substantial business incentives.”
Those incentives included an offer of free land from the property owner of the Tower Center near the airport and, more recently, a series of $10,000 grants offered by the town. Only one $10,000 grant was awarded along with two smaller grants, totaling $21,000.
“We can’t get development in here because it’s an ugly town,” McMichael said. “There are a lot of great things here but no one sees them because they don’t bother to get off the highway. Meanwhile, we have a community seven miles away that has a lot of development going on in short order.”
The development McMichael referred to was an upgrade to Eagle’s interchange currently under construction and the Eagle River Station commercial complex that was recently approved.
Council member Tom Edwards agreed that Gypsum needs more of that kind of business but disagreed with McMichael’s strategy.
“I think this needs to start with the business of private enterprise, rather than with the government,” he said.
McMichael pointed out that the interchange at Flatiron Crossing – a successful mall on the Front Range – was built first.
“I was enticed to get off the highway to check it out, the interchange was so good, and then I saw that nothing else was even built yet,” he said.
Council member Dick Mayne said half the people in Gypsum travel through Eagle and consequently shop there.
“But people from Eagle don’t go to Gypsum,” he said. “It’s been going on like that since the 1950s.”
Council member Beric Christiansen agreed with McMichael that it’s within the town’s power to do something about it. He said the town needs to give people a reason to go there and if the traffic isn’t coming in, developers won’t either. While the council acknowledged the American Gypsum plant and the new biomass power plant are aspects that the town is stuck with, Christiansen said there are plenty of other things that can make the town’s entrance more inviting.
“I don’t think the industrial stuff is the problem,” he said. “When you get off I-70, all you see is a gas station ... an old car wash, then you drive under a rotten bridge and then past a bunch of cabins that are ready to fall down. That’s the issue.”