Vail Daily editorial: Downtown Gypsum?
September 1, 2015
Gypsum has a lot going for it. From the town's dandy recreation center to sports facilities and more, it's a good place to live. But the town has long lacked a real center, due largely to its history and layout.
A recent survey indicates that 90 percent of town residents want a true downtown-type area. That's easier wished for than accomplished, though. Again, the town is dealing with both its historic layout, as well as more recent developments. That means the town doesn't really have an ideal area a lot of residents can easily walk to.
The survey, conducted earlier this year by the town and the Regional Institute of Health and Environmental Leadership, gave people three choices for a potential downtown area: the town's original downtown along Railroad Avenue, the town hall/rec center/library area and along U.S. Highway 6 near Bella's Market and the town's post office.
All three areas have their drawbacks.
While the old downtown that parallels the railroad tracks is easily reached from much of town, it's only a block long, and there's little in the way of parking. There's also no non-business attraction to lure customers.
The town hall area is a jewel, and also pretty accessible, with more parking than the original downtown. The problem is that a lot of homes would have to be replaced by businesses to create a real downtown, something that's going to require a combination of buyers, sellers and a good bit of private money.
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The best area might be the one near the grocery store. There's a good bit of parking, and a significant number of residents live nearby, although walkers and cyclists have to cross the highway.
The problem with any of these areas is the financial return for businesses willing to invest. Downtown areas aren't great revenue generators, at least in terms of sales tax collections. Building is expensive, and customers would have to be convinced to patronize the area.
Still, it would be nice to have a handful of shops and restaurants in that area. If plans for a free-standing Starbucks coffee shop come to pass, that might help jump-start interest from other investors.
On the other hand, the plan for the Starbucks includes a drive-through window. That's a bow to the reality of how current customers will use the shop, but won't be helpful if entrepreneurs want customers who linger a bit.
The prospects don't seem great for Gypsum to sprout a downtown from essentially nothing. The idea is certainly worth an honest effort, but success will require great ideas, a lot of money and more than a little luck