Summit County: How can Dillon re-vitalize its town core?
DILLON – With a languishing town center and empty storefronts, Dillon is at a crossroads. Lake Dillon Art Center owner Matt Lit suggests the town’s identity, a fun mountain town with a high-end ampitheatre and marina, can be built on with the help of Dillon’s newest tool – its urban renewal authority.Town council approved its urban renewal plan in July 2009. Creation of the authority stemmed from council’s desire to attract new development, businesses and full-time residents to its stagnating town core.”Dillon really doesn’t have a town center,” Lit said. “Dillon has a uniqueness that’s being wasted, and it could be a chance to take the town core from utter obscurity to becoming an amazing haven.”Lit said he wants the town of Dillon to use art as a way to invigorate the town center’s economy – he hopes for a future where Dillon has a walkable main street with galleries, artist studios, restaurants and coffee shops.According to Mayor Barbara Davis, creating an urban renewal authority made sense for the town because it’s trying to develop a pedestrian-friendly core with a modern look.Though the town hasn’t yet received any requests from developers to come into Dillon, Davis said council is ready and hopeful.”I love Dillon and it would just be nice if there was more going on – more shopping, galleries and night life,” said Dillon resident Caitlin Morris. “Dillon has all the elements. It just needs more. Good establishments are there already.”Can the core change?Pug Ryan’s owner Travis Holton said Dillon was a lot more vibrant 20 years ago – building the Dillon Ridge Market Place and moving the movie theater there took away reasons to come to the town core.”Like many towns, development on the highway is a detriment to the town core,” Holton said. “The town must look at other options for revitalization. There’s 1,000 definitions of what that is, and it will unfold over time.”Lit said problems with Dillon’s core were created when the Dillon dam was built decades ago and the town was relocated to its present location. He said the core area should be scraped to create a village. He acknowledged that it was a drastic, but necessary approach.”It would have to be done in phases, and in a way and order that acknowledges and respects those of us who are already there,” Lit said.Eddie O’Brien, a Dillon Realtor and owner of Prudential O’Brien & Associates, agrees.”The vast majority of buildings in the town center should be torn down,” O’Brien said. “Right now you could fire a cannon down any street in Dillon’s town core, and no one would get hit. There’s nobody there, no reason to go.”O’Brien also suggested building lots of residences in the heart of Dillon.”We’re only looking at about 20 acres,” he said. “It’s not a huge project. I don’t think it’s going to be hard for the town to get private landowners on board for redevelopment.”Whether Dillon can completely redo its town core is a big “if” – the town’s eminent domain powers can only be used as a last resort.Much of the land in town is privately owned, so a more likely situation would be for building owners to approach the town with requests to use urban renewal authority incentives to make improvements to existing buildings.Davis hopes years of talks will result in actual change for Dillon’s look and feel for the better.”We have a ’60s style, shag-rug, architecturally indifferent town core,” she said. “I really feel that we need to do something significantly different than what we have now.”A different idea”I think the core of Dillon – where my office is – is best suited to being a professional district/area,” said Geoffrey Stacey, the owner of GLS accounting in Dillon. “And I think any plans for anything else – except maybe down by the marina in the summer only – will be a waste of dollars. Breck and Frisco and the area around City Market in Dillon have all the retail covered. And construction is not necessary. Believe it or not, some places in the world are best left unchanged; as they are already perfect.”Kula’s Cafe owner Jim Curcio said he’s happy with the way current business is going. He also noted that there have been lots of meetings about improving the town center, “but nothing’s really happening.”Curcio acknowledged that some buildings could use improvements, but that would be up to the owners.”The Riva del Lago building is struggling,” Curcio added, saying it’s probably because it’s too expensive to rent there.Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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