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Trying to keep downtown alive

David L'Heureux
Preston Utley/Vail DailyLes Samuelson and his partner, Joe Frasco, are constructing a new commercial building in the 300 block of Broadway in Eagle. Some downtown property owners have shown initiative and fortitude in upgrading their properties.
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EAGLE – Owning a business in downtown Eagle’s is a show of faith – faith in Eagle’s history and its identity as a slice of small town America. Ultimately, it’s a show of faith in a vision for Eagle’s future, merchants say.When Lights on Broadway owner Joe Frasco outgrew his space in Gypsum, he returned to the street that gave the company its name. He and partner Les Samuelson are currently building at 330 Broadway. The building, which is slated for completion in October, will be a mix of shops, offices and homes. But more importantly, for the two entrepreneurs, it will be an investment in Eagle’s history, the say. “We want to market this place as a historic downtown, which it is” said Frasco. “It takes 100 years to get where we are today in Eagle. It’s something to be proud of.”Samuelson takes that a step further.”I have always been fascinated with western culture. Eagle is an old town with a western flare and heritage,” he said. “This is an opportunity to participate in tying the past to the future.”

Be like Boulder?The re-development of the downtown area is, in part, based on this attitude: The history is intact, the new businesses are coming and now let’s make it more inviting to shoppers, merchants say. New shops include Pilates Corner, Broadway Liquors, Prizm’s Salon and Sharpedge Skate Professionals in the last year. “This area hasn’t looked alive for a while now,” said Eagle Valley Pharmacy owner Annie Colby. She should know. The pharmacy, which is owned by her father Al Hoza, has been in their family for 38 years, and on Broadway for 101 years.Much of the work the town of Eagle is doing downtown will be underground. When finished, Broadway will have a spruced up entrance on Grand Avenue, new sidewalks, benches, shorter crosswalks, additional parking and landscaping.”This is the first time we have had a board that believes in the downtown and in Eagle’s core,” said Colby. “They have made us feel like we are something.”Enhancing civic pride, and encouraging private investment are goals of the redevelopment project. “The reason for putting money into the public infrastructure, besides necessity, is that you hope that it encourages people to redevelop their property,” said Town Engineer Tom Gosiorowski.

Colby, Frasco and Samuelson are part of the Broadway Advisory Committee – a group of business and homeowners working with town employees to come up with a plan for Broadway’s future.”We are trying to look at, ‘if this is what we want to be, how do we get there?'” said Town Planner Bill Gray. “Jan Rosenthal-Townsend owns Alpine Ambiance and Shadey Deals on Broadway. She said it’s important to try to be unique. “This will encourage new investment while inviting citizens and various regional customers to come into downtown to enjoy our unique offerings,” she said. “I see it being an eclectic mix of specialty retail, restaurants and entertainment, professional services and residential.”Charlie Brown, who owns Mountain Pedaler Bike Shop on Broadway, has his vision for Broadway, too. “Let’s make it one of those cool little towns that we all travel to, like Ouray or Carbondale,” said Brown, who has been in business for six years. “Let’s be a town that hasn’t sold out and still has a main street that is vibrant.”Stockman’s Exchange owner Fred Butler also mentions Carbondale when he talks about models for Eagle’s future.”I think we have a unique Main Street. Maybe the only one in the whole county,” said Butler, who owns the Fulford House (where the Stockman’s Land Exchange is located), the old Eagle Bar building on the southwest corner of Broadway and Second, and the Dice Building where the Broadway Cafe is located.

“I like to look at places like Basalt or Carbondale. They have a real sense of character,” he said. “I think my ideal vision for Broadway, though, is Pearl Street in Boulder.”Butler said he is committed to re-building some of the dilapidated property he owns on Broadway. However, he said, he is waiting to see what happens with the large Red Mountain Ranch retail and residential complex proposed to be built east of Eagle.Chain competitionWhen it comes to business in Eagle, the Red Mountain Ranch proposal is always part of the discussion. The question most important to Broadway is can downtown survive competition from a shopping center that’s likely to include national chain stores. “We are right on the cusp of doing something great down here,” said Brown. “Red Mountain Ranch could make that a lot more difficult.”For Samuelson and Frasco, the decision comes down to the people involved and the market, they said.

“Future development is further dividing the market,” said Samuelson. “All the little boxes around the big box, and the fast food chains that would pop up would suck the money out that way. It comes down to what do people want to see: Something like everyone else or something unique?”Butler has a little different take. He said that he isn’t afraid of competition – the effect on Stockman’s Exchange would be negligible – but big boxes are not healthy competition in his eyes. “My reasons for being opposed to it is just the philosophy of it all,” said Butler. “(Big boxes) don’t fit in a pasture that used to have elk and cows in it.”Rosenthal-Townsend cuts directly to the heart of the matter as she sees it: “Red Mountain Ranch will be the sure demise of downtown, especially if done at this point in time.”Vail, Colorado


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