MONTROSE — In efforts to modernize the Montrose downtown area in order to draw in local residents and increase commerce, Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority Scott Shine says, “one building at a time.” He believes public-and-private partnerships with the city can not only rehabilitate the city’s older buildings, but help bring in even more private investments.
Days after the City of Montrose and the DDA agreed to renovate a city-owned building located at 514 S. First St., roughly 100 yards from City Hall, Shine was hard at work, kicking down sheetrock and busting walls to make way for nearly $100,000-worth of renovations.
The building, whose most recent tenants included the Salvation Army and other consignment and thrift stores, is being transformed into not only a refurbished city asset, but a new retail space for private business. Shine said the improvements are only phase one of a much larger plan to transform the space.
"The building hasn't seen a lot of activity, but it has a lot of potential," Shine said. He envisioned its division into two parts: one, to be used for public functions, such as Farmer's Market Plaza next door, and also as a retail space for an ag-related business.
Shine said the DDA has already received letters of interest regarding the retail portion, but declined to say who or what the businesses were, pending lease negotiations.
"I'm excited about the prospects of working with the DDA on this – taking an unutilized building and turning it into something that has some value and [is] bringing some new commerce to the area," said Virgil Turner, the city’s community development director.
The project is being hailed as a model for future low-cost investments in downtown Montrose, in which both public and private funds are used to renovate aging buildings. The spruce-ups, in turn, could be used to lure additional businesses downtown.
"In my view, that's exactly the direction I think we should go," Turner said.
The City will pay for costs such as new sewer installation and wiring, and other basic building improvements, while the DDA will pay for renovations to the outside, including a 15-foot overhang to provide shade and seating for plaza events. The completion of work in the front of the building will paid for by the tenant, according to Shine.
"There is a shared financial structure between the city and the DDA, and the tenant. It spreads out the financial load between the three entities, and does not place a large expense on any one of them," Shine said. "It's really a public-private partnership."
Shine said basic improvements to the building will begin within days. A tenant is expected to be able to open a business there by mid-May, just in time for summer Farmers Market activity. Outside improvements will proceed through June, according to Shine.
The City is providing $54,000 for basic improvements. The DDA is investing $4,000 of its own money in the project, and borrowing $30,000 from the city to complete outdoor renovations; $6,300 of that will come from a Department of Local Affairs grant.
"It's a relatively low-cost redevelopment, and will hopefully demonstrate the function of the DDA, [which is] being able to rehab buildings and pass them through to the private sector," Shine said.