Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group

Brandon Stam - Executive Director of Downtown Grand Junction - Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group - Episode 5

August 12, 2020 Brandon Stam Season 1 Episode 5
Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group
Brandon Stam - Executive Director of Downtown Grand Junction - Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group - Episode 5
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of the Full Circle, Christi interviews Brandon Stam, the Executive Director of Downtown Grand Junction.  Brandon talks about the exciting new developments in the Downtown scene, the effect of COVID-19 on the community and businesses, and explains the roles of the Business Improvement District and the Downtown Development Authority.  To learn more about Downtown Grand Junction, visit their website at https://downtowngj.org/.

If you prefer to watch your podcasts, check out our YouTube page: https://youtu.be/C58StZ5pNAA

Christi Reece:

Full circle, podcast, compelling interviews and incredible tales from Colorado's Western slope, from the mountains to the desert, Christi Reece and her team here from the movers, shakers and characters at the grand Valley and the surrounding mountain towns that make the Western slope, the place we all love. You'll learn. You'll laugh to love with the full circle. Hello everyone. We are back with the full circle podcast and I'm really honored today to announce our guest, the director of the Downtown Development Authority. Brandon Stam. Thanks for having me here . Yeah , I'm really glad to have you here too. So , uh, there's so much to talk about, about downtown grand junction and everything that's going on, but I want to start with a little background first of you and , um, where you're from. And I know you've got a history in planning and um, how , how did you get to Grand Junction?

Brandon Stam:

Yeah, so I'm originally from New Mexico. I was born up in the, in the four corners area. Um, grew up in Albuquerque, went to college there. Um, long story ended up in Korea for a bit. And then I ended up in, I was actually in Colorado Springs before I came out here. Um, I had , uh , my youngest brother lived in Grand Junction, so that was actually my first experience with it. And it's interesting cause I have a lot of family up in the front range and like, don't go to grand junction. It's so hot. Um, but for me I was like, Oh, this isn't that bad. This is just like Albuquerque. So as far as the temperatures go, so I really liked it. I liked the size. Um, yeah. And, and my, the job was really intriguing. So my background is I went to grad school for, I actually originally just started going to grad school for public administration. And I was because I was working in the public sector and that seemed like the logical course . And then I actually took some planning courses and I was like, wow, this is really fascinating. Cause I grew up in the suburbs. So I feel like if you grew up in like an urban place, he probably wouldn't be that interested by any of this sort of stuff. But the whole like walkability and all this sort of stuff was like really fascinating to me. So

Christi Reece:

Something that you had really considered growing up in the suburbs.

Brandon Stam:

Exactly. Everything's just like, if you're residential here, your commercial here, it's all, you know , designed to be driven to. So , um, yeah, so I thought that was really cool. And then , um, I worked at a business incubator for a while in Albuquerque and then I was doing economic development. I actually tried to, I was a city planner for a bit and I just couldn't do it. It was, I , I didn't like being on the rules side of the equation. I kinda like the more creative , um, realm of it. So this job was kind of interesting cause it was like events and economic development and all these different things rolled into one. So I like having a lot of different topics and things. And so I guess, you know, I got my wish I've never been .

Christi Reece:

Uh huh . So you applied for the job at the DDA that was being advertised in that brought you to Grand Junction. That is yeah. Awesome. And what year was that?

Brandon Stam:

Oh my gosh. It ha it'll be four years in October.

Christi Reece:

That's crazy. Yeah. And so let's talk about a little bit about the DDA and how it formed and how does dovetail into the, I believe it was called the Foresight Project, which was the , the group that really developed the downtown and, and the, the planters and the winding street and all of that. And how does that fit together?

Brandon Stam:

Yeah, so I think one of the fascinating things about Grand Junction that maybe Grand Junction doesn't always give itself credit for is that they did have a lot of forethought on a lot of different things. I mean, in the sixties it was an awarded an All American city and I think they were conscious to be thinking into the future. So , um, when I first started , uh , one of the first things I did is I reached out to other downtowns and , um, it was interesting cause our Downtown Development Authority and Fort Collins were the first two in Colorado. Um, and I feel like, you know, Fort Collins is kind of like a role model as far as like a great city. That's still livable. And um, so I couldn't help but think like that's really cool that we were like on the same plane as like Fort Collins and thinking ahead, and just even , uh , looking at this riverfront development, they talked about that back in the eighties, they talked about a lot of this stuff that even made its way into the new downtown plan that we pass recently. So that's really cool. And so I just think, you know, there's been a lot of forethought and just some of these , um, areas and, and as a planner, I think I kind of appreciate how long it takes sometimes to see things to come to fruition. It's not an overnight thing. Um , and then art in the corners, another one that's , uh , was one of the first sculpture programs on a main street and the country. So I just think some of that stuff is really interesting that we don't necessarily always do the greatest job of touting ourselves for being like innovators cause we are.

Christi Reece:

Yeah, it's true. It's true. And so did you say 1981 was the year that the DDA was formed? Was it a trend across the country with other small towns or even bigger cities to have this kind of organization?

Brandon Stam:

I think with other , so other cities, urban renewals had been a more common tool , um, urban renewals kind of have, or had, I should say kind of a negative reputation. Cause I think , uh , in the sixties there were associated with these giant urban blighted buildings and some really kind of bad stuff really. And so I think DDA is we're a little less controversial because you're focusing on a , um, existing business district and I think that's, that's the other thing that makes it a little easier for people to understand is you're reinvesting in your downtown is a little bit more simple con um , concept to understand. So I think there was around that time, there were other , uh, I believe there was some DDA's being looked at in Michigan and some other areas as well. Um , but we were still, I mean, fairly early and in the grand scheme of things up now, there's definitely a lot more, I think, in the nineties and two thousands they've proliferated all across Colorado.

Christi Reece:

So what is the basic mission of the DDA?

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. So I'm , I love this term to remediate slum and blight , um, which that's the statute definition. I mean, for me, what I, my more modern definition of that would be is to be a catalyst for economic development growth. And I think the cool thing, I mean the way I kind of think of , um , the DDA and we also have the business improvement district too , is they're just tools, extra tools that a city has in their toolbox that not every place has, like we have this extra tool to be able to develop things that not everyone has. And I think the cool thing is historically the DDA is really, was really more focused on like public improvements, like, you know , the main street uplift or what, I guess, what you would term like a, a public project. Um, whereas I think the more public private partnerships come into the fold a lot more and even in grand junction. And so like Las Colonias and Dos Rios, and some of the , um , Aaron Young's building, those are all examples of where we participated in more of a public private partnership sort of setup . So I just, I think that's, what's really fascinating about it is you just have a lot of avenues for , um, helping, you know, whether it's fill a project gap or create an amenity that draws people downtown. There's a lot of latitude within that.

Christi Reece:

So it's not just a group of business owners. It , I mean, the DDA has a lot, I don't want to call it power, but a lot of in this community it's really invested in this community and how is it funded?

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. So we are funded primarily through, so we have a mill levy that's for the operational. So that's what the property owners pays that mill levy. And we also are kind of unique because our , uh, our DDA boundaries are pretty big when you talk to, you know, like for instance, Greeley's DDA, their , their DDA is within their central business district or as goes all the way down seventh street in that kind of industrial corridor all the way down to the riverfront. So we have, I think it's in a way it creates some problems, but it's a really cool opportunity to , um , and I think we've started to, you know, look, look at it that way. And so from a funding perspective, that mill levy is kind of, that's what allows us to, you know, the operational revenue and then they have , um, tax increment financing is really how we pay for those big, large capital projects. And because we're one of the older , um, DDAs in Colorado, we're on like the second life cycle of our TIF . So essentially what that means is the first 30 years of our existence, those taxing entities had a hundred percent share back of that TIF revenue. And now the second cycle, it's 50%. And then sort of technically our TIF would expire, I believe it's 13, 14 years like that. So I don't know what, what happens then if the state would reauthorize that at a lower percentage. Um, so that's all the more reason to really kind of create this development. I think a little bit of a sense of urgency to before this tool potentially goes away.

Christi Reece:

So every what's the Northern boundary of the district. So the Northern boundary is

Brandon Stam:

For the most part, I would say they're grand. We have a few properties on the, most of the properties are on the South side of Grand. We do have a few properties on the North side of Grand. Um, but generally like the , where the resident where it becomes more residential is where the boundary typically kind of ends .

Christi Reece:

So then every , uh , property in that district is going to pay through their taxes. Correct. But if you're a business owner, but not a property owner in the district, you can also become a member of the downtown.

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. So , so we have essentially, we're actually like three districts now. It's kind of crazy. We have it. So we have the , uh , the DDA , which is that mill levy referenced. And so the property owner, it's a five mill , so that's set in stone. It doesn't go up. Um , that's the, state's the one that decides that in the statutes. Um, and then with that , um, that's, that's really based upon the assessed valuation of that property. So that's, that's that, and then the business improvement district there's bids are also , um, I would almost argue they're more common than , um, DDAs or URAs around Colorado because there's a lot of latitude on what a BID can do. Some BIDs , um, focus on like maintenance stuff, like the horizon bids , a good example. They do more , um , like public improvement projects for their bid. Whereas our BID is events and marketing. Um , and our BID has an interesting history because it was a merchants association until like, I think around 2006. And then what they found was like , they didn't have consistent revenue or volunteers or anything to do the events and the marketing. So that's when they formed a bid, we're kind of unique because typically I'm in some bigger places that a bid would have a separate board, we actually share the same board. I did not know that. So it's kind of an interesting dynamic in that. Um, we also were kind of which , uh , reorganized a couple of years back to kind of be under the same roof too . Cause for a while there was two directors, there's all sorts of kind of weird, strange things happening and we're a small organization. So , um , just kind of being under a downtown partnership model

Christi Reece:

And a little bit more connectivity between all the groups. Yeah .

Brandon Stam:

And cause it really is all correlated. Um , in a lot of ways, I mean a lot of the public improvement projects that DDA is working on will help the bid to be able to promote events or run events better and do better promotion . So the BID that's, the BID is a special assessment that the property owners pay. That's how ours is. You can not , some of them have mill levies . And so , um, the nice thing about that though is like that, that goes into like the marketing, like , so the downtown guide book , um, the market, all that sort of stuff, we still have to come up with about half the BID revenue is from vendor fees and sponsorships. So , um, I, I , I like to reinforce that to businesses. Like there's no free lunch on this. Like we still have to make the numbers work on some of the events. Um, and then we also recently , uh, had formed a creative district that stays certified Creative District. So , um, lots of districts, I get teased about that.

Christi Reece:

Yeah. That's exciting. I mean, Creative District, that's , that's really exciting. Well, I want to talk a little bit about the range goal for the DDA. Uh, there's there , like I said, at the beginning, there's so many things that we could talk about. Uh, obviously downtown is the core of our community and Fruita and Palisade have their own cores, but Grand Junction is kind of a heart of the whole Valley, I think. And, and we've done such a good job with our downtown area. And I know that connectivity in so many ways is important to the DDA, whether that means to CMU or to the riverfront . But I also want to hear , um, how we connect with those other communities and what's the long range vision for the DDA. And then I want to talk about the, kind of the current state of affairs and how COVID has affected how we're going forward. Okay. So what do you see as the long range vision and what are the things that you're trying to put in place for the future ?

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. So one of the, probably my favorite project I have since I've been here is we updated our 1981 downtown plan. Um, it was funny cause I was like, wow, that's a huge glaring issue when I first studied in 1901 . Yeah. Some stuff has changed. So , um, I sometimes joke that I think they got sick of hearing me talk about updating the plan. So they let me do it. But we worked at his real job . We worked at this really cool a group out of Glenwood Springs called community builders. And I saw them at a conference and I was just really struck by like, they had a huge focus on like just community outreach and we're, we're also like open to like try and some kind of different , um, ways of engaging the public. Cause that's sometimes one of my critiques of planning is it's not, there's, there's so many cool tools and like we still sometimes rely upon these like really antiquated forums of getting public information.

Christi Reece:

Yeah . Planning gets stuck in a rut or the way they've always done things.

Brandon Stam:

I feel like you end up hearing from the, it's like an echo chamber you're hearing from the same people that, so you're , you're just missing, you know, you're missing people and you're not, you know, I, I also feel like it leads itself to like more negativity in that process and we didn't really experience that, which was interesting. Cause everybody's like, Oh , I don't know. Do you really want to go and ask all the businesses and all the people that they think it's like? Yeah. So, yes. So with that, that was really cool because it was this, you know, like year and a half process of just, I mean, I'm not gonna lie the first six to eight months of outreach. It was like, well the outreach ever in, cause we just, we had so much to do after not doing it for so long. Um, but I think what it really provided some clarity on was like, where are we going? Cause that was one of the things I always felt like I didn't have a good understanding. And when I got asked early on what, you know, if I had board members or others, like what's our plan for the future. And I was like, I don't know. So , um, and I don't think I, as one person can dictate that. So,

Christi Reece:

And how many members are on your board?

Brandon Stam:

So we have a nine person board and then we also have , um, by statute we have one city council representative on our board as well. So, so to your , your original question, really, I think the future of it is just that you mentioned connectivity. That was a huge theme. Everybody's like it's so disconnected and downtown should be more than just a cool main street. And I think that's spot on main streets. Awesome. But Colorado is awesome. Like seventh street has tons of potential. So I think having these different districts and having them have their own identity is a really, I feel like that would be awesome if we got to that stage where we just were like, you have a river district, the rail district or whatever you want to call them. I'm sure that Jen can come up with cooler names than I am right now.

Christi Reece:

We're really good at that. Jen , are you listening ?

Brandon Stam:

But um, yeah, I think that's, that's kinda what I, that's a huge theme. I think I, infill development was another huge one. Um, we just, we have an abundance of, you know, space still within our downtown to create more residential population. That's something that we kind of still struggle with as a downtown cause we don't, we still are, especially during COVID reliance upon , um, tourists and visitors and people coming into downtown, which does make it more challenging on the businesses if you don't have a residential population. Um, so I think that's still continues to be something we want to see go forward. Um, and then just that continued economic diversification that we, I think the city as a whole at the Valley as a whole has been doing a really good job on , um, I think one of the challenges we had as opposed to, you know, you mentioned fruit and Palisade and they seem to have a really clear identity of who they are. And I always thought it was like they that's something to strive for. But I think part of our challenge is because we offer bits and pieces of all those cause we're bigger. Um, and so one of the unique ones, I think that came out of that too, is like, we are kind of the arts and creative hub down here. Like not only art in the corner, but you know, we've got these cool murals and other projects going. So building upon that I think is really important too . And then also still tying into outdoor rec and agrotourism and all those other things that are really , um, feeding the, the economy of the Valley.

Christi Reece:

Awesome. Yeah. I, I'm so excited that , uh, there is that opportunity to expand that feeling of main street onto the other streets and down towards the riverfront . And there's so much opportunity.

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. I mean, I always, I feel like when you go to someplace cool, it's, this is not , um , technical planner speak, but there's like, there's like a vibe when you go someplace. Yeah . And I think, I feel like we're going towards that. Like we're, you know, it's like when you go someplace and there's just stuff happening, not even necessarily planned things, there's just, you go down to his place to me, that's like where I feel like, well , when will have made it, when you just like, you're not going to go to a specific restaurant, you're just like, I'm going down here. Cause I know there's a bunch of stuff to do.

Christi Reece:

You know what , um, it kind of reminds me of what Pearl Street used to be. You know, I feel like Pearl Street's lost a little bit of its charm is ito got so many national chains. It's pushed so many of the local businesses out, which I think really gives a community, some flavor. And I think we still have that here as we keep expanding the retail sector and the , uh , hospitality and food and beverage sector down here at , out from Main Sstreet, it's just going to get better and better.

Brandon Stam:

Absolutely. And I think like you and I were kind of talking about retail a little bit before all this started and I think that's another thing I don't agree with when I hear like people say retail is dead. It's like, well, no, it's just changed in the model. Like, I mean, I , I still think there's plenty of room for retail in a downtown context too . I just, you can't do, you can't operate the way he used to. That's true .

Christi Reece:

Things are changing all the time. So that brings us to the current situation and COVID and how has that affected? I mean, obviously the farmer's market and other events , um, have changed drastically. What's the plan now? How do you account and adapt and work with the current situation? Yeah .

Brandon Stam:

Um, events, man events are really, really tough right now. Um, the market feels, it feels like a lot of work to put on it . It feels like more work than it normally is to put on an event that's like half the size, half the amount of vendors. Um, I mean, it's, don't get me wrong. I'm happy. We're able to at least do something. Um, and that's, we are fortunate because we are in a position, well , the market has its own kind of special designation, but even some of our other events, we're fortunate that, you know, for us, like I can break even on an event, I don't necessarily have to make money. Whereas if this is your business, obviously you're probably not going to do an event this year. It doesn't make financial sense. So we're still cautiously looking at doing some of our events, but they're just going to look different. I think that's a hard thing is how do you convey that to people? Because there is no normal, so we've just done our best to like convey that's normal is not an option. Um, but these are options and this is what we can do. Um, and you know, so like even like thinking towards the holidays, like it's probably not, probably not going to be able to jam thousands of people in for parade of lights, but is there other, you know, could we do 12 days of Christmas and have smaller things? So I think everything now we're breaking into smaller chunks. Like how can you do smaller things, smaller promotional things. Um, one cool. I think , uh , silver lining from this, as I've seen the businesses just really partner more and more with each other through this, which is really cool because I feel like that's already something, you know, that's, that's beneficial that you see in a lot of other places. And I feel like COVID kind of accelerated that here. Like I just saw like really cool things, like killing , doing stuff with cholera baby or, you know, businesses that you wouldn't even necessarily think would partner together. And I think really latched onto that. And it kind of just created this really, I don't know, cool vibe around, around downtown businesses and just , um, versus, you know, like a chain store where you're , you're , you , you can't duplicate that, you know, that realness, that authenticity that we can offer. So I think the future is really encouraging that sort of stuff. I think regional tourism is also probably more in line with everything I've read. Cause I mean, fortunately we're in a state and an area where we have a lot of regional tourism, so at least at least we have that, but I, you know, I don't think we're going to be marketing like to, you know, overseas and those sorts of things. I think everything's going to be broken down. You know, we've even talked about campaigns about, you know , revisiting downtown or, you know, trying to uncover , um, things that maybe you may be overlooked even if you live here.

Christi Reece:

Right? Yeah. There's a lot, I mean, when you live here and you're describing it to other people, you and you're going down the list of all the things that we have to offer, you start re you know, remembering to yourself. Wow. We do have a lot of things here. Um, so what are the biggest, well, first I want to mention that we have a new restaurant just down the street here from our office. Well, it's a brew pub really, and they have a food truck outside. Um, so any other new businesses downtown that have opened in the last couple of months, even during the challenges of COVID.

Brandon Stam:

So we had, I don't think so. We did have, I think Hog and Hen was technically before COVID, but there's still new . I still do . They're still in there . Oh my gosh. I love that place.

Christi Reece:

I do too. I eat there like three times a week, at least

Brandon Stam:

It's so cool to have a little grocery store. I mean, cause you know, obviously with City Market going , um , and Hog and Hen is way cooler anyways, like they have nice stuff in there and , and yeah, you mentioned Ramblebine opened we're still expecting , um, uh , Foam and Folly is the name of the brewery over by Simmons Lock and Key. I think he's still tentatively planning for this year to open. U m, I believe t here's still, u h, I , I forget the name off the top of my head, but the bar over on seventh street where the old cabaret is, I think h e's still slated to open this year t oo. U m, we of course have Aaron Young's, u m, four story office building o ver with, with a cart. U m, so we're really excited about that. U m, so, so yeah, we're still, I mean, I haven't actually seen interest wane, if anything, I've seen interest increase i n Grand Junction.

Christi Reece:

I think we have to, from a real estate perspective, have we lost any businesses downtown?

Brandon Stam:

Not, not that I would say to COVID no, we really haven't. I mean, not to say it hasn't been challenging. Um, of course, especially like, you know, restaurants, so the capacity thing is that's absolutely a challenge, but no we're fortunately we have not yet. Um, I think that the challenging time is going to be how you get through that, that slow period. Cause usually, you know, a lot of these businesses are you using the busy times to, for when it's slow. And I think that's where we might see some, some challenges this year is, and hopefully , um, hopefully they drop off. Isn't huge because that's always a challenge is when you're after the holidays, you have a bit of a slow time

Christi Reece:

Well, I like what you said about the businesses getting together and forming some partnerships and hopefully that will continue and continue to bolster those through the challenging times. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing us ahead? Uh, not just with COVID, but I , I hate to even bring this up, but I, but I'm going to cause parking is a concern for a lot of people coming downtown, whether they work here or they play here and the parking garage , uh, is not full for , um, people, sorry for people that are coming down to shop, there's plenty of spaces, but for people that work down here , uh, you can't get up a full time , uh , space at there . So what is it DDA doing on the parking side to just make sure that downtown remains vibrant in that way?

Brandon Stam:

Absolutely. Yeah, I know . And I'm parking, it made me feel better when I talked to my , uh, my peers and other downtowns and like, Oh yeah, parking and we always talked about parking now. So , um, but yeah, I, it's definitely a valid question. I think our challenge, you know, if you , the city and downtown partnered on a parking study, I believe three, four years ago , um, maybe even a bit, little bit longer than that. I think one of the interesting takeaways from that is that it's, there's definitely room for improvement in parking management, how we manage our existing spaces. Um, there's also, I think something that I've, I've started to explore that came out of the downtown plan is better utilizing private parking lots that just sit empty. You know, I mean, I will give you an example of one is Wells Fargo's lot, which has been, it pains me to see that empty cause they haven't been open, but even if during normal times there , you know, that lot is closed or is more or less empty at five o'clock when the, when their employees go home or their customers are , are no longer there. So I think that's another way of offsetting that because you know, all these businesses and , and , um, tourists have different cycles of when they're coming downtown. So it's, you can't conceivably have one space for every single time. Cause then really you're , you're creating a ton of parking for like five days a year. But what you can do is better, I think manage the system. And I think that's something we quite honestly can improve upon is more efficiently managing what we have. And then hopefully people look at me like I'm crazy when I say this, but hopefully when we have an actual parking problem, which I say that as a good thing, because that means people want to go downtown, then, you know, then I think it does make sense to look at another parking garage and , and downtown and doing that. I just, it's kind of a chicken and egg sort of thing. Um, because you don't want it to feel empty. You almost, you almost want a sense of like it be so and so that it's , it's hard though, because as a business, I'm sure that feels a little different than,

Christi Reece:

Well, you know, I've lived in cities before and when you live in a city, you, you're pretty excited if you get a space five blocks from where you want to go. Right. So we in grand junction are used to parking right in front of where we want to go and where we want to be for the next few hours. So I think it just takes some training for people to say, Oh, I can walk three blocks. And I , I parked really close. Yeah . It seems really close now. So I think , uh , that's going to happen.

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. And I think what's cool about like, so those concepts in the downtown plan, like the connectivity, the placemaking and fell , they all like relate to each other. So like one of my theories about parking is, I mean, just cause I I've experimented in park to different places and walked as you know, there, it's not that far to park on Colorado and walk down, but it's a really uninteresting experience. Like there's nothing, there's a lot of parking spaces. Yeah . So I think as we have more development and as that expands beyond just main street , I think that becomes an easier sell to people because you have artwork or other businesses or other things. And so I think that that also just in my opinion, correlates to people's willingness to walk a distance. It feels a lot longer than it is if there's just vacant buildings and empty dirt, lot.

Christi Reece:

Any other major challenges that you see?

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. I think , um, you know, I think that the challenge of the creating outdoor space, especially with COVID is going to be a challenge. I think we're gonna have to balance creating outdoor space with things like parking and other, other things, because I don't think that 50% requirement for the restaurants is going away anytime soon, unfortunately. And so I think , um, I mean I already think I had already previously thought that downtown junction should have more outdoor space. We have great weather that seems like something we should be doing more. So I think this just accelerates that. So , um, but I, you know, I guess the silver lining of that is like people in , um, government entities are a lot more willing to let people experiment with different things now, which is kind of cool.

Christi Reece:

Oh , absolutely. I think so. Yeah. And you, the DDA, I know has some plans and I'm not sure , um , how much of this is public or, you know , uh , how much you can share, but for some other event venues in the downtown area.

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. So yeah, and this is actually in our downtown plan. This was like the point of the , I'd say probably the most popular concept that people loved is utilizing a portion of a parking lot and creating a Plaza space. So I look at , um , Fort Collins is a good example of their downtown , um , has like this Plaza space. They actually don't do a lot of street closures in downtown for their events, which I thought was kind of interesting. I still think, well , you know, it's always this , um , balance. We certainly don't necessarily want to add more street closures to downtown. It it's one of those things, the restaurants, it helps them, it tends to not help the retail as much. And so we just try and balance that. Um, but the other challenge that we've noticed is it makes it really hard for smaller events to get off the ground. Cause you have to pay for , um , the cost of the coning and the fencing and the security and all that sort of stuff. So one of the ideas with this Plaza space is you could create a place where it could be easy to program something like a Thursday night music series, a food truck, Friday , um, goat, yoga at noon, whatever you want to do. Um , and just have some cool space. And so utilizing things like shipping container, shipping containers and other kind of modular buildings, I think there's some really cool potential to like create our own sort of Plaza space where we can implement some of these concepts. And I think the nice thing about that too, is some of our existing events. Maybe we don't have to shut down all four blocks. Maybe we can utilize a little bit of both. It just adds some flexibility in how we, how we can program things. We've even talked about having, we have a ambassador program, we rolled out this year granted on a reduced schedule, but we thought, how cool would it be to have like a downtown like visitors center, where you go? And um, just, I mean, our , our office is kind of out of the way right now. So you could certainly, I think just create some more , um, visually pleasing kind of modern looking things in downtown that draw people that were kinda missing.

Christi Reece:

Well, I think anybody that's seen the plan on that just gets super excited about it. Cause it is really creative and forward-thinking.

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. And it's interesting. Cause like with COVID we like kind of stopped like, Oh, does this? And then actually it was like, this makes more sense than it did before. And now

Christi Reece:

What about like the little parklet that's down there in front of a taco party? Yeah. Do you have more plans for things like that? Yeah ,

Brandon Stam:

So that, one's interesting. Cause like I always envision the parklet being the thing that would maybe spur some more improvements there and that didn't quite pan out, but I still think kind of cause the way I always think of all the stuff is it's all connected. So like with this Plaza space, we would all, we would do , um, an alleyway improvement, which would be a good test to see if we go around the other alleyways and improve that. So things like , um, better lighting, better trash collection, things like that that are pretty common in downtowns. Um, and then the other thing is the city, we encourage the city to , uh, put out an RFP for a two way street change for fourth and fifth because they're dangerous as is we have people going through fifth street going 45, 50 miles an hour. And so it's just not the environment we really want to have. And so those are things I think that , um, it all works together. And I feel like if some of those other things happen that parklet will actually, I think work even better than it already has. I've definitely noticed more and more people using it . I think Josh has been, you know , really forward thinking about that. He saw the issues of having those parking spaces and people backing out into that. So , um , that's, that's kind of why we chosen that location, but I certainly feel like parklets are a cool way, especially in a covert times of expanding , um, dining space. I think ideally in the future, those would be maybe the, the business itself would build the parklet and, and own and operated versus kind of, we have a little bit different structure cause it was early on of how we did it. So , um, but yeah, I think they're kind of a cool concept and they're removable, they're fairly low cost and

Christi Reece:

Yeah , I think it looks great. Um, let's talk a little bit about art because I don't know if our listeners have noticed the murals that have been being painted in downtown and they are gorgeous and I was sorry to hear you say that one of them was , uh, what did, how did you call it was marked.

Brandon Stam:

It was, yeah, we hit somebody. Um, it looks like somebody was on a tagging spree. Okay .

Christi Reece:

Tag. It was tagged. Yeah. That is a bummer. Uh, I know from talking to artists, how much heart and soul and effort it takes to put one of these murals up. I mean, it's a , it's a huge undertaking and to have somebody do damage to it, of course is devastating. But , um, tell me about the plan for more murals, more art downtown. Obviously we have a great art scene with art on the corner and I think downtown is really changing in that regard and getting better all the time.

Brandon Stam:

Yeah, absolutely. I think so when we got the creative district, it was kind of interesting cause like the state to their credit, they keep these, they keep it fairly open-ended they don't like give you like a definition of like this as a creative district, but it's also kind of hard cause you're like, well , Whoa, what do we do? And cause you can call all these different creative districts in Colorado and they all have very different like , um, you know, functions and even how they're organized. And so I think , um, that was kind of like we spent the first year kind of just figuring out what is ours going to be? Are we going to be a membership thing? And then we said, no, we don't want to do that. So then we really kind of settled on like being an art space program entity. And so like things like the murals. Um, and yeah, I mean that's, I think that really cool thing about that too, is art in a corner is great, but we also want to have more inclusive art forms too , that also allow just different voices to come in. So like murals, I think is a really cool way of , of expanding that artwork artwork. It's also great. Placemaking I mean, I think it's fascinating that, you know, the, I had a placemaking wayfinding plan in my folder from like , uh , 2006 or something and it was all these big metal archways and like, yeah, no one's doing that anymore. It's so it's all, it's all arts , like, you know, like the rhino, district's always an example that's brought up of just all these really cool murals that people literally just go to that area just to check out the murals . Um , and so I think that's what we're trying to do. Like we partnered with the city on the convention center and got that call for an artist that really cool mural along there. Um, and then the one you mentioned , um, over by Mesa Jewelers, that one's really, really cool because Mesa Jewelers it's on their building. So obviously it's a private property owner and they kept having issues with , um , it getting vandalized all the time, every sort of thing happening to it. So , um, that's, that's kind of what spurred that. And then , um, we it's really been about a year long process, so Caitlin who used to work at downtown and started that process. So she started reached out, I think it was 25 30 artists at the beginning. And then of course it kinda got whittled down. And then , um, Dave, who we hired, he's actually an artist too. So he ended up , um, he got her job and then so he took on that project as well. I think we're down to something like 10 artists, but it's just been this really cool collaborative process of not only getting all these artists to work together, but agree upon a theme and how's that going to be implemented and how do we pay? And so it's been a really challenging project in some ways, but really cool to see how it turned out. And I think it's a great framework for how we can do other murals. Maybe they're not all group projects, but it's just a really cool example of just a high quality mural. And I think that's something that we kind of lacking too. Cause we've had more businesses now. Like how do I get a mural? Um, Oh yeah. And we also shout out to , I mean, Mesa Jewelers chipped in financially , um, shout out to Alpine Bank, they actually gave a $5,000 sponsorship from murals, which was really cool and kind of outside the box, I feel like for what sponsors kind of are looking for. So I think the future of that is we'd like to see more murals, more, just other ways of creating art. We did at art Fest last year, we , um, had a community painting project on the crosswalks that we had. Like that was really fun. Yeah. We had like 90 people show up and it was really cool and yeah, they they've kinda gone away, but it's , that's the whole point. Like you can just do it again. And so I think a lot of that sort of stuff, I think , um, I'd love to see more of that. And I think that's really what we're looking at from a programming perspective is how can we have more art forms and more interactive art too, because people want to like come down and take pictures and experience it. And they also people really, really enjoy seeing our produce . So we've tried to like kind of do things where people can go and see it being made.

Christi Reece:

So when we wrap up in a minute, I'm going to ask you how people can get in touch with you if they have some ideas for art or they want to partner with the DDA on providing some art or something like that. But , um, when you said shout out, it made me think that I'd like to shout out to some of the longtime supporters of the DDA. I mean, you've got some businesses on main street that have been here a long time and they've been really instrumental in , in making things happen. You want to shout out to a few of those folks? Oh my gosh. I don't know that we have time

Brandon Stam:

On it. I mean, honestly, I , I can't speak highly enough of like literally all the businesses around downtown. Like it's, you know, whether it's like Brian at Rockslide said , Hey Brian, can we need beer for this event? Here you go. Or, you know, I mean, it's just, it's, that's just kind of the environment that has been cultivated down here is people help each other out. And you know, I think with COVID I just saw that even, you know, sure people were stressed and all that, but for the most part, I feel like our downtown businesses worked really, really well together. They're really supportive. I mean, I can't tell you how many people were like the first thing they said was like, how are you doing which I was like, wow, that's awesome. Because , um , that's not the case everywhere.

Christi Reece:

I know.

:

Benge's has been in business in that location for a really long time. And uh, but everybody here at my office really loves Benge's and Enstroms has also been in a downtown location and they're known around the world now. So we've got a lot of publicity with them.

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. Doug jr . Is my board chair, so yeah, they're great. Um, Bruce was interesting cause he was actually , um, he was involved in the 1981 downtown plan update and then he was also on ours, which was really cool to have that perspective.

Christi Reece:

Right. I bet that , um, we talked a little bit earlier about housing downtown and I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Lowell Village Townhomes and I'm excited that we got that project underway. Um, any other , uh, housing initiatives that you're working on?

Brandon Stam:

Yeah, so we , um, there's some other potentials, I would say at this point, they're probably not like set in stone sort of thing, but there's definitely some interest in housing in the seventh street corridor. Um, maybe potentially at the white hall site we S we own, so there's still some in the mix. Um, I would say new concrete ones at this point, but I think the, I I'm optimistic that we're going to see some more housing and I agree, I think the townhomes at Lowell Village look great. So I'm really excited to see those go up.

Christi Reece:

Uh, anything else you'd like to share Brandon about your job?

Brandon Stam:

Um, and I can go on, there's so many different ways. I'm not used to having someone listen to me for this long. Uh , just yeah, I guess I always just , um, reiterate, you know, I th I think that one , I think one of the coolest things about my job, probably the most gratifying, but also challenging and frustrating at times is just that it is kind of like , um, you know, cause people like, well, why don't you guys do that? And it's like, well, we're not like this, you know, we're not, I'm , we're a collaborative entity and we're trying to always get feedback and change and, and , um, shift with need be. But, so I think that's, what's really interesting about this is just like , um, we're seeing this all in like real time, really fast with COBIT is everybody's having to just shift and, and go a different direction. So I think, you know, I think that's, what's been really challenging, but also really kind of cool of in my, my world is like, that's not stuff that you usually see happen that quickly,

Christi Reece:

You all have some flexibility and you're able to pivot pretty quickly and make changes and adapt.

Brandon Stam:

Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, and I think as a whole, I S I'm still very bullish on, on our downtown because I think we're just, we have a lot of really cool , um, attributes and we just unique attributes that aren't everywhere that have come to, you know, you mentioned the locally owned businesses. We have not everybody, you know, I was talking with Durango early . I love downtown Durango, but we actually have like a much more pedestrian friendly main street. So we have, we have some things that, like, I think sometimes it's just this, this whole process has kind of made me reflect on the things that we have versus what we don't have, which has been kind of a cool , um, cool thing that I don't think I did before, because I was too busy just trying to do the next thing.

Christi Reece:

Yeah. So , uh , if people want to , um, donate , uh, get in touch with you about art, get in touch with you about , uh, any ideas that they have, or want to collaborate. How do they get in touch with you, Brandon?

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. So you can reach out to me directly. My email is [email protected] . You can visit our website. We have , um, I have three staff, we have our office admin Vonda. She, if you have gift card questions, that sort of thing , um, she can get you sorted out. And then we Rykel is our event coordinator. And then Dave is our community engagement manager. So he's been helping a lot with the Creative District. So any one of us , uh , yeah, feel free to reach out. We will love to get feedback and maybe you have any crazy ideas. Cause there are no crazy ideas.

Christi Reece:

Right. And if I wanted to emphasize the gift cards, because people don't know about that, you can buy a downtown gift card and people can use it at any of the downtown businesses, which is fantastic .

Brandon Stam:

Yeah. And I guess I should add onto that. We actually , um, we did a promotion this spring that was really successful. Was we , um, when, if people spent $25 downtown, we, they had to upload the receipt and we'd mailed them the $10 gift card. Um, we actually still have that promotion going the limit now is 50, but that's still going. It's pretty much going until you run out of funding for that. So , um, yeah, please take advantage of it. It's it's, it's a great opportunity to get an extra $10 and go support a local business.

Christi Reece:

Absolutely. Please support our downtown businesses support downtown grand junction and Brandon. We thank you for all the work you do to make grand junction, a better place to live. Great. Thank you for having me. Thank you. We'll talk to you next time on the full circle podcast. Have a great day. This is Christi Reece, checking out. Thanks for listening.