Downtown Greeley open for business

By Eric Heinz

            In the fog of a rocky economy, the Downtown Development Authority acts as a lighthouse by providing financial assistance for businesses in the downtown Greeley area. As markets continue to wane and remain inconsistent, members of the program help fund and beautify the downtown area. 
            Joining forces with an urban development group, the DDA not only aspires to strengthen the once thriving downtown district but also to esthetically enhance, instead of gentrify, with modern art and some other additions that will be installed in the near future. Business owners are eligible for the benefits from the authority as soon as they open shop. They are eligible to apply for grants for up to $5,000 for exterior improvements and promotional tools, such as awnings and small-scale advertising.

Pam Bricker, executive director of the DDA, said the necessity of downtown districts is to create an area of businesses that can be taxed. Bricker said as the district grows and property values rise, the tax funds are diverted back to the businesses in the district. It comes back through a 5 percent mil levy. Tax increment financing funds pay for the majority of bonds that fund the projects the DDA conducts.
“We now have almost $1 million in funds that we’ve acquired,” Bricker said. “We still need to figure out where to invest that money and how it will best improve our district, invest in a project.”
The district is between about 17th Street and Fifth Street, and between 11th and Seventh avenues.
Scattered with the remnants of the mom-and-pop era of independent businesses, the area is plentiful with stores filled with old models of appliances among peculiar retail and repair outlets that don’t quite fit the look of the time, but the businesses somehow sustain commerce in the area. Bricker said shops like King’s Clock have found a niche. She said the owner of the repair shop and clock outlet is one of the only premier individuals of his field, adding that people from all over northern Colorado come to use his services. 
“You won’t find many craftsmen like that these days,” Bricker said.
Charles King opened King’s Clock in 2002 in west Greeley and moved his shop to the downtown area in 2006. King served as a board member of the DDA for two years, and he said downtown faces the same issues and benefits most commercial areas of its same size. He said he helped a few businesses earn grants during his time on the board but never had to utilized them himself.
“Downtown presents some issues, especially the stress with parking,” King said. “There’ve been years of downtown deterioration, and its shops like these that try to bring back the commerce the area has seen in the past.”
King said the area doesn’t see as much business as he would like to see, but the businesses in the area are trying to promote the neighborhood as much as possible. But from the aspect of an entrepreneur, the low downtown rents help attract new ventures all the time. However, he said some of the businesses fold very quickly.
“That’s what’s going to lend to the growth of downtown, when we can figure out what works and what doesn’t,” he said.
Bricker said what will help downtown is the diversity of business in the area. Businesses that cater to college will help bring color to the area and different industries. This could eventually help downtown become as thriving and popular as it once was.