Our View: Main Street deserves support

Main Street Steamboat Springs deserves congratulations for winning official status as a member of the statewide organization.

Translating that organizational success into success at its local missions -- economic development and preservation of the city's historic downtown -- will require cooperation and support from the entire community. We argue the group deserves that, too.

Becoming an official member of the Main Street network was a significant achievement. The group had to demonstrate philosophical and financial support from the public and private sectors and convince a selection committee it was ready to undertake the Main Street program, according the Colorado Community Revitalization Association, which granted the status.

The evidence was impressive. Since late 2003, Main Street Steamboat Springs has evolved from an idea to an organization with more than 100 members and an annual budget of $121,000, about half of which came from the city. It hired an executive director in 2004 and formed committees to address the four aspects of the Main Street program -- design, economic restructuring, organization and promotion -- developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

It's clear those committees have been working. On Thursday, during the group's annual meeting, committee chairs outlined a clear, concise and laudable program of work for the year. The goals include compiling a list of businesses that would enhance downtown, making the district cleaner, safer and more convenient, and recruiting new members.

Work plans include things such as organizing the placement of Dumpsters, playing a role in addressing parking and pedestrian access issues, incorporating development along Yampa Street into the district and staging more events.

We also would like to see the group review historic preservation guidelines to determine whether they should be better defined. The organization also could more effectively use the brand it developed for the district.

There's probably no end to the list of good things the group could be called upon to do, but there is an end to its resources.

Executive Director Tracy Barnett said the organization needs people, some with specific skills, some with time enough to man a booth and some just with ideas.

A lot of those new people should come from among all downtown business owners who are not already members.

Barnett says the group wants to serve and draw members from the whole variety of downtown businesses -- retail, restaurants, professional services and trades.

Downtown property owners also should support the group, but so far only a few have joined.

We think Main Street Steamboat Springs has proven itself to be a viable organization with an important mission, although there's room to improve and refine the details of its work plan.

Achieving its goals will require broad community support, so ultimately members should come from the public, which has as great a stake as anyone in preserving the city's historic downtown.

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