Population: 107,772 (2012 estimate)
Sources: Christopher Markuson, director of economic development, Pueblo County; Jim Munch, executive director, Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo; Rod Slyhoff, president, Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce
Q. What problems did you identify in your downtown?
A. The size of our downtown. Pueblo's downtown is as long as the 16th Street Mall in Denver. With the development of the Pueblo Mall in 1976 and the additional strip development along Highway 50 west, retail business had slowly left the downtown. Our biggest challenge was to create enough critical mass to spark new investment in the downtown.
Q. What key projects contributed to your downtown's revitalization?
A. Major private sector investment include the Professional Bull Riders World headquarters and the AT&T Service Center, along with a number of other new buildings along the Riverwalk, and redevelopment of a number of historic buildings within the Union Avenue Historic District and along Main Street. Others included Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, Pueblo Convention Center, El Pueblo History Museum, Riverwalk, Rawlings Library, downtown transit center, Riverwalk parking garage, Municipal Justice Center and the AT&T complex.
Q. Was there an overriding strategy or philosophy that guided your actions?
A. Downtown's redevelopment strategy was guided by the "Downtown Framework Plan." This document discussed the proposed form and character of downtown, key amenities to build, and key assets to protect. Nearly every component of the plan has been implemented, and we're working to begin the process of creating the next framework plan.
Q. What did it take to achieve your goals?
A. We put together a stakeholder group to develop the Framework plan. We made them all sign a pledge that they would meet for a 10- or 12-week period at 7 a.m. every Friday morning to prepare the plan. Each represented a different constituency and each had a particular goal or project they wanted to accomplish.
Q. What kind of funding sources were used?
The Riverwalk was supported by Pueblo voters in 1995, providing $12.85 million in bond money to start the project. Fundraising done by the Riverwalk's foundation raised over $17 Million to further enhance the project. Urban Renewal Authority of Pueblo helped through use of Tax Increment Financing Federal and State grants to improve infrastructure.
Q. What obstacles did you encounter?
A. Our crisis was the loss of 4,000-5,000 jobs at the steel mill, with a resulting 20 percent unemployment rate. The biggest problem any community needs to overcome is complacency, and overcoming entropy continues to be a problem.
Q. Are you done?
A. No, and our intent is to never be done. We received the (Regional Tourism Act) award from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in 2012, which will help fund the expansion of our Convention Center. We have plans to extend the Riverwalk to Runyon Lake/ Arkansas River, and continue to field questions from business who want to relocate to the Riverwalk. We are working with CDOT to begin improvements to I-25 through the downtown.