Editor’s Notebook: Saving downtown Greeley

Leaders must make it easy for businesses, shoppers to come

What’s wrong with downtown Greeley?

That’s the question many civic leaders are asking in the wake of several recent setbacks for the area’s economic revitalization, including the closure of Fleetside Pub & Brewing and the loss of several downtown merchants. Other setbacks almost inevitably will come in the months ahead, possibly from car dealerships looking to relocate to the more-modern west side. One such, Garnsey & Wheeler Ford, already has made that decision.

Civic leaders were concerned enough several months ago to hire Fort Collins downtown guru Chip Steiner to study the problem. Steiner has submitted some initial findings to downtown leaders, but here are some of my own observations as a Weld County resident and frequent Greeley wanderer.

First, getting to downtown Greeley from one of the city’s main arterials, the U.S. Highway 34 bypass, is difficult at best. It requires some skillful maneuvering into the proper lane to get to Eighth Avenue, and once you’re on Eighth, you travel north a ways before having to yield at an awkward twist in the road before proceeding. You might as well put up a wall.

On U.S. 34 business, it’s easy to get to downtown Greeley, but once you’re ready to leave, it can be confusing for the uninitiated. Anyone heading west must get on Ninth Street due to a one-way pattern west of downtown. That’s despite the fact that they went into downtown on 10th Street.

Some better signage wouldn’t hurt, at the very least; if someone’s frustrated upon leaving downtown, they’re not likely to return.

Sometimes it seems as if obstacles were erected just to tick people off. Just try driving on Ninth Avenue through downtown, past the quaint pedestrian plazas. Talk about twists and turns! You’ll be on your brakes the whole way, with nary an inch to spare. Not exactly conducive to visitors.

But enroute through downtown, what is there to appeal to travelers? Eighth Avenue – aka U.S. Highway 85 – is probably the most-common route through the area, but unfortunately it’s largely a treeless, uninteresting experience.

In short, some parts are downright ugly. Any attempt to revitalize downtown Greeley must include some sort of urban-revitalization or beautification plan for Eighth Avenue.

Next, as Chip Steiner and I have discussed, some businesses are pedestrian unfriendly. Downtown Greeley has a major amenity in the Best Western Ramkota Inn on Eighth Avenue, but that fine hotel faces away from the heart of downtown and greets drivers and passersby on Eighth with an uninteresting mass of wall.

Parking, obviously, is another issue. It’s hard enough navigating downtown without having to drive around several blocks. A parking garage would be nice, provided no historic buildings were torn down in the process.

These are just a few thoughts. Let’s hear some more.

“ ” “

One side note: Anyone who ever seeks to comment on or rebut anything in the commentary section has but to ask, and space will be provided.

Christopher Wood can be reached at (970) 221-5400, (970) 356-1683 or (800) 440-3506. His e-mail address is cwood@ncbr.com, and his fax is (970) 221-5432.