North College is a district of neighborhoods centered on a scenic byway that serves as the northern gateway corridor to the city of Fort Collins.
Despite city planning, renewal authority efforts and a number of new developments over the last decade, much of the district remains blighted or undeveloped, and isolated from the world class quality of life enjoyed by the city at large. Population growth across the city has led to soaring real estate prices and a shortage of affordable housing and commercial rentals in more established districts—resulting in intensified interest in the North College district (on a spectrum between locals being displaced by rising rents on one side, newcomers to the city in the middle, and non-resident investors on the other end).
Today, timed ahead of an anticipated 2017 sub-area planning update, a cluster of North Fort Collins advocates are exploring a district visioning and strategy process designed to encourage collaboration on pursuing an aligned neighborhood vision. The ideas below represent hours of conversations held over two years by a range of North College stakeholders and advocates, as well as experts in the fields of placemaking, urban renewal, and community health & sustainability.
- Engage residents, artists, businesses, property owners, developers, and City of Ft. Collins leadership and staff to create a clear vision for the North College corridor as a district of neighborhoods.
- Identify goals and objectives to achieve that vision.
- Prioritize the work that will achieve those goals and who is included in what work.
- Identify what resources are needed and what funding tools will be used.
- Determine strategy and timeline
A list of the ‘Top 10’ Priorities of Stakeholders (aligned with city planning) and a plan to accomplish them.
Find and implement funding for North Fort Collins stakeholders’ top priorities (beyond the existing improvements covered in the funding plan).
SOME PRELIMINARY PRIORITIES
(identified by stakeholders during conversations with CreatePlaces):
- Bring resident voices into planning, create a district vision and identity
- Spark developments aligned with the vision
- Speed URA planned improvements
- Pursue BID to fund built environment improvements
- Build organization to manage and market the district (and unlock state/federal/private placemaking funding)
- Develop a net-zero regional destination/attraction, such as a center for cultural heritage (folk/traditional) arts (in conjunction with affordable artist housing, ala “Space to Create” program).
- Proactive ongoing district management (maintenance/marketing)
- Affordable housing for artists and others displaced across city
- Connectivity to adjacent neighborhoods and nature
- Utilizing stormwater as built environment amenity
- Cultural heritage preservation and education
- Sustainable new developments and retrofits to meet city net-zero goals
- Parking solutions and sharing opportunities
- Image/Identity/Wayfinding Program
- Parks and public places, public art
- Bikeable/walkable routes
STAKEHOLDER IDEAS ON FUNDING TOOLS:
URA: TIF money is already a critical tool for achieving infrastructure-related priorities. Is URA funding appropriate and available for other critical priorities? What can be done to accelerate URA planned improvements?
BID: A business improvement district could support other critical priorities by creating a formal N.College-centric entity to manage change with stakeholder vision, input and funding.
CCI, NEA, Etc.: A creative district designation (or other designation) could also be a tool for better partnering with the city on delivering critical public and private investments to the district as well as providing district leadership and management.
MEMBERSHIP: Stakeholders could contribute member dues to fund district planning/consulting, engagement, etc.
CREATIVE/HERITAGE FUND: A non-profit fund can be assembled to pay local artists/makers to renew and create uniquely local places. A developer/owner would apply for funds to pay for the involvement of local artists in new construction, renovations, and facades. The fund pays the artists for their work, and the owner/developer repays the fund over time with a beneficial interest rate. This interest income is added back into to the fund along with the original loan repayment, creating a growing community resource dedicated to employing local artists for renewal in the district. Funds can also be dedicated to maintenance of artwork over time.
CULTURE/LOCAL FEST: City cultural resources and other funds are available for special events that can raise funds for district marketing and management. District-centric events are themselves a form of experiential marketing.
SCENIC BYWAYS: Transportation funds may be available for a range of ‘corridor management’ efforts.
NEXT STEPS FOR NORTH COLLEGE
Although we unearthed signs of some big barriers to bringing renewal to North College (including lack of critical infrastructure, lagging development, structural poverty, and the uncertain futures of the area’s trailer parks) we are encouraged by volume of constructive feedback and the level of support for 1) accelerating renewal and placemaking efforts 2) in a way that involves and benefits residents rather than displacing them. We are also encouraged by a handful of local businesses and sympathetic investors that are watching developments like Lyric Cinema Cafe’s new facilities and considering moving to the neighborhood. At this point, CreatePlaces seeks the resources and partners needed to take the conversation to the neighborhoods, measure needs and attitudes, and embark on a process to renew the neighborhood with and for the people living there now and the generations to come.
ABOUT CREATEPLACES AND HOW WE CAME TO ADVOCATE FOR A NORTH COLLEGE VISIONING AND STRATEGY PROCESS
CreatePlaces LLC, began in 2014 as an informal cluster of Fort Collins artists and creative entrepreneurs assembling to discuss how to assess the health of our Fort Collins community and discover innovative ways to contribute to that health. Over much of the last 18 months, Andrew Schneider and other cohorts have focused efforts on reaching outside the creative industries cluster to conduct brainstorms, informal forums, and individual conversations with folks from all walks of life (residents, real estate investors, bankers, DDA staff, planners, educators, philanthropists, business owners, etc.) about how their enterprises and they themselves could support, engage in, and benefit from participating in a local creative development fund as well as arts-centric programming dedicated to heritage preservation and community-inclusive intentional placemaking on North College, or wherever the community has needs.
Great thanks is owed to Amy Alcorn and Peggy Lyle for their superlative facilitation of group conversations in the early days of CreatePlaces and to Ben Mozer and Andrew Schneider for subsequent individual efforts hitting the pavement. Thanks to all of the folks who have contributed face time to talk about North College and/or general approaches to placemaking, community health, and sustainability. These include: Matt Robenalt, DDA Executive Director; Greg Roeder, Brinkmann Partners Agent; Greg & Mike Vogel, ICOR Directors and Investors; Lindsey Walton, Principal Irish Elementary; Cheryl Zimlich, Bohemian Foundation Executive Director; Bryce Merrill, Biennial of the Americas Denver Cultural Policy Director; David Herrera, Attorney; Jess Gries, Attorney; Bob Overbeck, City of Fort Collins Councilman; Sam Houghteling, City of Fort Collins Industry Cluster Coordinator; Jacob Castillo, Larimer County Economic Development Manager; Amy Bradley, Downtown Artery Executive Director; Tomas Herrera & Doug Usher, Filmmakers; Zach Yendra, Artist/Fabricator; Todd Lackie, GoWest Owner; Kim Jones, Pinball Jones Owner; Steve Taylor, Hot Corner Concepts Owner; Susan McFadden, Revive Developer.