Recently, Sabrina and I had occasion to stay at The Oxford Hotel in the “LoDo” area of downtown Denver. She used to live in a Denver neighborhood, and I first visited the Wynkoop Brewery in LoDo in 1997 while on a business trip. Since 1997, I have returned approximately every five years to LoDo and every time I have see changes, big and small, that have led to the vibrancy and buzz you feel there now. It is very noticeable when you show up once every 5 years. However, when you see it on a daily basis, the incremental changes seem to blend together, and it is only upon reflection that you see the transformation. I read about the transformation of LoDo in “Changing Places – Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl” by Richard Moe and Carter Wilkie in 1998. This book heightened my interest in reinvestment in commercial areas, mixed use downtowns, and the accumulation of changes that lead to economic success.
I have seen some of the same incremental improvements to Abilene’s commercial areas over the past several years. While it’s easy to focus on vacant storefronts, of which there are not that many, the positive changes that have occurred over the years have become cloudy in our minds. Let me hold up as a great example: the 300 block of Broadway Street. Over the past 15 years, at least eight of the buildings on the block have had significant and noticeable improvements to the structures and an increased vibrancy. The property owners and tenants along this block have improved the buildings, brought their businesses to the sidewalk, and have dressed up the windows since 2000. The environment along this block of Broadway has improved greatly and is appealing to customers. We have seen similar activity in other blocks of downtown, all of which add to the economic viability of this collection of affordable commercial spaces. There is also more activity in the 2nd floors and basements.
Although at a slower pace, we see some of the same incremental improvements along north Buckeye and the stage is set for a renaissance in large-scale commercial redevelopment. The Texas Street and 1st Street area has also seen neighborhood improvements that collectively make the area more inviting than it was 15 years ago. I am optimistic that the attention business owners are giving to these areas will lead to further business investment by others. Every small positive change pushes the community forward to greater economic health.