By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
Main Street Colorado–at least, in a few communities–will be receiving an infusion of federal cash, Gov. Bill Ritter announced today at a news conference in Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood. The money will be routed to the communities through a program initiated by Ritter last April.
“Thank you to the federal government for supporting Colorado communities,” Ritter said in touting the development.
The federal grant money, $1.28 million in all, will go toward helping targeted communities revitalize their downtown business districts through renovating historic buildings and improving downtown walkways. The revitalization is part of a larger goal set forth last April with the launch of the “Sustainable Main Streets Initiative,” led by Ritter, Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien and Susan Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
The initiative, created by executive order, directs “state agencies to identify and target specific resources to support community projects, ranging from increasing disaster-readiness plans to improving energy,” as stated in April’s announcement from the governor’s office.
The four communities initially selected for the initiative are the Five Points neighborhood, Rifle on the Western Slope, Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley and Fowler in southeastern Colorado.
Ritter said he believes the federal dollars will play a vital role in propelling the communities toward sustainability.
“Vibrant downtown business districts are the mark of successful communities,” said Ritter. “These funds will help Colorado communities improve their central business districts and create a brighter and more sustainable future.”
The GOP’s Rep. Laura Bradford, of Collbran, who serves on the House Local Government Committee and is a small-business owner in a small community, said downtown business districts are indeed vital to the health of a community, but she questioned using federal dollars to subsidize the effort.
“While (these) are admirable projects, someday, somewhere, someone at sometime needs to say ‘no’ to any more ‘free’ money from the feds. Count me as one of those people,” said Bradford.
The grant funding is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation. In addition to the $1.28 million, also announced today was $2.9 million from HUD for housing and transportation development in communities surrounding the West Corridor Light Rail line and the award of two grants, each worth $175,000, by the Environmental Protection Agency to address work in areas that have been affected by contaminants.