A team charged with drafting a transit and economic revitalization plan for Rifle will hold a major public outreach event downtown on Friday, Oct. 6.
Titled the "Fall tour de downtown," the event will feature specials and discounts at downtown businesses in the afternoon, followed by a preview of several downtown improvements planned for the near future.
The team, composed of city staff, citizen volunteers and paid consultants, has worked since 2011 to gather public input on ways to revitalize Rifle's downtown core, improve its streetscapes and ensure its roads and transit infrastructure can support a growing population.
Their work is funded by an $806,000 federal Transit Oriented Development grant awarded to Rifle in 2011.
"We want to get feedback from the public," said Rifle City Planner Nathan Lindquist. "We will be looking at prioritizing, 'What do we use some of this funding to design?'"
To urge downtown business owners to make improvements on their own, Lindquist said his team would also display drawings of several smaller improvements the city is planning to complete in the short-term.
These include beautifying the intersection of Colorado Highway 6 and Railroad Avenue, improving the facade of the Garfield County building at Third Street and East Avenue and perhaps adding parking or a permanent farmer's market space to city-owned land along Rifle Creek.
"We hope to use these public facilities as a kick-start to set a good example for the rest of the downtown," Lindquist said.
Phase one has mainly consisted of planning, brainstorming and public outreach. The second phase, set to begin early next year, will involve designing and funding several revitalization projects.
Just what those projects might look like was the subject of a week-long design session the city hosted in April. In addition, a six-week "downtown design academy" over the summer brought citizens and public officials together to identify so-called "economic opportunity sites" that could spur redevelopment downtown.
Participants suggested encouraging development of vacant parcels on West Second Street, extending the downtown core one block to the south to create riverfront development, and constructing a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks for access to Lion's Park from downtown, among other ideas.
Ultimately, a committee charged with overseeing the federal grant will decide which of these projects gets the green light. But participants say the grant process has already yielded benefits by bringing new voices into the conversation about Rifle's future.
"I think we've gotten new interest from young professionals that would like to see things accomplished to make Rifle a better town to live in," said Helen Rodgers, the head of Rifle's Downtown Development Authority and a member of the design academy. "Those of us who have been involved for a long time could always use fresh ideas."