Plan for downtown Parker taking shape

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Downtown Parker’s future could be predicated on the suggestions of average citizens, business owners and a well-intentioned nonprofit organization retained by the town.

Opinions varied greatly among approximately 50 residents who convened Jan. 28 for an information gathering session led by Downtown Colorado, Inc., a nonprofit that merges multiple visions for a downtown district into a recommendation for one sustainable plan.

The meeting at the Parker Arts, Culture and Events Center attracted a crowd of interested parties who immediately began pointing out the assets and faults of a beloved town center that is still taking shape. Some described the downtown area as vibrant, while others deemed it too small, inaccessible or devoid of places capable of attracting a regular crowd.

The Downtown Colorado, Inc. team, consisting of specialists in fields such as finance, marketing and streetscapes, listened intently during the hour and a half session Jan. 28 and returned the following night to present its analysis.

The two-day community assessment is intended to “develop cohesive and synchronized action-oriented programs to tap into local resources and assist the leadership in furthering initiatives to support the business district,” says Katherine Correll, executive director of DCI.  Essentially, the group wants to reconcile differing ideas for the downtown area into a proposed roadmap for the future that will be considered by Parker Town Council and other officials.

Among the factors being considered are: what’s working, what’s not, and how the town will grow. Mark Lane, a downtown business owner who ran for town council last fall, said development is confined to a few-block area, restricting future growth.

“You can’t change it at all unless you tear it all down and start over,” he said.

A handful of properties on the east end of downtown, near town hall, have not been developed. One is a 24-acre plot of land known as Pine Curve that is owned by the Town of Parker. A few residents who attended the meeting are adjacent homeowners curious about what might be built on the property, which became part of the “east downtown gateway” when town council approved the revised Parker 2035 Master Plan last year.

Several participants highlighted the positive qualities of downtown, including the PACE Center and restaurants like Indochine Cuisine, the Warhorse Inn and elev. 5900 kitchen and bar. One woman suggested that the Mainstreet Center be revamped and turned into a viable alternative venue to PACE, a 500-seat performing arts center that opened in Dec. 2011.

Many also spoke about the dozens of public events, such as Parker Days, the Smokin’ Brew BBQ and weekly farmers market, as tremendous attributes. Alice Edwards, president of the PACE Center Guild, said leaders should consider marketing downtown Parker to neighboring communities.

Chris Ray, a Parker resident for nine years, said the downtown area needs activity driven gathering places that can be accessed via the town’s top-notch trail system. He said signs pointing to various destinations, like the Parker Fieldhouse, would be helpful to bring in more people. Another man said O’Brien Park must not be ignored, as it has the ability to attract families that enjoy the walkability of a downtown strip.

Parker resident Doug Jones said he is torn because he enjoys the convenience Mainstreet as a travel route and resists methods that might hinder its use, but views the downtown area as unfriendly to pedestrians.

“It feels like too much traffic in too tight a space for pedestrians,” he said.

Correll asked residents define what they believed to be the downtown area, and while many agreed that it stretches from Parker Road to the PACE Center, others said there is room to expand west of Parker Road, near the Twenty Mile 10 movie theater.

DCI will present its recommendations to town council in a report in six weeks.