Stakeholders plan for future growth in downtown Parker

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Parker’s forward-thinking minds are spearheading an effort to determine the future of the downtown district.

The 25 members of the Creative District Steering Committee have been hard at work since a launch meeting in March. The group of stakeholders — made up of property owners, professional artists, business owners, cultural organizations and elected officials — has already developed a vision statement and a prioritized list of strategic actions.

The committee was formed after the January 2012 announcement that the Town of Parker had been designated as an emerging creative district by the state’s Colorado Creative Industries Division. The woman who created that title, Elaine Mariner, is now the town’s arts and culture director, and she is eager to see the process through full circle.

“Parker feels like the right community with the right intentions,” she said. “It’s still in the developmental stage, but there is so much foundation for bigger things.”

Around the same time, the Town of Parker began to update its downtown action plan, which hadn’t been updated since 2002. It contracted with a nonprofit called Downtown Colorado Inc., which conducted an assessment and provided a list of recommended actions to help the district grow into the future. Mariner said it “made sense to combine the processes,” and now all of the players are at the same table with a common goal to turn downtown Parker into a vibrant hub of activity.

Among the steering committee’s top priorities are fostering the development of cultural destinations and events, restaurants and outdoor dining spaces, family-oriented destinations, and plazas/gathering spaces. A nine-acre property purchased for $2 million earlier this year by the Town of Parker could be among the centerpieces, Mariner said. The town has already announced plans to allow a new Parker Library to be built on the land, and officials have discussed the possibility of adding water features for summer and an ice skating rink for winter.

The committee also wants to “rehabilitate” the Mainstreet Center, a historic structure that has served as a school, museum and performing arts theater, among a range of other uses, since being built in 1915. Award-winning preservationist and community planner Dana Crawford noted during a visit that the town-owned Mainstreet Center is an important historical downtown anchor that could become a center for creative leadership in the town.

The Creative District Steering Committee also wants to re-establish the Historic Walking Tour, which was once run by the Parker Area Historical Society. Mariner said the committee wants to preserve and showcase pieces of the town’s history.

The group’s “next level priorities” include creating an environment where varied housing, public art, lodging and transportation access can thrive.

“Within five years Parker’s Old Town Creative District will be a vibrant, walkable arts and entertainment center infused with community gathering spaces, specialty retail and dining options, diverse creative businesses and life cycle housing choices,” the committee’s vision statement says.

The committee will create goals for prioritized strategic actions and write a draft of the plan to be presented for public feedback in October. Mariner invites anyone from the public to join the steering committee or a sub-committee by sending an email to emariner@parkeronline.org.

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