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Civic Engagement Enhances Downtown Pueblo, CO Revitalization

Dedicated residents walk the talk when it comes to revitalizing downtown.

By Laura Hill on August 5, 2014

It takes vision, money, planning and hard work to revitalize a city. And another critical ingredient: citizens passionately committed to their community.

Over the past decades, Pueblo has made dramatic strides in rehabbing blighted areas of the city, restoring historic neighborhoods, creating a game-changing riverfront development and bringing major new business and attractions to the city.

River of Inspiration

Pueblo’s Historic Arkansas Riverwalk Project (HARP), a 32-acre public space, has become the centerpiece for downtown revitalization and redevelopment. Now in its 14th year, the riverwalk park brings locals and visitors alike to stroll, visit museums, pay respects at a Medal of Honor memorial, enjoy a leisurely boat ride down the river, and enjoy fountains, art and special events.

The city’s convention center also has enjoyed success, and plans are in the works for a new exhibit hall and a nearby Professional Bull Riders University. A few blocks away, the Union Avenue historic district has undergone major restoration to become an important commercial hub as well as the home to scores of restored historic buildings.

Individuals Count

As impressive as these major civic projects are, the hands-on contributions of individual businesses and citizens have also played an important role in making Pueblo the attractive, welcoming city it is today.

“I was raised to believe you shouldn’t be part of the problem, you should be part of the solution,” says Barbara Vidmar, a retired businesswoman – though you’d never guess it from her long list of activities. “You need to take a look at a problem, and see what you can do.”

Vidmar, a former city council president, has more than 40 years of distinguished service to the city to her credit, from being a member of the city’s Streetscape Committee and a Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority commissioner to service on the board of directors of the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation (PEDCo). She’s also an avid member of a group nicknamed the Wednesday Weeders, which gathers early each week to care for the city’s beautiful flower baskets, public gardens and parks.

“It’s therapy,” Vidmar says. “We’re around people who care about our community choose to do something instead of complain.”

The 10 or so women in the group are mostly either retired or with established careers, and so with a little free time, they have established gardens along the riverwalk, planted gardens in low-income neighborhoods and annually plant the 70 flowering baskets that decorate city streets.

“When a group comes together with a common goal, it’s very powerful,” Vidmar says.

Like Vidmar, Anthony Armijo is doing his part to beautify the city – but with a paintbrush, not a shovel. His dramatic wall-size murals – many of them donated – feature realistic scenes celebrating people and events. Most recently, Armijo volunteered three months of weekends painting a large mural commemorating Pueblo veterans’ military service and the city’s status as “Home of Heroes” for its four native Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

Attorneys Joe and James Koncilja have helped make the revitalization of Pueblo’s Union Avenue historic district an important cultural and economic reality, buying, restoring and successfully leasing 10 properties in the district. Among the buildings they have rehabbed is the 1890 Union Depot, now developed into a popular meeting, retail and residential space.

Reasons to Celebrate

Pueblo residents enjoy a good celebration almost any time of year and show their support by volunteering or simply showing up in droves. Mark your calendars to attend these top events!

May

Cinco de Mayo, May 5, www.pueblo.us/Calendar.aspx?EID=524

Wild Wild West Festival, May 16-18, www.wildwildwestfestival.com/

Bluegrass at the Fair, May 30-June 1 www.bluegrassatthefair.com/schedule.html

June

Boats, Bands & BBQ, June 6-7 http://puebloriverwalk.org/events1/

Pueblo Air Blitz, June 13, 14, 15 www.jagclub.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/PuebloAirShow.pdf

Bands in the Backyard, June 18-20, www.bandsinthebackyard.com/

The NSRA Rocky Mountain Street Rod Nationals, June 27-29, http://pueblochamber.org/news/30th-annual-nsra-rocky-mountain-street-rod…

July

Rollin’ on the Riverwalk, July 4, http://puebloriverwalk.org/rollin-on-the-riverwalk-general-information/

Italian Invitational July 19-20, www.puebloitaliangolf.com/

National Little Britches Finals Rodeo July 24 http://pueblochamber.org/event/national-little-britches-finals-rodeo/201…

August

Colorado State Fair, Aug 22- Sept. 1, www.coloradostatefair.com/

September

Sister Cities International Taste, Sept. 6, http://pueblosistercities.org/

Chile & Frijoles Festival Presented by Loaf ‘N Jug, Sept 19-21, http://pueblochilefestivalinfo.com/

Oktoberfest, Sept 13-14, http://pueblo.org/events/2012-09-14/oktoberfest

November/December

Veterans Day Parade & Ceremony, Nov. 8, http://pueblochamber.org/event/pueblo-chieftain-veterans-day-parade-2/

Yule Love It Downtown, November/December, http://pueblo.org/events/yule-love-it-downtown

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