Improvements in Downtown Pueblo, CO

Pueblo's leaders are working to renovate and improve the downtown area, creating even more events and attractions.

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If the mirasol chile (artfully used by local restaurateurs to create the crowd-pleasing green-chile slopper) helps put Pueblo on the tourist map now, how about five future reasons to visit the hub of southern Colorado: wrestling and swim meets, nationally touring Broadway productions, bull-riding lessons and more art galleries.

With the help of state Economic Development Office funding ($8,000 to the Pueblo Performing Arts Guild to help promote a “Creative District” and $14.8 million to the city as part of a separate Regional Tourism Act application), planning that has been in the works for several years will soon be under construction.

The Creative Corridor

Susan Fries, executive director of the Pueblo Performing Arts Guild, leads a project to rebrand downtown as the Pueblo Creative Corridor. The area encompasses the 1.1-mile footprint already established for the city’s popular First Friday Artwalk, she says. The three-block stretch covers three downtown districts: Mesa Junction, the literary and publishing district featuring the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library and three independent bookstores; historic Union Avenue, where you’ll find art galleries, boutiques and the 1.5-mile Historic Arkansas Riverwalk Project; and Main Street, the working-class district, with brew pubs, coffee shops, government buildings and the Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center.

Gallery space has doubled in the past two years, says Fries, who is researching ways to increase business in the newly christened corridor. Once she identifies space and can locate business partners, plans call for more artist residency as well.

“We hope to increase the economic impact using creative industry (artists, architects, designers, food crafters, software developers, etc.),” which, she says, “is the fifth-largest industry segment in Colorado.”

Riverwalk Updates

RTA funding will be used to further develop the area surrounding Riverwalk, says Kristi Alfonso of the Pueblo City Center Partnership, who works with the city to solicit new business and promote the RTA project. Phase 1, under construction in 2014, includes renovating the 1,500-seat Memorial Hall Theater to bring more touring Broadway shows and live concerts downtown. It will also encompass expansion of the Pueblo Convention Center and a new expo hall, working with the Professional Bull Riders Association to build the Professional Bull Riding University and Arena, developing a 100-room hotel, and building the Veteran’s Bridge over the Riverwalk. In Phase 2, a welcome center and new boathouse goes up at the Riverwalk. Phase 3, to be completed by 2020, includes construction of a regional aquatic center and water park.

“We’re all working together to create density … and we’re expecting to see thousands of new visitors coming to Pueblo because of it,” Alfonso says.

The bull-riding arena alone could attract an additional 30,000 out-of-state and foreign visitors, according to the RTA application.

Rod Slyhoff, executive director of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, says he’s been pitching the new and expanded version of Pueblo already to meeting planners nationwide. Envisioning lots of meetings, indoor volleyball tournaments, wrestling meets and swimming competitions in Pueblo’s future, he says, “What we’re doing [at the expo hall, for example] concentrates the facilities and housing all under one roof and makes us more marketable.”

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