Sunday, March 27, 2011

Now is the time to be creative about historic placemaking in downtown Cheyenne

The project has kind of a high-and-mighty name: Downtown Cheyenne Historic Placemaking Project. And the goals are not simple:

1. Involve a wide range of people and organizations to bring different perspectives to the table
2. Reach agreement on the major issues and opportunities affecting downtown’s near-term future and means by which to address them
3. Launch new partnerships and initiatives to accelerate downtown revitalization

The first goal is not a tough one. A wide range of people with different perspectives will attend the first meeting March 31 at the Plains (see details below). There are as many visions of downtown as there are weeds on the prairie. Some of those ideas will be as hard to nail down as a tumblin' tumbleweed. Still, it’s important to hear ideas, even if they are: we don’t need no stinkin’ downtown placemaking – and what the hell is placemaking anyway?

Reaching agreement will take time. But what do we have if not time? Downtown Cheyenne has been around for almost 150 years, since those first tents sprang up along the railroad lines in the 1860s. It’s boomed during good times and almost gone bust in bad times. But not even the rampant development along Dell Range killed it. Hurt it, and emptied some of the buildings. But downtown lives on in 2011, with some renewed signs of life:
  • LightsOn! Project at the Hynds Building
  • Renovation of the old Greer Furniture Building
  • Construction at the old Dinneen car dealership
  • Two weekly farmers’ markets, with the Tuesday Market on Yellowstone moving to the Historic Depot Plaza in June (and the winter farmers’ market in the Depot)
  • The Third Thursday Art Design & Dine art walk
  • Harvey Deselms moving his gallery to the Historic Whipple House
  • Renovation of the State Capitol grounds, which will include an expanded plaza for gatherings and protests and just hanging out. The Capitol Building, of course, is downtown’s matching bookend, the renovated Depot being the other. The plaza will be flanked by the statues of Chief Washakie and Esther Hobart Morris, the same statues that represent The Equality State in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall in D.C.
There are others. Yet, problems remain:
  • The Great Big Hole on 16th Street/Lincolnway
  • Lots of empty buildings and storefronts
  • No grocery store
  • No comprehensive downtown plan
  • Did I mention that Great Big Hole on 16th Street?
But this placemaking effort may lead to some breakthroughs. If not now, when? Cheyenne’s economy is robust (note to boss: I could use a raise to keep up with the Joneses) and it’s bound to get better with the recent surge in oil exploration.

I urge all of you to get out to this meeting on Thursday, March 31, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Historic Plains Hotel. Doors open at 5:30 and the presentations and brainstorming begins at 6. An hour is not a lot of brainstorming time, but it’s a start.

FMI: 307-637-6251.

1 comment:

Elaine Carmichael said...

Thanks for encouraging people to attend the Placemaking events. So far lots of people are getting involved and I hope you're staying engaged with the project. Take care! Elaine Carmichael