Sunday, October 05, 2014

What is your vision for the future of Cheyenne's downtown?

Thanks to the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle for this week's series on Cheyenne's downtown. It covered many aspects of downtown's current plight and ended today with an upbeat forecast for the future. I happen to agree that the city's mid-town area has improved remarkably during the past few years and will look quite a bit different in 3-5 years. Cheyenne is lucky in that it has a distinctive downtown and that it is riding the "downtown is cool" wave that is dawning all over the U.S.

And you don't have to go to Colorado to find good examples of this trend. We have some cool downtowns in this state and I suggest that you check them out as you travel. Laramie is a great example, and it's right over the hill. New homegrown businesses, funky cafes and brewpubs, lots of colorful murals, and new western-themed bike racks. You can sip a craft beer and watch the trains chug by. Rawlins just rebuilt its downtown, and Rock Springs is in the process of sprucing up its odd mid-city that is cut in half by train tracks. Think of Sheridan's beautiful downtown, Cody and Lander, too. Thermopolis has thriving downtown businesses and a lively art walk. There are many others.

Best thing that Wyomingites can do is to get involved in the local scene. Shop locally, eat locally, drink locally, and think locally. Because I live in Cheyenne, I often look south for entertainment and sports and food. The border, after all, is permeable.And there's a new CostCo going up just off I-25 in Fort Collins. And you can't get Ethiopian food in Cheyenne. Or see the new Broadway touring plays -- or even old ones. The Rockies don't play in Wyoming -- maybe that's a reason to count our blessings.

But Wyoming has things that Colorado does not. Find out what they are and spend your dough there. One of the topics that was woven into the WTE series was those aspects of Cheyenne that make it special. Our history is as rich as Denver's -- just take a look at all of the murder and intrigue happening in Cheyenne this season on AMC's "Hell on Wheels." Fictionalized but based on fact. We've only begun to explore our railroad and Native American and geologic history. Yes, there's Cheyenne Frontier Days. But that represents only a small slice of local lore. Native Americans made these parts home for a lot longer than cowboys, but their stories are barely told. And what about dinosaurs of land and sea? For millions of years they made this place home.

So, when locals start talking about a western-themed downtown, ask them which West they are referring to. A cowboy sculpture on every corner is not my idea of a lively downtown. All kinds of art all over downtown is a great idea. That takes vision.  And planning. Cooperation among government and business and patrons and artists.

When I retire in a few years, I plan on getting involved in downtown in some way. I will write about it, too, as I am now. My question for now is the same one asked by the WTE series: What's is your vision for the future of Cheyenne's downtown?


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