The topic of effective community development is rich with deeply researched theories, case studies and data, but nothing drives home the message better than actually walking a bustling downtown, brushing a hand against murals by local artists, seeing the fresh paint on a once dilapidated building and learning how local leaders made it all happen.
That’s the theory behind the Wyoming Main Street Best Practices Workshop, which may be unique among the 42 statewide Main Street programs nationwide.
By seeing successful community development in action, Wyoming downtown advocates can bring those best practices back home and replicate those ideas in a way that fits their local character. Wyoming holds one workshop in communities near wherever the annual National Main Street Center conference is held; the other happens back home in Wyoming.
“In the Main Street world, begging, borrowing and stealing ideas is encouraged,” laughed Desiree Brothe, community development coordinator for the Wyoming Business Council, which coordinates the state’s Main Street programs.
That means coveting a neighbor’s successful infill project or snazzy façade grant program is no problem, because everybody is there to learn from each other.
This year’s local Best Practices Workshop will be held Sept. 25-26 and it comes with a twist. The Wyoming Business Council is partnering with the Colorado Main Street program to turn the event into a two-state extravaganza.
The first day will feature Granby, a town of about 2,100 just 90 miles southwest of Laramie, and Steamboat Springs, the ski town with around 13,000 year-round residents 65 miles south of Saratoga.
The second day of the Best Practices Workshop will take participants to Rawlins and Laramie.
“Colorado is excited to join Wyoming on their extremely popular and sold-out 2019 Best Practices workshop,” said Gayle Langley, coordinator for the Colorado Main Street program. “Each of our Main Street communities has a unique sense of identity, sense of place and a history to share. This workshop will give our managers firsthand knowledge of best practices and lessons learned while forging new mentors and friendships across state lines.”
This partnership has been years in the making, according to Brothe, and this could be the first step toward a regional event with other Mountain West states.
In Granby, participants will learn about the new River Run development. Mayor Paul Chavostie will talk about how that has spurred downtown investment. The community will also teach attendees how Granby modified older gas stations into active public spaces.
Steamboat Springs plans to talk about the importance of a historic theater to downtown vibrancy. Local speakers will talk about what it took to turn their theater into a busy, profitable venue.
In Rawlins, tourers will witness the final product of a multi-year façade improvement program that touched nearly every building downtown. And in Laramie, a local coop has risen from the ashes of an old theater.
Along the way, participants will learn about the partnerships, board management, public participation and elected official buy-in necessary to make these and other successful projects happen.
Brothe hopes to see Main Streeters from both states take home new inspiration to better their downtowns.
“These Best Practices Workshops are some of the most valuable experiences we can provide our Main Streeters.”