In a bid to transform its downtown, Dillon offers up underused lots for development
Dillon is looking for developers interested in mixed-use residential and commercial projects in its core area, formally issuing a request for proposals on nine town-owned lots earlier this week.
A pre-bid meeting will be held on April 24 at 2 p.m. at Town Hall, although attendance is not mandatory. Final submissions are due by the end of the day on July 7.
By emphasizing high-density residential projects, town officials hope to bring the number of permanent resident in the core area — which now stands at only around 30 or 40 — up to at least 200 while increasing total retail space in the area to 100,000 square feet.
With that, they hope, will come the jobs and businesses that could ultimately transform the town from a mostly bedroom community for second-home owners into a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly community for locals and vacationers alike.
That would be in contrast to the Dillon Ridge area of town across Highway 6, which is dominated by large chain stores and restaurants that currently generate most of Dillon’s sales tax revenue.
“This is about creating an enclave based on our mountain lake-style identity, so it’s not going to be some of the quick-serve options on Highway 6 where it’s all about accessibility,” said Dillon marketing and communications director Kerstin Anderson.
Luring people from those big-box retail areas and into Dillon’s lakefront core has been a perennial challenge despite its great potential, according to a recent study by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
“Downtown Dillon has many of the qualities of great downtown but attracting people to come into the core area is challenging given all the other competition around,” it notes. “This further strengthens the argument for getting more people living in the downtown. If they already live there, the town doesn’t have to work to draw them into downtown.”
According to the study, the town could attract two large demographics — baby boomers and millennials — by creating the type of pedestrian-friendly community both cohorts are increasingly attracted to. The study also cites a number of potential draws in the downtown area, including the lakefront, farmers market and amphitheater, which is currently being remodeled to accommodate bigger events.
Since most of the second-home owners around town are boomers, there could be potential to draw them in as full-timers.
“For a long time, long-term people didn’t want to do anything with their retirement community,” said Anderson. “But second-home owners are coming to understand that by doing nothing, we’re going backwards. And now, boomers and millenials are looking for some of the same things in their communities.”
“The whole circumference around the core area is residential, but it’s always been a second-home area,” said longtime property owner Eddie O’Brien. “But now it’s starting to make more sense for permanent residents.”
In his view, development has been stalled in part because of a recently changed rule that placed exorbitant fees on large projects that would strain town parking.
“There are a lot of reasons for it but there was a period of time in the late 1990s when there were developers in town doing renovations,” he said. “Then the town changed the regulations for parking, and guess what? They packed up and left. But now the incentives have changed.”
The parcels the town is offering up are mostly used for parking right now. A recent study found that Dillon’s core has a large glut of parking spaces, encouraging the town to pitch the nine lots as development sites.
“They’ve never actually been marketed, so I don’t think that people necessarily thought they were available,” Anderson said. “We’re trying to package them creatively to maximize the appeal.”
All developers are welcome to submit proposals, but O’Brien said he hopes that property owners in the core will use the opportunity to acquire parcels next to their existing buildings and expand them — or tear them down altogether and rebuild.
“The parcels are small, and if the town sells them individually they’re just going to be covering up the existing, old buildings behind them,” he said. “You’ve got to tear down these old buildings to get residential in there. The core area is only 20 acres, so this is not going to be a great big town. Any density is going to have to come from new, taller construction.”
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