Editorial: Get ready to see downtown transformation

by JJ Chen, strategy coordinator for the Downtown Development Revitalization and Acceleration

It is an honor to coordinate the acceleration and revitalization of downtown Cheyenne. I am on a quest to promote downtown as an incrementally more amazing place.

Cheyenne’s history is enviable, and our glory days of the past shine a bright path for our future, as well. Downtown Cheyenne is the historic core – and therefore heart – of the City of Cheyenne.

As the heart of the city, downtown Cheyenne’s purpose is to inspire and keep all of Cheyenne alive! It does this by instilling faith, hope and trust, not only in its permanent citizens, but also its many visitors.

We are at the crossroads of deciding what future we want for ourselves. Some desire preserving the feel of a quiet small town, while others foresee the inevitability of measured and tempered growth.

During December 2017, we started to conduct research to make data-driven solutions a reality. Respondents expressed “… downtown Cheyenne is an optimal location for creative small business support and generation. In terms of talent, 60.5 percent of survey respondents believe that Greater Cheyenne has been unsuccessful at developing a sustainable, skilled workforce, compared to 6.9 percent that feel the area has been successful.”

Downtown was also declared as one of the most common challenges and obstacles for our community, based on the response.

The survey helped us to understand that we all see that downtown Cheyenne is an area we need to focus on because, as a community, when we unite, we don’t view it as a challenge as much as an opportunity.

This is all going to change with the Forward Greater Cheyenne Association – a community-driven committee that is taking action steps toward real results. The Forward Greater Cheyenne Downtown Revitalization Committee, in accordance with our Implementation Committee recommendations, is charged with an ambitious five-part mission:

  1. To aggressively implement existing strategic plans supporting downtown development, including, but not limited to, the West Edge Area Plan, the Reed Avenue Rail Corridor Plan and other relevant plans.

  2. Enable new mechanisms to finance and guide intentional development in downtown Cheyenne.

  3. Invest in broadband infrastructure – potentially including a free public wireless network – to facilitate job creation and downtown Cheyenne’s economic evolution.

  4. Implement a collaborative plan leveraging the Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge and associated “Fight the Blight” initiative to promote occupancy, rehabilitation and utilization in the downtown area.

  5. Invest in catalytic projects that can help kick start investment and transformation.

To achieve this, we will engage all key stakeholders, actively seeking Cheyenne-ites who are and have been intimately familiar with Cheyenne’s downtown development – including the Downtown Development Authority, private entrepreneurs, and public-spirited and civic-minded individuals – who endeavor to grease the wheels of downtown economic development.

Moreover, I believe all of us Cheyenne-ites are key stakeholders. We, therefore, invite all interested citizens to participate in our Downtown Revitalization Committee and to collaborate with the DDA. Our fealty and inspiration to support our existing downtown businesses, as well as to spur further development, are most opportune.

These are certainly increasingly exciting times for downtown Cheyenne. The DDA is excited to be rebranding and working on valuable programming that will bring more people to our city center. Microsoft’s recent downtown broadband free public Wi-Fi announcement is thrilling. The West Edge is constantly setting the standard for Cheyenne coolness, and is one of the trendiest and hippest parts of town. We are grateful for certain charismatic individuals who are securing more and more amenities, such as the splash pad.

New boutique and pop-up shops, food vendors and restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, re-imagined theater and performance venues, and trendy bars and cafes are quickly becoming the norm.

We are excited to envision what the future brings! Most of all, though, we are excited to empower entrepreneurs to make these visions a reality.

In 2019, we can promise you a downtown transformation that is driven by the community and supported by real data. New investments are already circulating into the historical boundaries of downtown, from the soon-to-open 17th and Carey restaurant and event space to the nearing completion of the Capitol Complex restoration.

The transformation has already begun, and it is because of you, the community. Activate downtown’s potential and be a part of the Forward Greater Cheyenne Downtown Initiative. We want you, and we need you! Your vision and creativity matter to the success of downtown Cheyenne.

JJ Chen is strategy coordinator for the Downtown Development Revitalization and Acceleration Committee of Forward Greater Cheyenne. Email: jjchencheyenne@gmail.com

Rachel Girt