The City of Fort Collins
In the mid-1970s, downtown Fort Collins experienced its deepest level of decline, and City leaders recognized that more than just a strong dose of community pride was needed to it turn around. The newly enacted downtown development authority (DDA) statute became the vehicle for change.
Led by a local visionary developer, Gene Mitchell, the Fort Collins DDA’s first project was a huge undertaking utilizing tax increment financing to redevelop five historic buildings and construct several new infill buildings, a pedestrian plaza on a vacated city street, and a public parking garage. Known as Old Town Square, this project was completed in 1984.
While some deemed it a financial failure for Mitchell, it later became known as an economic success and catalyst for downtown Fort Collins and its DDA. Nearly 30 years after the Old Town Square project was completed, downtown Fort Collins has become the urban hub of northern Colorado and serves as home to both New Belgium and Odell Brewing Companies, OtterBox, and the soon-to-be constructed global headquarters of Woodward Inc.
The Fort Collins DDA has participated in more than 75 building rehabilitations and infill projects with private-sector partners. These projects include historic storefront rehabilitation and numerous mixed-use residential and commercial infill buildings.
Investment of tax increment revenues also has resulted in partnerships with Larimer County and the City of Fort Collins to build public parking garages, the MAX bus rapid transit system, the Museum of Discovery, and a beloved program that transforms downtown alleys into beautifully landscaped and enhanced urban passageways with lights, flowers, and consolidated trash service for adjacent businesses. New alley storefront entrances and dining patios have emerged adjacent to the enhanced alleyways in private spaces that were previously only viable for warehouse uses.
Ask just about any business owner in downtown Fort Collins today, and you are likely to hear a resounding response that the success achieved in the downtown could not have been possible without the public-private partnerships enabled by the Downtown Development Authority Act.