By Lisa Young

Staff writer

Paonia town council voted to permanently suspend its Space to Create program during its Nov. 10 meeting. Trustees made the decision at the recommendation of the Space to Create executive committee following a statewide decision to reallocate funds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a town press release.

Paonia, representing the Northwest region, was selected in 2017 to participate in the state-guided project aimed at bringing affordable workforce housing and working spaces for creative sector entrepreneurs and artists in rural, small town and mountain communities in Colorado.

Heading into the project the town had high hopes that the Space to Create program would bolster the economy and bring increased tax revenues by creating “new and expanded businesses and residences.” A number of citizens pushed back on the initiative claiming that it showed “favoritism” to a certain segment of the job market.

Paonia successfully completed a feasibility study, the first phase of the project, April 9, 2018. The study conducted by Artspace, a nonprofit real estate development organization, considered using a concept of a mixed-use project with affordable housing on the upper floors and commercial spaces of a variety of types for the creative sector on the ground floors.

The first Space to Create project was launched July 2015 in Trinidad, followed by Ridgway in the Southwest region. Regional selections were prioritized based on local needs including economic diversification, community readiness, public will, commitment of local resources and housing and space demands.

While the project has been suspended indefinitely, Paonia leaders acknowledged the town’s Space to Create Partners and thanked ArtSpace, Colorado Creative Industries, the Boettcher Foundation, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, History Colorado, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade; the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition, and the citizens of the Town of Paonia for three years of support.

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