The Prosperity Plan Steering Committee recently received another Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) grant from DOLA for $28,000 to continue Hotchkiss’ momentum toward downtown improvements. On Sept. 17, Hotchkiss Mayor Larry Wilkening unveiled the next step for the committee — use the grant to hire a consultant for a feasibility study.

Embedded in the demographic profile outlined in the RFD economic study, which was unveiled in August, was a suggestion that light industrial with a retail component would be suitable companies for the Hotchkiss business environment. Maker spaces, a combination of light manufacturing and retail in the same space, were also suggested as possibilities for start-up businesses in Hotchkiss.

Wilkening said that the committee will be looking for a planning consultant to help guide the town toward realizing these suggestions for commerce. The town and steering committee will be putting out a request for proposals to consultants by mid-October, hoping for responses by Nov. 1. The timeline would continue with a feasibility study underway by the first of the year.

Wilkening hopes that a consultant can also provide guidance and training to help identify and address zoning issues as a result of implementing light manufacturing in Hotchkiss’ business footprint.

Another improvement that the RFD study suggested was to continue efforts to “incorporate street furniture along downtown sidewalks.” This suggestion is being realized this month with the addition of art benches and “store-bought” benches throughout the core downtown of Hotchkiss.

These functional artworks will contribute to the goal of “walkability” touted by civic planning professionals who compiled the results from the RFD study. The first of these four art benches has been installed on Bridge Street in front of the Briscoe building. Artist Pete Halliday’s grouping of concrete benches is elegant and functional. Three more benches are on their way from artists Ira Houseweart and Doug Fritz.

Mary Hockenbery, Hotchkiss trustee, artist, activist and resident, said that the overall prosperity plan includes many long-range goals that will involve a period of study, grant-writing and infrastructure changes.

“We want to do this right,” she stated. Hotchkiss is aiming for a sustainable and well-thought out program aimed not only at attracting more visitors to the area, but also at providing residents with an economy that supports its community members.

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