Release Date: February 18, 2016

Shops adding projects of their own to downtown Longmont renovation

Shop owners could soon be adding to downtown Longmonts' construction din with renovations of their own.

The Longmont Downtown Development Authority, in partnership with the city, is making over the west side of Main Street to match the work completed three years ago on the east side: burying utility lines, opening up breezeways and improving drainage to transform the alleyway into a pedestrian thoroughfare.

Phase 2 started Feb. 10 on the 300 block and is anticipated to last three to four months. Crews will then move on to the 400 and 500 blocks, with a final wrap-up in November.

As part of the work, the DDA started the Alleyscape Incentive Grant, a $100,000 fund that will reimburse businesses up to 25 percent of the costs for alley-facing improvements made during the city's project.

A handful of businesses have expressed interest in the program, said downtown specialist Del Rae Heiser, and a few have drafted plans for improvement. Twenty-five businesses used the grants during the east side renovation.

Aime's Love, a gluten-free bakery at 331 Main St., is ripping up old tile left from when the building was still home to J.C. Penney's first retail outlet.

"They put a toilet in the back, and that's the original blue tile left from that," said property manager Lori Miner. "It's so ugly you can't believe it."

Miner said the redone space would have room for tables and chairs, something bakery co-owner Jennifer Walter has been wanting to do since opening at the location nearly two years ago.

Across the alley, family-owned Gold Key Travel is expanding its building by about 700 square feet, taking out a courtyard and garage. The owners hope to partner with the Art in Public Places Commission to paint a mural on the alley-facing wall.

"We just want to do something that would beautify the space," said Karen Kanemoto Wood, the third generation of her family to run the travel agency.

Kanemoto Wood is hoping the work on her building will be done by September, in time for the 50th anniversary of her business. Until then, she is dealing with the minor headache of reduced parking, as are other businesses on the block.

The DDA is urging Longmont shoppers to continue patronizing the local shops with 'Support Business in the Cone Zone' campaign.

"We hope people will continue to visit these businesses during construction, use Main Street entrances and take a little extra time to find parking," said Heiser.

It will all be worth it in the end, said retail and marketing consultant Jon Schallert of The Schallert Group, which is conducting its own renovation at 321 Main St.

"It's going to be a very walkable area," Schallert said. "My wife and I, we used to always drive to Boulder if we wanted to go out on the town, now you can just walk down the street here.

"I think people are slowly realizing that downtown Longmont is one of the best historic downtowns in the state."

Times Call Feb. 18, 2016