Midtown Fort Collins slated for makeover in 2014

While Old Town’s Historic District continues to undergo renovations and CSU’s campus evolves through seasonal renovations, Midtown Fort Collins has been ignored. But that’s changing.

Design concepts for a renovation of Midtown Fort Collins were discussed at a City Council work session on Jan. 8. The renovation area would include the area of Prospect to Harmony roads, from College Avenue to the Mason Corridor, and the Foothills Mall area.

A study conducted with local residents by the City of Fort Collins in 2010 said that a redevelopment of Midtown would hope to produce a district as identifiable and memorable as Old Town or CSU, making the city an even bigger draw for visitors and future residents.

Midtown lacks a cohesive identity and design vision, despite its significance to the community, according to the City of Fort Collins website.

Senior English education major Kaitlyn Mainhart said she thinks a renovation would improve the area, especially the Foothills Mall.

“You want to be in a mall. That’s the point. Our mall now, you don’t want to be there,” Mainhart said. “You go, get what you want and leave. You don’t want to stay and hang out.”

Mainhart hopes a renovation will improve the building and bring in more natural light.

“In the area where Spencer’s Gifts is, there are only like three stores over there,” Mainhart said “I don’t like going over there when I’m by myself. It seems darker and there seem to be more corners that could hold questionable characters.”

The City of Fort Collins conducted a survey with local residents in 2010 and found that 91 percent of the 90 respondents visit Midtown daily or weekly and 84.5 percent of visitors go there to shop. Only 31 percent of respondents said they feel safe walking or biking in the region.

The renovations are designed to increase safety and accessibility.

“The survey directed the city to consider creating an urban renewal area for midtown,” Megan Bolin, a redevelopment specialist for the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) said. “Midtown has been identified by the city for a number of years as an area we want to focus and target for redevelopment.”

The URA works to identify and revitalize areas of the city that could be redeveloped. Projects undertaken by the URA are usually paid for with Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

“Qualified projects can receive a portion of property tax generated to be allocated back into the project for the community’s benefit,” according to the Fort Collins URA website.

“Having the urban renewal plan in place allows the Urban Renewal Authority to institute a tax increment financing,” Bolin said. “When a tax increment financing district is established, any increases on the existing property taxes are collected by the urban renewal authority and used to go into the project. Urban renewal is one tool we have in place to help finance development.”

A final Midtown plan will be presented by June and construction is slated to begin in 2014.