This past week our community was honored by USA Today as one of the best historic small towns in America. I believe we all feel a sense of pride in having our city highlighted on the national stage, but in our day-to-day lives what does that really mean to us?

To the City of Leadville it means that we have an obligation to preserve that history as best we can.  The central challenge is the preservation of our iconic Harrison Avenue buildings. Many of them are in dis-repair and need considerable restoration, not just because they are historic, but also because they house so many businesses that are the heartbeat of our city, and because many of our fellow citizens live in them.

The cost of helping our many building owners improve their buildings, and helping us save those buildings in the process, is painfully expensive. As a small, mountain, rural city, with a limited tax base, we have not had the financial ability to make a difference when it comes to saving our historic downtown.  That is, until recently.

Because of the impending development of the Railyards on the north side of town, and because the city formed an urban renewal authority, we will be able to leverage the increased assessed value of that development to financially help our building owners revitalize their buildings, and we can do that without raising taxes.

We can also use the increased financial value of the development to make public improvements that will impact our community for the better. The Colorado State Legislature put urban renewal authorities for municipalities in place in 1953 and now we will be able to take advantage of this law for the first time.  

While we tend to regard new development as possible harm to our community and way of life, in this case the development acts as a financial tool to help save our historic downtown. It will take a few years for the increased value of the Railyard to create a pool of money that we can put to work revitalizing our downtown and making community improvements, but the future holds the hope and promise of enjoying our special heritage for another 140 years. We are putting in place a future that our grandchildren and their grandchildren can enjoy.

Greg Labbe

Mayor of Leadville

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