John Lifton, Executive Director Telluride Institute, land planner, main street business
Andrea Benda, long-time resident, member Town Council
Lisa Horlick, owner, Picaya, main street business
Paul Reich, owner, Zia Sun, main street business
Richard Betts, owner, ASAP, main street business
Jennifer Hayes, owner, Sweet Life, main street business
Andrea Benda who served on the Town Council in the early 80's and tried to form a local Business organization which she said she is now "trying to kill" and revamp. She is now involved in the creation of Marketing Telluride Inc. What with The Convention Visitors Bureau now dissolved there is no business organization to represent business owners in town to the Council. Currently; all codes, laws, and signage are devised by government.
Andrea made the pont that while government has it's good points (information, infrastructure like lighting and parking),government is REactive not proactive.
The good so far? The P+Z Master plan and the Sustainability Master Plan. But much more remains to be done.
Next up on the panel was Lisa Horlick; owner of local business on Main Street, Picaya. Lisa says she's moved her business three times and is just glad to still be surviving.
Next, Richard Betts who started the payroll and accounting firm ASAP in '89 and says his company has seen "major changes in demographics".
Then, Jennifer Hayes. Owner of candy store and grill "The Sweet Life" which opened on Main Street in 2003. Her lease comes up for negotiation in a month and if her landlord wants a hefty increase she may not be able to keep her business up and operating.
Last on the panel for the morning was Paul Reich, long time owner of toy, candle and lots of other stuff store Zia Sun. Paul was involved in establishing a Retail Merchants Association that never got off the ground. He said his business has been able to survive due in no small part to a favorable lease.
John Lifton began by reminding the panel and audience that there long prevailed a "Telluride-centric" view that it was the commercial center for the area. A view that has change with the thriving business of neighboring towns.
With this in mind, John asked
1) Are rents so high that only large retailers can survive?
2) Do trophy commercial (or "vanity business") businesses corrupt by not contributing to market forces?
Paul was first to respond. He says retail isn't the largest problem. He seems more of a problem in that service businesses like Realtors take up valuable space. retail not the problem. Lisa agreed. She then made the point that the important thing is to keep QUALITY on Main Street. That interesting stores with interesting products keep the attention of the average person strolling down Main Street whereas Real Estate offices advertising land and homes do not. Also, that it's extremely important to entice locals to keep shopping in town. She then brought up the point that when she first became a business owner and was drawing up her business plan, she had no idea about Triple Net: in which the occupant is required to pay all the landlord's expenses like property tax.
Andrea then made the point that commercial businesses pay three times the taxes of residential. Richard then cautioned that landlords are like any businessman and that the problem may be that they have in effect "too much protection" of Main Street makes SUPPLY too limited. He then went back to the issue of "vanity shops" saying they do hurt the community because money earned is then going out of town. He also agreed that professional offices taking up possible retail space is indeed a problem. Saying, "The real estate boom we've been experiencing for the last eight or nine years is not sustainable".
Jen then made the point that another big problem on Main Street is too many empty shops. That landlords would rather let a space sit vacant and get a tax break then fill the spaces for reduced rent.
John at this point reminded the panel that for every foot of commercial space, there must be a square foot of parking and a square foot of affordable housing built in. (It aint easy getting a business off the ground).
He then made the suggestion that maybe some "deed restricted incubation opportunities to help business get started" might be in order.
To which Paul raised the semi-objection