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Creating “Character” in Durango

 By Tim Walsworth | Winter/Spring 19-20

The North Main District takes shape

Creative planning—it’s something that Durango has embraced with enthusiasm. As commercial growth continues in our town, community members recognize that it’s prudent to handle it wisely. Thus the formation of a variety of “Character Districts” throughout our berg, and the North Main District is the first (outside of the established Historic Downtown) to take root and blossom.

As with many small towns, Durango initially developed somewhat sporadically. The focus had always been downtown, around the hub of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. But moving up Main Avenue, north across the Animas River (in what was known as Animas City), a healthy growth of hotels and motels were developed, especially early on when the county had significant natural gas development, and workers needed temporary housing.

“But our industry evolved,” says Chris Vivolo, owner of the Hampton Inn, located at the most northern part of the North Main District. “With the development of the Purgatory ski resort in the ‘60s, the need for comfortable, reasonably priced lodging emerged, and we’ve only continued to enhance these services for our visitors.”

Indeed, the lodging properties located in the North Main District are perfectly situated for those who enjoy all that Durango has to offer for outdoor adventures. Beyond direct access to the ski resort, trailheads for hiking and mountain biking are within minutes of the lodging properties, and all are minutes from the Animas River (and its adventures) and the adjacent Animas River Trail.

“But we’re not just about tourism in the North Main District,” says Ericka Curlee, president of the Durango Business Improvement District (BID), which works to further the vibrancy of both Downtown Durango and the North Main District. As co-owner of Louisa’s Electronics, which she and her husband deliberately relocated to North Main Avenue, she’s optimistic about local business development in the area.

“We were among the first to build or renovate in the North Main District, because we felt the vibrancy, the importance of enhancing our town in this district,” she says.

Part of the enhancements have been the addition of popular eateries, which while they welcome guests staying at the local lodging establishments, the restaurants—Bird’s, Zia Taqueria, Serious Texas BBQ and Yellow Carrot—are embracing the local vibe.

“We were attracted to the North Main District; we’ve seen the changes and growth, and it’s exciting,” says Kris Oyler, CEO of Peak Food & Beverage, parent of Bird’s (as well as Steamworks Brewing and El Moro Spirits and Tavern). “We also had the opportunity to own the real estate for Bird’s, and that was a game changer for us. The North Main District offers opportunities for businesses like ours to invest and grow. Also, Bird’s, like Zia, has supported the Animas City Bazaar events this year, which added to the vibrancy and a sense of neighborhood for folks who live in the area.”

Scheduled monthly during the summer months, the Animas City Night Bazaar features a locally grown farmers market, entertainment, activities and more. Additional activities in the warmer weather months include the Free Outdoor Movie Nights on the lawn at the Durango Recreation Center. 

In April, the BID will coordinate what is now the North Main Clean Day—a community effort held post “snowmelt” to put the proverbial spit-and-polish on the corridor. In the event’s first two years, more than 100 community volunteers donned vests and gloves, armed with trash bags and brooms, and helped clean the blocks.

The next day, the now-annual North Main Event is planned. This is designed to introduce community members and visitors to the businesses in the North Main District.

“So often, people are just driving through the corridor and you don’t actually see all that is here,” says Tanya Clegg, BID marketing director. “The North Main Event is a foot-friendly, walking event, with activities, entertainment and food at many of our North Main businesses. It’s a great way to see what’s what on North Main.”

The Chamber of Commerce has also relocated to the District, and as Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, notes, “For decades, the Chamber of Commerce had been housed in a ‘neutral area’ of Durango. We were able to secure the property on North Main—the little A-frame—that had been the home of our original Chamber.”

The Chamber redeveloped the property across from Durango High School and adjacent to Junction Creek, and some might say the new facility has become the “heart” of the new North Main District.

“We’re delighted to be a part of what is becoming a vibrant new segment of our community,” says Llewellyn. “It’s working, it’s viable, and it’s great.”

To learn more about the North Main District and its budding business community, visit

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