Central City explores rebranding

Sarah Haas
Central City

Council started off the last Central City Council meeting of the year with a special work session on rebranding the City, which asked them to take a timely look at their history, and their future.

Mayor Kathryn Heider commended the City on having become not only a casino town but also a historic destination with distinct charm, but she challenged Central City to move beyond those two associations merely.

“We have a class and a culture here that I think gets forgotten about,” Heider said. “We have history museums, art galleries, the Central City Opera. We are at the gateway to the Rockies, with bike and hiking trails. We need to make all of that help our town come to life.”

The rebranding effort is in conjunction with Chicago based municipal branding agency Team Crowd, that said, the goal is to successfully address the “chicken or egg” problem of how to increase foot traffic in town while simultaneously increasing the number of open, thriving stores for tourists to visit. To that end, members of the business community said they would like the City to also hire the firm to help with business to business marketing.

Following those discussions, the regular Council meeting was dominated by end of year reports from the four cultural organizations that receive a critical portion of their funding from Central City: Main Street Central City, Gilpin Arts, Gilpin History and Central City Opera.

Main Street Central City’s Barbara Thielmann thanked the City for helping to finance dozens of events with a $16,000 contribution including a Spring clean, a pumpkin patch, the holiday Tommyknocker event and a facade program to help with the upkeep of historic storefronts.

Gilpin Arts director David Josselyn said 2017 was a benchmark year for the organization. The annual juried art show celebrated its 70th year, drawing in extraordinary numbers of artists and guests. They hired a new manager at the gallery at Washington Hall and, finally, got heat for the space, turning the venue in to a year-round destination.

Director of Gilpin History, Deb Wray, celebrated the increased number of historical events and visitors to the town, but said it has been increasingly difficult to find grants and funding to keep up with repairs of the aging, historic landmarks in Central City and surrounding areas. She expects properties will need at least $70,000 in maintenance in 2018 alone and thanked Central City for making a notable contribution toward that end.

Ron Engles spoke on behalf of the Central City Opera, which received $25,000 in grants from the City in 2017. The funding was used to help one of the nation’s preeminent operas serve 13,000 people locally and 46,000 people non-locally, through outreach programming. The Opera not only acts as the bedrock of Central City’s cultural programming, it also plays an important role in historic preservation and marketing for the town. According to Engles, its greatest challenge going forward is financial stability — in order to keep ticket prices low and accessible it must depend on grant funding.

To conclude the meeting, Council considered seven resolutions, all logistical in nature, and all of which passed unanimously. They included an extension of the city’s contract with engineering services, IT support and waste disposal.

Of note, as of January 1, 2018, recycling will no longer be included for free in resident curbside disposal services. Service is now $6 a month or there is free drop off at the Gilpin County Transfer Station.

Council also approved a minor increase in water rates, in line with inflation, a new payment schedule with the Water Enterprise Fund, and instituted a new billboard leasing policy.