COLD SPRING -- What's next for downtown Cold Spring?

After talking with new Cold Spring development consultant Robert Harris III, the answer seems to be - quite a bit.

Harris, a business development specialist who works with Chatfield-based Community and Economic Development Associates, (CEDA) arrived in Cold Spring in October. Since then, he's collaborated with everyone from the EDA to the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce on issues including economic development, parking and beautifying the downtown area.

He says he's spent most of his first month mainly meeting people and learning about the community. So far, he says, residents are active and seem to want the same thing: a economically strong and good-looking downtown area.

"I think there's a lot of stakeholder alignment here, which is really exciting," Harris says. "In some communities I work in, there's push-back. So this is great."

Retail is a strong and likely option for many of the current vacancies in downtown Cold Spring, Harris says. Other empty properties have potential for redevelopment. Harris says parking requirements influence business redevelopment, so he's been conducting a parking study on the downtown area.

"I've been popping in to local businesses, chatting with shop owners and managers. With parking, I think there may be a mismatch between public perception and the numbers. But, overwhelmingly, the business community wants more parking downtown."

Harris has also begun to collaborate with volunteers on beautification efforts, most notably on the installation of over 50 flower pots on light poles throughout the downtown area next spring. Other early-stage efforts are geared toward bringing in pop-up shops and grant-funded art.

"Community involvement is an attractive quality to businesses as well as individuals as they consider whether or not to establish themselves," Harris says.

"It's not only about growing the tax base. It's about how we make this a more livable community for the folks who are here and who come here."