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2020-2021 Annual Report Community Builders

A Defining Moment for Communities in the West

This is a critical moment for communities in the Rocky Mountain West. Over the next 2-3 years, local leaders will make incredibly important decisions that will shape the future of our communities and the region.

On top of the massive disruption caused by the pandemic, the last 18 months revealed the depth of existing weaknesses, inequities, and vulnerabilities within our communities. An expanding housing crisis. Widening socioeconomic disparities. Inequities facing marginalized communities. The need for balanced and resilient local economies.

These realities paint a bleak picture of the increasingly tenuous existence not only for many people living and working in our communities, but the communities themselves. They are being hollowed out as locals struggle to stay, businesses can’t find staff or even stay open, and the social fabric of these places continues to fray.

Worse still, under the fiscal burdens of the last generation of poorly planned growth, few communities can afford meaningful fixes to infrastructure, housing, social services, or other investments needed to make things better.

There is also cause for optimism. During the pandemic, we've seen the potential for communities to adapt and innovate under tremendous pressure and uncertainty.

The challenges ahead are real. We hear and feel it when we talk to local leaders about how to navigate these times; a task that is overwhelming for even the most well staffed and resourced local governments.

Fortunately, we are also seeing that many local leaders are ready to rethink and chart a better course forward. Over the next two years, communities in the Rocky Mountain West will spend billions of dollars on economic recovery. We will continue to see a wave of growth and investment as new residents and businesses move into the region. Leaders will make highly consequential decisions about growth, economic recovery, housing, infrastructure, and much more.

We have before us a generational opportunity to rethink and reshape our communities and economies; to make them healthier, more inclusive, more prosperous and more resilient.

Community Builders work and vision–building more livable communities for all–have never been more important. We are here to support the communities that see this moment as an opportunity to chart a better, more sustainable path forward. The work is underway and we couldn't do it without you. Thank you for your support as we continue to guide communities in building more livable places for all.

About Community Builders

Community Builders is dedicated to building more livable communities in the Rocky Mountain West. Whether working hand-in-hand with local partners or offering tools for all to use, we provide the resources and support communities need to come together to solve the challenges of today, while shaping a better and more resilient future. Based in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, we work with small cities, towns, and rural regions of the Rocky Mountain West. Working with and supporting those local partners, we are shaping a more livable and sustainable future for all.

2021 HIGHLIGHTS

Helping Communities and Regions Recover Stronger from COVID-19

For the communities of the Rocky Mountain West, there’s always a need to build and sustain economies that work. However, in the wake of the pandemic, increased economic pressures meant communities needed guidance now more than ever. We responded to the pandemic by mobilizing our resources to prioritize projects that addressed the impacts and disparities of COVID-19.

The Vista Project: Building a Regional Vision for Eagle County

Eagle County reached out to Community Builders in hopes of working together to guide a community-wide visioning process based on equitable engagement. This project aligned with our goal to support communities as they reimagine a return from COVID-19 while also intersecting across our areas of change: housing, land use, transportation, and economy.

Eagle County’s commitment to equity throughout this process has presented important learning and growth opportunities. The project, titled Vista, is a bold reimagining of how community members and decision makers can work together to produce realistic, effective outcomes. It invites residents and leaders to come together more frequently and conversationally to create solutions. This project is on-going and expected to conclude in summer of 2022.

Gunnison County Regional Recovery Planning

In the spring of 2020, Gunnison County had one of the highest COVID rates in the state of Colorado. In addition to the public health crisis, the pandemic was also amplifying some of their chronic issues including a lack of housing choices and a tourism-dependent economy. Concerned about the long-term effects of the pandemic, Gunnison County sought support from Community Builders to guide regional partners in developing for economic recovery planning and set the stage for longer-term resiliency planning.

The project helped local partners evaluate different choices and recovery strategies and enabled a rapid, coordinated regional response that all partners could agree on and received wide-spread recognition for its efficacy.

Providing a Roadmap to Recovery for Colorado Communities

At the start of the pandemic, Community Builders created the Roadmap to Recovery- an online interactive tool designed to help communities find a path forward in the wake of COVID. Building off that tool, we partnered with The Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), and The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to develop and implement a strategic, coordinated approach to support innovation and successful recovery outcomes in rural Colorado regions and communities.

Funded through the US Economic Development Administration (EDA), this program will bring together 16 teams representing 169 jurisdictions throughout rural Colorado. This initiative will provide essential recovery and resiliency planning support so that these communities can take a long-term, holistic view to reimagine their regional economies while also building partnerships towards shared visions and goals. Each team will go through preparatory capacity building curriculum designed by Community Builders before developing their individual roadmap to recovery.

Helping Montana Communities Plan for Recovery and Resilience

In November of 2020, the Montana Downtown Coalition contacted us to do a state-wide workshop with Montana communities focused on our Roadmap to Recovery tool. Over 3 days, 70 participants from 21 communities listened in on presentations about laying the foundation for recovery planning, creating a vision for the future, strategies for diversifying their economies, and much more. Participants also engaged in facilitated group conversations and activities that allowed different communities to learn from one another.

Helping Communities Track COVID Response and Recovery

During the pandemic, local governments were overwhelmed, especially when it came to understanding what their community truly needed. While data on employment rates and sales tax can be a helpful indicator, Community Builders helped several communities including the Town of Eagle and Gunnison County build an online Data Dashboard- a tool designed to display critical, timely information about the local economy and track progress over time.

These communities implemented monthly surveys to ask community members and business owners how they were experiencing the economic impacts of the pandemic. These Dashboards not only assisted local governments in decision-making, but also provided transparency and a place for community members to know what’s happening in their community. Communities like Gunnison County have had over 4,000 views on their community dashboard.

Driving Economic Prosperity Through Brownfields

Finding unique solutions to economic and land use obstacles can be a huge help to communities. These solutions are needed even more in the wake of the pandemic. For several years, we’ve partnered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to form the Colorado Brownfields Partnership, an organization committed to offering educational and financial resources to communities looking to revitalize brownfield sites as a way of tapping into economic potential. This year, we amplified our work in the Partnership by building a new, more engaging website, creating educational content, and building relationships with communities across Colorado.

Uniting Silverton with a Community Vision

In 2019, with funding from the Colorado Brownfields Partnership, Community Builders led a community revitalization workshop in Silverton, CO. Local leaders discussed challenges facing the community and the need to plan for the future. After the workshop, the Town of Silverton and San Juan County asked Community Builders to create a plan for the future built around the vision and values of the people who live and work there.

We agreed to help and, with additional funding from the Colorado Brownfields Partnership, the Silverton Compass Project officially launched in late 2020. The 12 month project brings the community together to identify shared values, create a vision for the future, and identify the strategies and actions to make it a reality. With an eye towards implementation, the project is being used to create the community’s Master Plan, which will guide local development decisions over the next several years.

Re-Imaging a Key Local Asset in Downtown Hotchkiss

We initiated a project with Hotchkiss in January of 2020 to diversify their economy. After about a year process, the project resulted in a set of guiding principles for the downtown, and a community vision for the public works building- a publicly owned asset that’s been sitting vacant. The vision of the public works building is a flexible commercial space that can accommodate multiple vendors including eateries, retail, maker and/or light manufacturing uses. The town will be working with us at the Colorado Brownfields Partnership in 2021 to determine any potential environmental contamination of the building and begin revitalization.

Program Expansion for Greater Impact

This year, we amplified our work in communications, education, and outreach at The Colorado Brownfields Partnership. This work included the expansion of resources, a new website, several blogs, a successful newsletter with over 1,000 subscribers, and an interactive infographic about how communities can access State brownfield resources. We educated people about brownfields on other platforms as well, such as through the Colorado Main Streets Program and Downtown Colorado Inc. webinars, reaching over 50 participants. On-call technical expertise has also expanded and currently over 8 Colorado communities are working with us to tackle brownfield projects.

Advancing the Organizational Mission Through Internal Investment

The pandemic not only threw communities for a loop, but it also forced us to quickly prioritize our team and our organizational strategies. We accelerated many organizational development projects like finding and implementing a new review process and tool for the team, investing in anti-oppression training and ongoing internal equity work, re-evaluating our hiring process and retention approach, and engaging in strategic planning with the team and board.

Welcoming New Faces

Mrig Mehra- Project Manager

This year brought our team some exciting new additions. On staff, we welcomed Mrig Mehra as a Project Manager. Mrig brings unique skills in community engagement, facilitation, data management, and public policy and has added great value to our work. Currently, Mrig is applying his data management knowledge to develop an organization-wide data collection and analysis system, which will elevate our projects, and overtime, will provide us with insights on trends in the Rocky Mountain West.

Angelo Fernandez- Board Member

On our board, we are grateful to have had Angelo Fernandez, Deputy County Manager for Eagle County Government, join this year. Angelo’s strengths lie in creating and implementing inclusive organizational development strategies to build a strong sense of belonging and high-performing teams. His unique talent in helping others identify strengths and purpose has provided us with great support on our board.

Strategic Planning for a Stronger Organization

We are wrapping up an in-depth strategic planning resulting in tactical strategic priorities to focus our work and our team for the next three years. This process was difficult at times–especially over Zoom–but has guided us toward a newfound consensus about the essential qualities of our programs, thereby allowing us to best allocate resources. With the support of our board, we will put this strategic plan into action immediately and begin setting up the systems and aligning the capacity to achieve those strategic priorities.

Investment and Commitment to Equity Learning

This past year also marked a recommitment to investing in equity and inclusion work internally and externally. While we are very much still on a learning journey, we implemented significant changes to support this work. We partnered with Anti-Oppression trainer Regan Byrd to do a team training in January 2021. This training offered our team the shared language and context to continue building on an internal equity learning series that began in the summer of 2020.

These educational opportunities have allowed us to approach our work more consistently with equity as a major lens. We are also learning about our own limitations, including where and how to step back to give voice to people and organizations leading this work, and also when to engage partners who are better suited to lead engagement in certain communities.

Impact

Past Projects: 2020-2021 Successes

Twin Falls, ID

At our Leadership Institute in 2018, a team from Twin Falls identified a building on Main Avenue as an opportunity site for downtown housing. Following the training, the City's Redevelopment Authority purchased the building and sought out a developer to execute the vision. Two years later in November of 2020, construction on that building began. The $10 million project will produce a six story mixed-use building that will add 44 units of housing to downtown and a business incubator for women on the first floor. In addition, the developer they partnered with is also working on an affordable housing development six blocks away that will add an additional 55 units of housing to the downtown core.⠀

Sheridan, WY

In 2018, our Technical Assistance project with Sheridan, Wyoming sought to increase the safety and economic viability of their Main Street corridor, which is also a state highway. Pulling a strategy from our project, the community implemented a temporary reduction of traffic lanes from four to three, working with the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to monitor the results. The City received an incredible amount of positive feedback from the community with the temporary change, and as a result, Sheridan just completed a permanent restriping of Main Street in collaboration with WYDOT. This reduction in lanes will help slow traffic down so travelers will see all that Main Street has to offer and provide space for eventual sidewalk widening or curb extensions in the future.

Grand Junction, CO

Since the adoption of the “Vibrant Together” Downtown Plan of Development in November of 2019, several of the opportunity sites in the plan began implementation. In addition, a brewery & food truck have opened at a key intersection of the downtown, pulling the vibe and momentum from Main Street to Colorado Avenue - a key goal of the plan. Downtown is also making progress on implementing a strategy of turning 4th and 5th Streets from one-ways into two-ways to increase connectivity and calm traffic.

Salida, CO

In a huge stride toward implementing the Future 50 highway corridor project completed with CB in 2019, Salida received a $700k Safe Routes to School grant this past year. The grant will fund critical bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, including sidewalks and shared use path, that will connect the southwest part of Town to the rest of the community.

Overall Impact

Financials

Financials

In the last year, we spent $684,987. We raised $511,090 in new funding and covered the remaining balance with net assets from prior year funding. Looking ahead to our 2022 fiscal year, our organizational budget is $816,287. Our current philanthropic commitments, financial partnerships, contract work, and healthy reserves support this 2022 budget with the goal of $225,000 in new philanthropic investment to fund the high demand for new mission-aligned projects. Community Builders is uniquely positioned to bring funding to transformative community projects that would not otherwise be possible. The Community Builders project funding model involves an investment of funds, expertise, and time into the project.