CENTER — Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) and Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) are pleased to announce the San Luis Valley Creative Placemaking Challenge. The project will work with a variety  of San Luis Valley partners including the towns of Antonito, Center, La Jara, and San Luis to create placemaking installations that invite ideas and entrepreneurial solutions from the people of the San Luis Valley. The SLV Placemaking Challenge connects a unique group of state-wide project partners who each bring a dynamic service or solution to community challenges. Primary resources and partners include StartUp Colorado, ModStreet, Bang the Table, and artist Brian Corrigan.

The Small Town Challenge is phase one of the San Luis Placemaking Challenge   which will bring a summer filled with ideas for community and economic development. DCI and CHFA have established through Bang the Table to provide the opportunity for more people to access information and enable them to share ideas. The site drives inclusive, transparent, and measurable community engagement processes that empower collaborative learning, discussion, and debate. highlights each of the four towns and the initiatives of the San Luis Valley partners from housing to business services. San Luis Valley citizens can sign on to and create a profile and then share their vision for the future of one community or the Valley.  

In June, with support from Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Downtown Colorado, Inc., and ModStreet, each of the four communities will receive a “parklet” (or a platform the size of a parking space) to program as an invitation for community engagement. ModStreet products will help these smaller communities strengthen their businesses and reimagine their downtown streetscape during and beyond the pandemic by providing unique, high quality, flexible, outdoor parklets and other modular products for retailers and communities alike.

The installations will feature the YESway CANdo model designed by artist Brian Corrigan as a training for entrepreneurs and youth in the community. Building from the 2021 San Luis Valley Placemaking Guide – designed by Corrigan – with support from DCI and USDA Rural Development, YESway CANdo is a creative placemaking initiative supporting people in what they CAN do. The project reimagines the street sign as a guidepost for our pursuits, encouraging communities to overcome any obstacles, celebrate the wins and find fun along the way. Entrepreneurs and young people will then be invited to use the platform to pitch their ideas for entrepreneurial solutions to small, rural challenges.

The San Luis Valley Placemaking Challenge is the culmination of several years of work in the San Luis Valleyidentifying pathways to inspire and invite local solutions and energy in small, rural communities. The project stemmed from the 2019 Center Challenge, for the Town of Center, which focused on connecting vacant buildings with opportunities for investment, and building communication with entrepreneurs and young problem solvers. As a result of these efforts, this summer the Town of Center will unveil the Center in Center, an innovation hub, to spur connection and to support entrepreneurial ideas and vision for the future. 

DCI and CHFA have been connecting with other partners working to enhance communication and entrepreneurship in the San Luis Valley. Many of these efforts work through school systems and engage youth to build skills and access to services supporting business ideas. DCI and CHFA are excited to share this focus on youth and connecting the vision of young people to the needs of local governments.  

DCI has been honored to work in the San Luis Valley and the Town of Center for the last three years and is delighted to expand our work to support three additional San Luis Valley towns and connect with youth initiatives. “DCI is thrilled to build connections between the needs of local governments and the inspiration of entrepreneurs through placemaking,” said Katherine Correll, DCI Executive Director of Downtown Colorado, Inc. “We are excited to provide a platform to connect different resources in a coordinated initiative to support the entire San Luis Valley.” 

The week of April 26-30, 2021 will include high level overview of the San Luis Valley on April 26, and then provide four days of solution-based discussions focused on detailed ideas for one San Luis Valley community each day Tuesday to Friday. Dynamic ideas and discussions to shape solutions for small, rural communities will shape the Small Town Challenge and the 2021 Colorado Challenge Accelerator Program Challenge Studios. 

DCI is engaging a special team of youth facilitators to work with the students who are joining these discussions to build collaborative visions for their communities. Jeff Owsley, CHFA will share the importance for engaging youth to shape the future for each community. DCI’s Youth Facilitation Team will feature Israel Garcia-Humes, from the Colorado Trust and Mikela Tarlow, Action Lab 360. Students will have different platforms to share ideas and will have access to Big Idea Talks in advance of the meetings. 

The 2021 Challenge Studio keynote address features the Colorado State Demographer, Elizabeth Garner and San Luis Valley Housing Coalition’s Dawn Melgares, sharing a State of Colorado and the State of the San Luis Valley and the 2021 San Luis Valley Housing Report. Each day of the week from 9:00AM-11:00AM DCI will virtually highlight one of the communities and a small, rural challenge topic:

* April 27 Engagement in La Jara, 

* April 28 Design in San Luis, 

* April 29 Connectivity in Antonito, 

* April 30 Entrepreneurship in Center    

       State-wide participation is encouraged and free for all DCI VIP members or citizens of the San Luis Valley and the media is welcome and complimentary. 

Colorado Challenge Communities receive ongoing support from DCI to establish sustainable economic and community development following an intensive process supported by the Economic Development Class at the School of Public Affairs (SPA) at the University of Colorado Denver. To stay in touch with progress in the San Luis Valley, visit SLVPlaces.ORG where each town will share progress and invite participation from all partners and friends! 

DCI is pleased to invite Colorado communities, elected officials, state agencies, and all of our Challenge Communities to support and comment on projects and ideas for the future at these events and on our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) and at the site. DCI is pleased to invite the media and encourage this opportunity to celebrate stories of Colorado resilience as we build capacity for small, rural communities in Colorado. 

Register at for the virtual events in the 2021 Small Town Challenge and a week of SLV Love.