After exploring options to raise funds for improvements and amenities in the downtown area, Dean Dalvit and other members of the Downtown Evergreen Economic District have devised a plan to collect voluntary contributions.
DEED is asking for a 1 percent donation on sales of products and services at businesses through the organization’s Evergreen Legacy Fund. Customers contribute to the fund on a voluntary basis.
“Our mission is infrastructure improvements,” Dalvit said. “It doesn’t cost retailers anything. Business owners understand the need.”
Anticipated projects include sidewalks, parking, rest rooms and creating safe pedestrian connections between downtown Evergreen and adjacent areas.
Funds generated through the contributions can be applied as matching funds toward state and federal grants that DEED will pursue.
Three months into the program, the legacy fund has 21 founding members that include retail businesses and restaurants, Dalvit said. To date, the fund has received $8,000 in contributions, which are held in an account at Evergreen National Bank.
Although collection is easier for retail stores and restaurants, service providers such as Dalvit, an architect, can also make contributions, he said. Even though the contribution is entirely at the discretion of customers, the vast majority do not opt out, Dalvit said.
“One percent is such a small amount,” he said.
Because Evergreen is unincorporated, raising funds for improvements is a challenge, Dalvit explained. During a recent effort to acquire a grant for a trail connection from Evergreen Lake to the downtown area, DEED encountered the challenge of raising $21,000 in matching funds.
“We had no means of raising money,” Dalvit said.
Also, DEED was seeking a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for the project, but the state asked who the government partner was.
With help from Liz Cohen, who works with the Evergreen Park and Recreation District in grant acquisition, DEED was able to combine the project with the park district.
“She made it happen,” Dalvit said.
To solve the long-term problems of becoming a legitimate government partner and generating a revenue stream, DEED members decided to create the legacy fund.
“We create a recurring cash flow over the course of two years, and can partner with Jeffco and EPRD,” Dalvit said.
Businesses participating in the program sign an agreement and set up a payment schedule.
Although fund-raising events can also raise cash for projects, the time involved is prohibitive, Dalvit said. He and other DEED members volunteer their time with the organization.
While visiting Crested Butte, Dalvit said, he came up with the idea for the voluntary contribution. In shop windows there, he saw signs asking for a 1 percent contribution for the town’s open space fund.
In prioritizing projects for the downtown area, DEED circulated a questionnaire to businesses.
“We tried to get a lot of buy-in,” Dalvit said. “Our description was entirely formed by community feedback.”
Creating a sidewalk between the NAPA store and Meadow Drive was one of the primary interests, along with uniform town lighting and additional parking space, Dalvit said.
“By and large, the sentiment is that they want to keep the Evergreen character,” he said. “They want to keep the mom-and-pop shops and the funkiness of the small town.”
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