Left: Held every Thursday from July through September, the Downtown Farmers Market is the oldest and most established market in Downtown Rock Springs, featuring goods and products from 30+ vendors. Right: The Rock Springs Coal sign spans over Main Street, welcoming visitors, providing photo opps, and reminding everyone who visits Downtown Rock Springs of the historical importance of the coal mining industry.
“Rock Springs demonstrates the great potential of Main Street,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “The Main Street Approach, in the hands of a high capacity organization like Rock Springs Main Street/URA, has the power to usher in a new era of economic opportunity and promise in a community.”
Founded in 1888 by a diverse group of immigrant coal miners, Rock Springs experienced booms and busts since its early coal mining days through the present-day oil and gas economy. This up and down cycle negatively impacted the downtown district and it became a place most people avoided. In 2006, the Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency was founded to address the tarnished reputation and bring about renewed vibrancy.
Due to the efforts of the Main Street organization and the can-do attitude of the community, today downtown Rock Springs has a vibrant local economy and cultural scene. The Freight Station, a signature structure in the downtown district that had been abandoned for more than 30 years, is now a vibrant community center that bustles with weekly events. It also houses the Visitors Center where travelers can get recommendations and learn about the rich history of downtown. Entertainment is also easy for visitors to find thanks to the newly refurbished 370-seat Broadway Theater and the Community Fine Arts Center. Shopping and restaurant options abound with over 15 bars and restaurants and over 30 unique, locally-owned boutique shops.
A strategic long-range preservation plan for downtown Rock Springs, dubbed Vision 2020, was created with strong community input and details redevelopment initiatives that will help foster economic and social vitality. Renovation projects include commissioning art installations, reinventing a neglected community garden, adding more recreational opportunities, improving downtown housing, and redeveloping vacant buildings and lots.
“I’m so proud of the work we have done in Downtown Rock Springs to reshape the district back into the vibrant, exciting area it once was, and winning this prestigious award is validation of the work we’re doing,” says Chad Banks, Manager of the Rock Springs Main Street/URA, which has been working to revitalize Downtown Rock Springs for the last 10 years. “It wouldn’t be possible without the support of the city, the URA/Main Street Board and the countless volunteers who give their time and talents to ensure the success of the program. I look forward to getting back to Rock Springs and celebrating this win with the community.”Left: Eating at Remedies retro diner, which serves some of the best burgers in town and shares space with Bi-Rite Pharmacy, is like taking a step back in time. Right: Last year, Main Street started hosting the free Brown Bag Concert Series in Downtown Rock Springs and it was expanded to a weekly offering in 2017 since it was so popular with downtown businesses, employees, and visitors.
Since Rock Springs joined the Main Street program, 150 total jobs have been added to the downtown corridor, with 56 new businesses setting up shop in the area over the last decade. Several incentive programs have been implemented to attract new businesses to downtown, such as the Rental Assistance and Façade Improvement Grant programs. In 2017, 13 façade grants were awarded, totaling over $30,000. Since this program was initiated, 54 grants have been awarded. Businesses can also receive up to $1,000 to help paint their building – to date, 234 buildings have been spruced up.
The Rock Springs Main Street program has transformed and revitalized the most blighted areas of the URA through public consensus, volunteerism, and preservation of its historic character and cultural heritage, all key elements to their success.
“It is a great honor for the entire community for Downtown Rock Springs to be selected as the 2018 Great American Main Street Award winner,” says Rock Springs Mayor Carl Demshar. “The award is a result of the hard work we’ve done to revitalize downtown, but the economic benefits ripple throughout the entire community.”