You don’t need to be born and raised in a town to believe it can be the best town to live and work in.
Mark Benner, the Chamber Director moved to Eloy to help take care of his mom. Jon Vlaming, the Community Development Director for the City has only been there for a year. Both of these gentlemen teamed up with Dick Myers, the President of the Santa Cruz Historic Museum Board. Now Dick has been in town a long time, since he was 4 years old, and he’s the go to guy for the history of the town.
My visit started with a driving tour given by these three guys. Dick gave the historical part of the tour. Jon chimed in with the city planning portion of the tour. Mark talked about the possibilities – what kind of business could go in the empty buildings, who they were talking to and what kind of a business would be a good fit.
Eloy stands for East Line of Yuma, because it was a stop of the Southern Pacific Railroad and was started sometime around 1900 Dick can tell you all the stories about growing cotton in the area, the Toltec historic school, sports car racing in the downtown streets (a Grand Prix track no less) and how the I-10 killed the downtown.
That’s a story many a small town has heard – how a major highway has killed their downtown. Eloy is no different. In 1965 the I-10 was built and the stores along Highway 84 started being torn down. Back in those days, they didn’t rehabilitate the buildings – they just tore them down. What was once the main highway is now more desolate with just a few businesses.
It sounds like a sad story doesn’t it? It’s not though. This is a story of beginnings. There’s people that are excited and want to see their community grow. They are in a perfect position to make change, and to create a town they want to live, work and play in. It’s why they called us in. Mark took the Tour of Empty Buildings Toolkit. I came to visit, take a driving tour and listen to their stories and see what they were up.
Here’s what they know for sure and what they are already working on :
They need a vision for the community and a core group of believers.
They will start with little wins.
They need some crazy pioneers to kick it off.