Fall in Love

City of Loveland, Colorado

From outdoor adventures to a well-known craft beer scene, Loveland is chock full of attractions that are bringing in waves of tourists – and new residents as well.

Loveland is best known as a center for the arts, and for sculpture in particular. The city has built a $9 million collection of public art over the past three decades and is home to two renowned sculpture parks. Benson Sculpture Garden is one the largest collections of sculpture on display in the U.S. The engaging outdoor setting is also the site of Sculpture in the Park, one of the largest juried outdoor sculpture shows in the nation. Chapungu Sculpture Park displays 82 African stone sculptures – all carved by artists from Zimbabwe – set amongst 26 acres of water features and walking trails. It is the only permanent exhibit of its kind in the U.S.

Loveland also hosts America’s largest outdoor sculpture event, Loveland Sculpture International. This show and sale features several hundred artists and draws around 20,000 visitors from around the world who purchase approximately $2 million worth of art during the three day event.

But art isn’t just displayed and sold in Loveland; it is also created. “We look at sculpture differently; for us, it is an industry,” says Economic Development Director Betsey Hale. In fact, the city boasts one of the top three working artist communities in the nation. “Ten percent of the community are in these art sector jobs,” Business Development Specialist Marcie Erion adds. The Loveland area also has two of the country’s top bronze foundries, making Loveland an ideal location for bronze sculpting in particular.

From professional development programs and networking opportunities to financial support, Loveland takes care of its artists. Currently, the city is in the midst of developing a community arts campus that will create 30 new affordable live / work units and transform the 120 year old Feed & Grain building into a commercial arts hub. The Artspace Loveland project will also revitalize a neglected downtown city block in addition to supporting creative entrepreneurialism. Artspace, the City of Loveland, and other community partners believe that the project will help drive future development downtown, increase the number of people living and working downtown, and bring more activity and vibrancy to the area.

Loveland’s business opportunities also go far beyond the art sector. “We have a lot of entrepreneurism,” Ms. Erion remarks. In fact, entrepreneur.com recently named Loveland the second best city in the United States for tech start-ups. It didn’t happen by chance; the city makes it a priority to give entrepreneurs the support that they need. “We are creating an environment where a company can be successful,” explains Economic Development Manager Mike Scholl.

Loveland’s Technology Acceleration Program is one initiative designed to spur the creation of new jobs in technology sectors. “We work with as many companies as we can to help them scale up,” Ms. Erion says of the program. “We have invested $300,000 in two years and have seen $14 million come back from the companies we’ve worked with.”

Indeed, Loveland is a city where arts and science meet, and many new businesses are an innovative cross between the two. “We look at our creative sector as including everything from a robotics [designer] to an artist,” Ms. Erion explains. The community is also home to a number of successful breweries, many of which are known for their creative recipes and innovative take on an age-old craft.

The city is also active in the Maker Movement and hosts annual events that encourage creative innovation and promote collaboration. “We support [the Maker Movement] because we know it leads to entrepreneurship,” Ms. Erion says. For instance, Loveland’s annual Maker Faire gives inventors a chance to showcase everything from high tech chainmail to robots to 3D printers. These inventors can also utilize CreatorSpace, a member-funded and operated non-profit “makerspace” that allows engineers, artists, musicians and tinkerers to come together and create.

Loveland is also home to the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology, Northern Colorado’s premier technology park. Strategically located within an hour’s drive of 11 major technology related labs and universities, the facility was once the site of the first HP plant outside of Palo Alto. Since HP relocated, the site has been reinvented as a high tech campus for a variety of businesses – and it still has some office space available. “[We are] looking at smaller companies locating there to create a campus full of synergy, shared services, and shared technologies,” Mr. Scholl reports.

The city makes tremendous effort to maintain a business friendly environment to help both new and existing businesses. “One of the things that we really promote is customer service,” Ms. Hale states. “From cutting red tape to simply having a place to call,” the City of Loveland is there for its business community. The city is also careful with its tax dollars. “We have the benefit of being fiscally conservative in a way that is responsible,” Ms. Hale explains. “Essentially, we are debt free. We pay cash for everything.”

Currently, the city is focused on breathing new life into its downtown. “We want to make Loveland a place where people can live, work, and stay,” Ms. Hale explains. This effort includes “making sure that our downtown is healthy and strong,” as well as providing “a range of high quality housing.” The plan will create density as well as “an interesting downtown and an interesting urban fabric,” adds Mr. Scholl. “Part of attracting business is having an attractive place to live and work.”

The downtown revitalization kicked off with the renovation and expansion of the historic Rialto Theater, which was built back in 1910 as a silent movie theatre. After a 20,000 square foot addition, the building is now a first rate performing arts venue, as well as the site of a restaurant and additional office space. The theatre renovation was followed by the construction of Gallery Flats, an upscale, five story apartment complex with 66 units. The building opened in June and boasted 90 percent occupancy within its first six weeks.

Residents aren’t the only ones benefiting from the revitalization; an increasing number of tourists are enjoying the new downtown and surrounding attractions. Located just 45 minutes from Denver, 45 minutes from Cheyenne, and 45 minutes from the Rocky Mountain National Park, Loveland is in the center of it all. “We are really are the hub of Northern Colorado,” says Visitor Services Coordinator Cindy Mackin. “We are the base camp for all of your Colorado adventures.”

The centrally located community has a population of 70,000, but “the infrastructure of a much larger city,” Ms. Mackin explains. For instance, Loveland brings in shows that are typically seen only in larger venues, and it boasts an extremely popular minor league hockey franchise. A large shopping district offers over 300 different retail stores in one concentrated area. “Shopping is the number one thing that people do when they are traveling,” Ms. Mackin points out. The community’s craft breweries have also become a big attraction, with bus tours shuttling tourists to multiple breweries for tours and tastings.

And of course, Loveland offers world-class outdoor recreation opportunities. Furthermore, with the city averaging 300 days of sunshine each year, chances are the weather will be great for getting out. Devil’s Backbone – recently described by Colorado Life Magazine as ‘heaven on earth’ – features dramatic rock formations, wildflower filled grasslands, and miles of trails across a 2,198 acre open space. The park is a premier destination for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Big Thompson Canyon “is home to some of the best fly fishing in the world and is an ideal site for kayaking,” Ms. Mackin shares. Mountain bikers and hikers will also enjoy Round Mountain National Recreation Trail, as well as 17.5 miles of recreation trails within the City of Loveland.

Remarkably, Loveland also boasts a lake with a beach right in the middle of town. “There are not a lot of beaches in Colorado, but we have one,” says Ms. Mackin. In addition, Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch offers visitors a classic “dude ranch” experience, as well as numerous outdoor adventures. “[It is] a true to life western experience. They get a lot of international tourists.”

With so much to offer, Loveland has become a magnet for tourism and the arts, as well as for business. With a strong economy, plenty of amenities, and a gorgeous natural setting, it’s no wonder that this unique Colorado community is consistently ranked as one of the happiest cities in America.

September 25, 2017, 4:31 PM EDT

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