With posters, maps, idea boards and diagrams around her office in downtown Laramie, Trey Sherwood, executive director of Laramie Main Street Alliance, stays busy.
It’s easy to see how she didn’t realize she had just celebrated her 10th year with LMSA until she and her husband started counting the years earlier this spring.
“It’s flown by,” Sherwood said when she chatted with the Boomerang earlier in March, “but in the world of economic development, things don’t happen overnight, so it’s kind of a gradual transformation. It’s been fun to think about a decade of work and the impact of that.”
Sherwood said LMSA tries to stay true to its grassroots movement beginnings, and it really is “about the people,” including the downtown business owners, building owners and Laramie residents. She said she feels “blessed” to be able to share their dreams and goals and try to “advocate for our community in that way.”
As many towns and cities struggle to stay afloat as Amazon and big box stores rise in popularity, Sherwood said Laramie’s downtown is a “special place.”
“For us to have such a vibrant district — with 28 blocks, over 270 local businesses — that is very unique right now on a national level,” Sherwood said. “I just think it’s something to be celebrated and cherished.”
That’s not to say it hasn’t grown a lot in the last 10 years. Sherwood said since she started in 2009, there have been 296 renovation projects, 5 new construction projects, 38 public improvements and around $20 million in total reinvestment downtown.
“When you think about economic development, there’s always a head and the heart piece,” Sherwood said. “So, the heart piece for me is the people, and then the head is the data, the analytics. … 104 new businesses — net businesses — since I’ve been in this job, it’s just surreal.”
Looking back, the Laramie Mural Project, started with Susan Moldenhauer at the University of Wyoming Art Museum, was a project Sherwood said she felt very proud of, especially considering how much it grew and how much of an impact it had on the community.
The revitalization of the Empress Building, now home to Big Hollow Food Co-Op, is another project Sherwood said was satisfying to watch start to finish, especially considering the building was first demolished when she started 10 years ago.
While downtown Laramie has come a long way in the last decade, Sherwood said LMSA still has major plans looking forward. One thing she said she really wants to say she’s proud of in the future is the transformation of Third Street, hoping to give it a similar “vibrant” feel as First and Second streets.
“We’ve been working on plans for Third Street for the last five years, so I think we’re right at that tipping point to start seeing some really magical things happen with that project and that corridor,” Sherwood said.
Other goals include continuing with infill projects — finding uses for empty lots and buildings — and continuing to support public art and local businesses. LMSA also hopes to start installing way-finding signage around downtown, a way for “people to find their way around to those cultural amenities or to the parking lots,” Sherwood said.
Sherwood added LMSA is looking for more volunteers this year to “be a part of our success story” with future projects and events.