Ron Butlin: Eyes on a great downtown, heart for the great outdoors

Downtown Partnership Executive Director Ron Butlin.
Downtown Partnership Executive Director Ron Butlin.

Southern California native Ron Butlin came to Colorado Springs as a result of two fortuitously linked hiring decisions, which he calls his two ‘biggest breaks.’

“In 1985, I was lucky enough to be hired by Wells Fargo in Orange County,” Butlin said, “and then I hired a guy named Jeff Smith to come work with me. Ten years later, Jeff called me and asked me to come to Colorado Springs and work for him at Classic Homes, and I’ve been here ever since.”

“I guess that just shows that you’d better treat your employees well — you never know when they might offer you a job,” he said.

Butlin worked for Classic as the company’s division manager for commercial projects until last October, when he became the executive director of the Downtown Partnership. He’s passionate about downtown — and about Colorado.

Butlin and his wife have three children. Their two eldest both attend medical school in California, and the youngest is in high school.

“I feel more at home in Colorado Springs than I ever have elsewhere,” he said, “We live close to Monument Valley Park, and we love to go for walks there. And we love that we can just jump in our jeep, head for the mountains and not see anyone for hours. In California, you can never get away from the crowds — there are always people.”

And although Butlin loves the quiet solitude of the mountains, he believes equally fervently in densely populated, lively downtowns.

“I suppose that’s kind of a contradiction,” he said, “but downtowns don’t really thrive until you have people living in them. I’d love to see some four- to six-story residential developments, maybe on the eastern fringe of downtown near Weber and Wahsatch. But I don’t think that we’re going to see a lot of development until the economy strengthens. Stimulus funds are great, but only as something that gives you that last nudge. Right now, we’re a long way from being able to support new development. “

Does that mean that downtown is stagnating?

Not necessarily.

“I’m really impressed with the quality of retailers that we have along Tejon Street, and I think that downtown is strengthened by the “buy local” movement. We do need more awareness of downtown regionally — when I lived in the Black Forest a few years ago, we got as far as North Academy, and that was it.”

That’s one of the reasons that Butlin strongly supports Perry Sanders’ plans to convert the historic Mining Exchange Building into a boutique hotel.

“I’m really excited about taking an historic building and putting it back into public use,” he said. “Converting it into apartments doesn’t achieve the same goal. And I also believe that we need more hotel rooms downtown. Right now, we can’t even handle a 500-person convention. I really hope Perry can pull it off.”

Asked what he thought the city lacks, or needs most, Butlin chose his words carefully.

“We’re sometimes criticized for being a group of villages that don’t really have anything to do with each other. Perhaps we need a little more global view, and we need to realize that a healthy downtown is important to the health of the region.”

“At some level,” he said, “we need more cooperation, more cohesion. I’d like to see downtown capture something unique, a focal point, and then we might see the community catch the vision and come downtown.”

  • wolfy1

    Ron Butlin is doing a great job in promoting our wonderful Downtown. We are lucky to have him.