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Downtown for the holidays 

With Trader Joe's at University Village open for its first holiday season, the Powers Boulevard corridor growing by leaps and bounds, and Manitou Springs always beckoning, how can downtown compete for holiday dollars?

Decorations, free parking and an outdoor skating rink might help. But the fundamental draws are two: unique offerings and a chance to help your neighbor, says Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership.

"When you want a personal experience that's unique and stress-free and charming, and stores that are filled with unique items you won't find anywhere else, that's why people come downtown," she says. She adds that 90 percent of the stores there are locally owned, and that downtown has the region's largest concentration of locally owned restaurants.

Downtown organizations have been working to create draws for shoppers. The Downtown Business Improvement District has funded a promotional newspaper insert for the holiday season, part of the BID's $100,000 annual marketing campaign, says Laurel Prud'homme, the Downtown Partnership's director of communications. Edmondson says money also is going to digital ads and radio spots. "You have to hit on all cylinders," she says.

New this year is the Holiday Pop Up Shop program. Five temporary stores will be open, thanks to the Downtown Development Authority's agreement with store owners and landlords, Prud'homme says. The shops include a gallery with local artists, a children's store, a clothing store, and an organic soap shop.

And it doesn't hurt to have an open-air skating rink in Acacia Park, which is designed as a break-even proposition, city spokesperson Julie Smith says via email. This year, the rink will be open through Jan. 11, including holidays. Cost is $10 per skater, with kids 4 and under admitted free with one paid admission.

Based on last year's turnout, attendance could hit 17,000, Smith says, and proceeds will cover staffing, $25,000; security, $30,000; rink rental, $80,000; and miscellaneous costs. The Downtown Partnership is covering the marketing costs of $30,000. Hours and special events at the rink can be found at downtowncs.com.

Be aware of these dates: Saturday, Nov. 29, is small business Saturday and lighting of the Christmas trees, and Dec. 6, the Festival of Lights Parade. Shoppers get free metered parking on all Saturdays in December up to Christmas, Smith says.

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