GJ council meets new leader of downtown agency

Photo by Dean Humphrey—Harry Weiss, who recently led downtown redevelopment efforts in Asheville, N.C., is the new director of the Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority.

Some might say Harry Weiss is stepping into the role of director of the Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority at a good time.

The agency, which is supported by downtown businesses and the city with a mission to keep the downtown vibrant, has wrapped up an extensive streetscape improvement plan on Main Street, Seventh Street and Colorado Avenue.

Weiss started the job about a week ago and introduced himself to Grand Junction City Council members in a meeting Wednesday night.

“I’m excited about what you have done with the public investment in the streetscape,” Weiss said. “Grand Junction is ahead of a lot of other cities with its treatment of downtown.”

Weiss was the director for nine years, until 2009, at the Public Interest Projects Inc., a for-profit development company in Asheville, N.C., which led redevelopment of Asheville’s downtown.

After leaving the firm in 2009, he and his family moved to Argentina to follow a dream to live for a time in another country. Weiss said he and his family were drawn back to the United States shortly after that move in part because of his mother’s ailing health.

Weiss said he is interested in infill projects and especially adding more housing downtown, and said he sees the potential in the abundance of spaces above businesses in the downtown core.

Weiss has relocated to Grand Junction with his wife and his 13-year-old daughter.

According to the DDA, Weiss has a Master of Science degree in historic preservation and served as the executive director of the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County. He was a board member of the Historic Preservation Department at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“A lot of his past is in doing historical projects,” DDA board member Steve Thoms said. “That can really bring the downtown forward.”

Project ideas that have been posed in Grand Junction but don’t yet have funding or a detailed plan include an amphitheater near the Colorado Riverfront and, in general, developing the more than 100-acre tract by the river called Las Colonias Park. Talk has also circled around updating the roadway south Seventh Street to make a more attractive connection to the river. Also being considered is a realignment of Ute Avenue and Pitkin Avenue on First Street to better connect the downtown area with the historic train depot.

In other news:

Council members unanimously approved a 25-year master plan for west North Avenue. The area roughly includes U.S. Highway 6&50 east to 12th Street. The master plan creates a vision for the area that includes decreasing roadway widths for motorists in an attempt to slow down traffic and create bicycle lanes. It also encourages room for Grand Valley Transit busses to maneuver at bus stops and provides a more friendly pedestrian and bicyclist corridor. New businesses will be encouraged to provide parking at the sides or the rear to encourage more walk-in business.

Council members unanimously approved changing the collateral on the lease arrangement to renovate Stocker Stadium from the stadium itself to Grand Junction City Hall, 250 N. Fifth St. The change was necessary because the Grand Junction Rockies, a Colorado Rookies farm team, which will be using the stadium, is a for-profit entity. To comply with the rules of the certificates of participation taken out for the stadium remodeling, the entity held in collateral could not be a for-profit enterprise.


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