A new direction for North Avenue

David Thornton, a Grand Junction city planner, walks between Third and Fourth streets on North Avenue, where there is no sidewalk. The city is seeking input on how to improve the four-mile strip.

Gilbert Gonzales had to act fast Friday to jump out of the way of a truck pulling out from a business on North Avenue.

Gonzales isn’t used to walking along the route with its on-again, off-again sidewalks, but he’ll probably be doing more strolling along the busy road while looking for a job.

The Grand Junction native would consider biking on the road, but there at least would have to be bike lanes.

“You’d probably get hit,” he said, eyeing cars whizzing by.

It is comments like these that Grand Junction city planners are seeking as the city crafts a new future for North Avenue.

An online survey asks residents to rate their preferences for bike lanes, larger sidewalks and a parking lane and, in general, gauges interest among residents about how best to create an identity for the four-mile strip that has grown on a piecemeal basis.

“There has been a lot of support to create a safer pedestrian opportunity,” principal planner David Thornton said. “There already are a lot of pedestrians that use this area.”

Planned usage has been developed for the three miles of North Avenue’s east end. Planners are working on plans for about a mile on the western end, from 12th Street to U.S. Highway 6&50.

An online survey at the city’s website until June 15 asks residents to rate their choices of six options. The choices are listed in order from least expensive to most expensive.

Some changes, if approved by the City Council and the Colorado Department of Transportation — the agency which has jurisdiction over the route — could be instated soon. Those kinds of alterations such as striping for bike lanes could be incorporated into scheduled maintenance, Thornton said.

Other large-scale work, such as widening the road or adding sidewalk space, medians and landscaping, would be rolled into a 25-year plan for the area. Adaptations also would occur alongside new development. There is no money set aside, and council members have not talked of locating funding for North Avenue beautification plans.

“We wanted to lay out all the options. Some (of the most expensive options) may not be feasible, but we have to let people decide,” Thornton said.

City planners have long been interested in seeing North Avenue, an area that served as Grand Junction’s original commercial shopping corridor, thrive again.

An informal survey completed in January by two city planners revealed an 11.4 percent vacancy rate of storefronts along the four-mile road, Thornton said.

Eastgate Shopping Center in the 2800 block now looks deserted after anchor businesses City Market and Star Tek pulled out.

Sidewalks are spotty along the route and vegetation is sparse and often nonexistent in the median.

But there are indications the route is looking up. Planners were delighted that Mesa State College set its dorms in the block of 10th Street close to the road and created sidewalks that are buffered from the road by landscaping.

Construction of Fiesta Guadalajara’s new restaurant, 710 North Ave., also has made planners happy. The new building is set toward the road, with parking to the rear. The design helps slow traffic, and the business acts as its own sign, Thornton said.

Opportunities to improve North Avenue could come from a cooperative effort of business owners, similar to the effort by the Horizon Drive Business Improvement District. A group of businesses along that corridor pool money to create projects to beautify the area.

Because North Avenue is a lengthy stretch, several business districts could form along the road.

“It’s going to have to be a grass-roots effort,” Thornton said.

“How do you get people to come back (to North Avenue) and not just pass through? We’re trying to establish little mini places.”

Find the survey through a link on the city’s website, http://www.gjcity.org.


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