City:  A work in progress

New residence halls at Mesa State on North Avenue will accommodate more than 300 students and will have retail space on the ground floor. The halls should be complete by the summer of 2009.

The Police Department utilizes several trailers like this one because of lack of space in the main building. This double-wide is home to 18 employees who work in traffic. Patrol and communications are also housed in temporary buildings.

The Blue Moon was able to add patio dining this year due to the Seventh Street Realignment. The landscaping and pedestrian friendly environment has helped extend the charm of Main Street to Seventh Street. (Photos by Penny Stine/Real Estate Weekly)

Although the city contains some of the oldest housing areas in the region, it’s also an area that’s constantly changing. New commercial buildings, new restaurants, remodeling projects and street redesigns are all contributing to an area that remains vital and attractive for homeowners.

The city area includes much more than just the downtown core, but downtown is the heart, and it’s pumping excitement into the rest of the area. The realignment of Seventh Street, which took place a year ago, has extended the vitality of Main Street.

“We’ve got an energy down here that we’ve never had before,” says Brad Brehmer, owner of the Blue Moon Bar and Grill at Seventh and Main. Brehmer has lived in Grand Junction for more than 30 years and has owned the Blue Moon since 1987.

“I could not understand why Seventh Street was so beautiful until you got to Grand,” he says. Now, the beauty of the historical area on Seventh Street north of Grand ties in with the downtown area in a smooth transition from the residential area to the shopping district.

This year, the city has been working to revitalize Colorado Avenue, with a beautification project and a goal of bringing more Main Street visitors to Colorado Avenue. As part of the process, the intersection at Fifth and Colorado will be closed sometime in November. However, the street project is on time and should be complete by the end of November.

“It looks terrific, we feel much more a part of downtown,” says Bill Keith, owner of Quilter’s Corner near Fourth and Colorado. “The benefits are going to be tremendous.”

Keith anticipates more walk-in traffic as people discover that Colorado Avenue resembles Main Street, with landscaping, Art on the Corner and a more pedestrian-friendly environment. The additional lighting has been noticed and appreciated by Keith’s customers, especially those who attend the evening classes.

“It’s going to be a nice project when the city’s done,” says Carson Park, manager of the Shoe Man. Park didn’t notice a decrease in traffic during construction but attributes that to the nature of his business; guys who need work boots aren’t intimidated by construction.

The city is not finished with the downtown transformation. If the public safety measure passes in Thursday’s election, there will be a new fire station, a new police station, proper facilities for evidence storage, secure municipal courtrooms downtown, as well as neighborhood fire stations near the airport, in the southeast area and in the northwest area. The $98 million dollar price tag also includes all necessary equipment for the facilities.

“As growth continues in the valley, our ability to expand and add new employees and maintain the services is starting to be limited by our facilities and our current infrastructure,” says Troy Smith, deputy chief of the police department. A new public safety plaza could continue to revitalize the downtown areas south of Main Street.

Riverside Parkway has also begun transforming the area south of Main Street, and restaurant owners Jim Jeffryes and Eric Ross are taking the bold step to open the first new restaurant near the parkway. The city has approved the plans, and Jeffryes and Ross are now waiting on the building permit from the county to start construction on the Edgewater Brewery on Struthers Avenue.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” says Jeffryes. “It’s a little scary, but I think it’s the right time to build.” The partners want to build a two-story building, with a banquet and music room on the upper floor and the restaurant, brewery and patio on the ground floor. They’d like to create an inviting environment for local musicians and out-of-town acts who may be passing through on their way to bigger cities.

The brewpub will complement and compete with the partners’ other restaurant, Kannah Creek Brewery, and will offer a different menu and different beer.

At this point, a new building isn’t a certainty, although the city is moving forward with planning. In addition to housing the entire police department, a new public safety building will also house fire administration, municipal courts and an operational fire station that would replace the one at 6th and Pitkin.

As new businesses prepare to move south of the railroad tracks, one business is making plans to relocate north of the tracks. Tom Bulger, owner of the 8th Street Gym currently located on the corner of Eighth and South, is remodeling the former Habitat for Humanity store at Pitkin and 11th in anticipation of opening one of the biggest martial arts centers in the region. He’s hoping to join the revival of the area, first started by Bud’s Signs.

“We’re investigating ways to improve the park (at Fourth and Pitkin) and make it more attractive to citizens, to the public and to tie into the public safety building,” says Sean Cooper, park planner with the city of Grand Junction. “We’re looking at attracting lunchtime visitors to the park.”

Other areas south of Main Street are also on the verge of revitalization. Colorado Avenue between Second and Seventh will be undergoing a facelift beginning in February.

Downtown is not the only area in the city building, remodeling and gentrifying. Real estate partners Ray Rickard and Anne Connolly have two different in-fill projects at two different stages.

The Brickyard will be a 48-unit patio home development near Wellington and 15th. Most of the infrastructure construction is complete, and construction of the first units could start within the next 30 days.

“We’re going to do some really cool things there,” says Rickard. Because the site was an actual brickyard more than 50 years ago, the partners plan to include brick pavers and brick accents in the duplex and triplex development.

Some of the units will be single story, while some will enjoy walkout basements. They will all have two bedrooms. Although the partners are still deciding final amenities, they anticipate the price will be between $250,000 and $300,000.

Rickard and Connolly are also working on a 52-unit apartment complex on North Avenue, designed according to the city’s recently adopted North Avenue Corridor Plan. “We’re still working on permitting process,” says Rickard, “We’re still in architectural design process, but we’re very excited about that location.”

The apartment complex will probably be a six building development, with both one and two-bedroom apartments. Size of the units will be between 600 and 750 square feet. “It was a property that was in great disrepair, so seeing it transform into a different use is pretty exciting,” says Kathy Portner, neighborhood services director with the city of Grand Junction. “Doing multi-family housing is critical to the transformation of the corridor.”

The city is also excited about the retail and residential project Mesa State is undertaking along North Avenue. The college is building residence halls that will have retail space on the first floor. At this point, the Bike Shop is the only tenant committed to the retail space.

“We’re looking for anyone who thinks that will be a good market for them,” says Dana Nunn, director of media relations at Mesa State College. The residence hall will be modeled after other campus housing built a few years ago, with some single rooms and some double rooms in 8-student groupings. Buyers looking for big yards and McMansions might not find them in the city, but development by the city, new roads and new housing all contribute to the continued vitality of the city.


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