Mesa State trustees OK push west to Seventh Street
Mesa State College is looking to add to its ever-expanding campus.
The college’s board of trustees voted Tuesday to approve a 25-year plan to acquire 214 residential lots, 21 commercial properties and two churches between Cannell Avenue and Seventh Street and North Avenue and Orchard Avenue.
No specific buildings have been planned for the project area, but athletic facilities tentatively would continue to be added on the north side of campus as it moves west, with classroom buildings and residence halls located in the rest of campus. The college plans to gradually move west in clumps between now and 2031, based on what property sells first.
The college would accept an annual fund transfer from the Mesa State College Real Estate Foundation to purchase and demolish properties. The transfer this year for a separate acquisition project for properties between Cannell Avenue and College Place came to $1.8 million.
The college could also pay for the project, called the West Expansion Property Acquisition Project, with donations, state funding and rent money from properties acquired by the college and left standing for a few years before enough surrounding properties are acquired by the college to justify demolition, according to Derek Wagner, Mesa State director of strategic initiatives.
“Our hope with this plan is to go after properties aggressively as they become available,” Wagner said.
Wagner said his phone has been ringing with numerous calls from interested sellers in the area since the college hosted a neighborhood meeting about the project earlier this month.
Ben Hill, a partner at real estate firm Hill & Homes at 1204 N. Seventh St., said Wednesday he had not heard Mesa State was interested in moving west, but that he’s interested in working with the college.
“As far as I’m concerned, come on down here,” he said. “We’re ready to make a deal.”
Hill also owns properties in the project area at 1226 and 1236 N. Seventh St., home to Davis Photography and MCC Drug & Alcohol Screening, as well as a duplex at 730 Glenwood Ave. He said he hasn’t been seeking buyers but is willing to hear what the college has to offer.
Ron Church, manager of CARQUEST Auto Parts, 874 North Ave., said he also would like the college to buy his lot so he can move to a larger location. The auto parts store has a lease for the property, which is owned by Westwood Properties Inc. in Palisade. Westwood did not return a call for comment Wednesday.
Hill said he’s interested in doing business because he would be selling a business location. But he could see how homeowners in the area may not be so keen to sell.
The college is still struggling to buy a few homes between Cannell Avenue and the now-nonexistent College Place, from North Avenue to Mesa Avenue, as part of a project initiated in 2004, the House Demolition and Ground Recovery Project. The project was expected to last 15 years, but all but five homes have sold in less than half that time frame, prompting the college to initiate another property acquisition phase.
The homes are surrounded by school property, including parking lots and residence halls. Only two sit side by side, at 1220 and 1240 Cannell Ave. The homes are owned by Clark and Jeanne Carroll, according to Mesa County Assessor’s office records, and Clark’s mother, Phyllis. A woman at 1220 Cannell Ave. responded “no comment” when asked by a reporter Wednesday whether she planned to sell to the college.
Wagner said the college will continue to pursue purchase of the five properties. He said at least one property owner may negotiate with the school. Another, he said, is asking for $100,000 above the appraised value of the home, a price the college will not pay.
“We’re a nonprofit institution. We can’t pay that much,” Wagner said.
The college wants to expand to keep up with projected enrollment growth. But the buyer-friendly real estate market doesn’t hurt the decision to move forward now, according to Mesa State Trustee Doug Price.
“The wisdom of doing this now is an important component of what we need to do. ... We can only foresee the campus growing,” Price said. “I think this is an ideal time to acquire properties given the state of the economy.”
Although the college won’t pay exorbitant prices, Mesa State President Tim Foster said home and business owners may be enticed by the college’s offer to buy because they don’t have to pay real estate or closing costs when they sell to the school.
“I think it’s important to get started,” Foster said.