Vertical growth part of Greater Downtown Plan

Harry Weiss, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, points out areas on a map for planned new development in the southern area of downtown Grand Junction. He spoke to business owners.



At least a few landowners of properties in Grand Junction’s southern downtown area are holding their breath, waiting for change to occur.

The area defined by the city of Grand Junction as the Rail District, roughly south of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the Riverside Parkway, is one of three areas included in a proposed Greater Downtown Plan.

If approved, the new plan will provide some design and zoning guidelines for how new development should occur. Having new standards in place would spur some landowners to update their properties, said Kristen Ashbeck, a senior planner in the city’s neighborhood services division.

“Everybody is waiting for the first guy in,” Ashbeck said of new development near the Riverside Parkway. “There is tons of potential down there.”

An updated draft plan should be available today on the city’s website, http://www.gjcity.org.

In the next couple months, the plan will be considered by planning commissioners and then submitted to Grand Junction City Council for approval. Councilors will hold hearings for public comment.

The plan calls for different standards for each area.

For example, in the commercial downtown district, new buildings on vacant land would have to be at least two stories high. Businesses owners would have to abide by new design standards if an exterior remodeling costs more than 65 percent of the value of the property.

Exceptions to the new proposed rule would include some buildings such as churches, day care facilities and schools. Interior remodeling would not be subject to any mandatory exterior design changes.

“No existing properties will be affected,” said Harry Weiss, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. Weiss held a meeting last week with business owners to talk about the proposed changes.

“If you have an existing building and you want to double in size, you would not have to go up,” he added. “If your expansion is more than 100 percent, you trigger that vertical expansion.”

Other specifics of the plan would require new owners of buildings in the lower downtown area to upgrade buildings with some visual elements. That would include awnings, accent colors, various window shapes and sizes, and defined entryways, or a sampling of those changes.

Several lower downtown businesses already have paved the way with eye-pleasing designs, Ashbeck said.

What planners don’t want to see are more single-toned, 
metal-sided, windowless buildings.

However, current landowners and properties would not be affected by the guidelines. They would kick in if a property is sold or the exterior is remodeled.

The plan also includes some zoning overlay guidelines, which essentially serve as a vision for the downtown area.

“Downtown is a garden that is yet to be fully cultivated as to what it can produce,” Weiss told the group of about two dozen business owners who had assembled at the meeting.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say we want to create a downtown that is compelling and memorable.”


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