Workforce Center site not working so well anymore

Steve Chacon of Grand Junction searches the Internet on Thursday afternoon for a job in the oil and gas field at the Mesa County Workforce Center at 29 Road and North Avenue. The center may be relocated, if a plan to sell its land and buildings moves forward.

Hilltop Community Resources is looking to sell the land and buildings that house the Mesa County Workforce Center and a variety of the nonprofit group’s children’s programs, a move that would open up for development what will become a highly visible parcel with the impending completion of the 29 Road viaduct.

Hilltop and Mesa County officials have begun discussions about whether the programs that have shared space at 2897 North Ave. for the past 14 years will continue to operate together and where that new location might be.

“It’s really very preliminary right now,” said Mike Stahl, Hilltop’s chief executive officer. “I’m not really sure the direction we’re going.”

The 3.7-acre site at the southwest corner of 29 Road and North Avenue previously served as an electronics supply store and a church. Hilltop purchased it in 1997 for $774,000, and since that time it has been the home of the Workforce Center and Hilltop programs Kiddin’ Around Learning Center, B4Babies & Beyond and Family First. There also is a series of mobile homes for classroom space on the site.

Stahl said Hilltop invested more than $1.3 million in capital improvements on the metal-sided building over the years and is reluctant to invest more.

“It’s a building that has probably seen better days,” he said. “Whenever we have some significant capital expenditure into it, it’s like, ‘How long are we going to do this?’”

Stakeholders at one point talked about building a new Workforce Center just to the south of the existing building but had to discard that option when the site was needed for the $20 million 29 Road project, which, when finished next week, will provide a direction connection between Pear Park and Fruitvale via a 779-foot overpass that crosses the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and the Interstate 70 Business Loop.

Given the additional traffic that road will generate, “There’s probably more value in that being a commercial center than a workforce center,” Stahl said.

The Mesa County assessor’s website lists the value of the land and buildings at 2897 North Ave. at $2.5 million.

Hilltop and county leaders have discussed and looked at a few different sites, including a county-owned parcel next to the Community Services Building, 510 29 1/2 Road, but have made no decisions as to a possible future location and whether the organizations will move into an existing, vacant building or construct a new facility. Stahl said he would prefer to erect a new building, but he is open to all options.

Workforce Center Director Sue Tuffin said she would like the center to remain along the North Avenue corridor, given its close proximity to other county programs, such as Health and Human Services departments.

“We are in absolutely the best location we could be to serve our customer base most effectively, including employers,” she said. “We’re easily located, easily accessed.”

It also remains to be seen whether Hilltop and the county will continue to run their programs together or separate. Both agencies said they would like to continue to operate out of the same facility, noting the convenience of parents who are looking for work being able to drop off their child at Kiddin’ Around.

Stahl said Hilltop has received inquiries from Realtors interested in listing the 2897 North Ave. property, but there have been no offers to buy.


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