Land sale may shake downtown

Harry Parker works in a community garden at Fifth Street and Chipeta Avenue, which is part of a parcel in downtown Grand Junction that the Mesa County Public Library District has put up for sale.

A prime piece of real estate just north of the Mesa County Public Library District’s central library, once envisioned as a key piece of an ambitious multi-agency development project, is on the market — and a sale of the parcel could have an impact beyond simple property management or area economics.

Most notably, a sale could jeopardize the continuation of the three-year community garden project, whose 29 plots fall within the parcel that could be sold at any time.

“It’s beautiful and it’s something that the community is proud of. I get so many compliments on how wonderful it is to have that growing there instead of a weed patch,” said Susan Rose, a horticulture education specialist with the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service and point person for the project.

“But there’s this other side of it,” she said.

She said thefts have become so rampant at the garden, her level of frustration is growing to a point where a sale of the parcel might just serve as a merciful end to the public-spirited project.

“We are fighting a real battle. Just last weekend my husband and I went down to get our melons that were ready, and they were gone,” she said. “I’m ready to throw in the towel at this point.”

Residents who paid $75 for each growing plot—along with countless and invaluable hours of work to raise their bounties—have witnessed thefts of produce, vagrants using the water supply there to drink and bathe and people generally trespassing at all hours.

One gardener recently called police when she happened upon a group of men using a van to carry off an ill-gotten cache of community tomatoes.

Harry Parker, who has gardened there since the beginning, recalled “one woman found a guy sleeping on her carrots. He was drunk.”

Parker is one of the community gardeners who would be sad to see the project go away. He spends two to three hours every other day tending to his two plots.

“I guess I’d try to find someplace else to grow, because I don’t have enough room where I’m at,” he said. “It’s kind of a social thing for me out there. I get to talk with people and others always come by and ask about the garden.”

Rose couldn’t say for sure, though, that a sale of the parcel would mean the end of the idea of a community garden.

“If I were to look for a new location, I would try and find something a little more discreet, out of the way,” she said. She added that the problem has been compounded this year by a lack of regular security at the central library next door, which is closed until spring while it undergoes a major rehabilitation.

The library-owned parcel for sale covers most of the square block between Fifth and Sixth streets and Ouray and Chipeta avenues. The parcel does not include the Gray Gourmet building or the Grand Junction Senior Center to the east.

The property is listed with Bray Real Estate and has an asking price of $1.2 million. It’s been on the market for about two months.

About 10 employees of the library currently have offices in the 8,000-square-foot Support Services Building, which also is included in the parcel up for sale.

“We’ll all have new homes next spring,” said Bob Kretschman, spokesman for the library. “Our plan right now is for us to remain in here until the central library project is done.”


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