MCKENZIE LANGE/The Daily Sentinel

The old Mesa Pawn & Loan building on the corner of Second Street and Ute Avenue was recently demolished. The empty space is to become a parking lot, says Jay Valentine, General Services director for the city. The property will be covered in crushed asphalt for now.

When the city of Grand Junction demolished the Mesa Pawn and Loan building last month, it was removing downtown blight and making way for future development, but other commercial buildings are vacant around town and the city has options to help redevelop them as well.

It’s in the interest of cities and towns to increase the appeal of commercial areas. In the case of Grand Junction, it can do this in a variety of ways from enforcing code violations, like for excess weeds, to outright purchasing the property.

In other cases, it works with partner organizations like the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to help redevelopment, as it did with the office building project on Seventh and Main streets.

The Mesa Pawn and Loan building on the corner of Second Street and Ute Avenue is a good recent example of the city purchasing a building to address a vacant commercial property, according to City Manager Greg Caton.

“The former pawn shop property was directly adjacent to the City-owned convention center,” Caton said in a statement. “Purchasing the property allows for future development plans, such as a hotel — built by the private sector — that would adjoin the convention center. Property acquisitions, such as the former pawn shop, allow the City to strategically align current public properties to leverage public/private partnerships for the betterment of the community.”

While the city can make such a purchase, it would want to identify a use for the building or property before going through with that type of plan, according to Caton. One major piece of vacant commercial property is the former City Market on First Street in downtown Grand Junction. City Council has not allocated any resources or given direction to purchase that property at this time.

If the city does not pursue purchasing a property, its partners like the DDA can step in. The authority has a number of tools it can use to help with redevelopment, said Brandon Stam, DDA executive director.

A good example of this, Stam said, is the project at 734 Main St. on the corner of Seventh Street.

Kaart CEO Aaron Young is building an office building at that site with help from the Downtown Development Authority. In 2019, the DDA Board announced it would provide a $500,000 loan to Young for the project and another office building project on Main Street planned for the future.

“The purpose of a DDA is to eliminate slum and blight,” Stam said. “So I mentioned Aaron Young’s property at 734 (Main St.). That’s a vacant lot that had been a gas station and had environmental issues prior that had been cleaned up. We helped remediate that.”

Stam said the DDA can help in both large and small ways depending on the project and the needs of the developer. The DDA provides a grant for permanent improvements to commercial buildings, but can go so far as purchasing the properties.

The DDA is funded through a combination of tax increment financing (TIF) and a mill levy within its boundaries. It covers an area from around First Street to Seventh and Eighth streets and between Grand Avenue and Las Colonias.

Its board of directors is appointed by the City Council and includes one council member.

The DDA’s primary purpose is to facilitate reinvestment and redevelopment in downtown Grand Junction, according to the city’s website.

“In years past, the DDA has purchased vacant properties to redevelop,” Stam said. “The old R-5 School (on Seventh Street), the old White Hall property (on White Avenue), those are some examples. There’s a variety of ways we can be involved in a project whether it’s us purchasing the land, us participating in the actual project itself. Obviously, this is always subject to what the board feels is a good fit.”

As for the former City Market property, he said a project that large would need to be a collaboration between a number of partnering agencies.

“As far as City Market goes, that building is a much bigger project than just downtown,” Stam said.

“That’s probably the city, Grand Junction Economic Partners and others that would be required to make something like that work.”

At the moment, there aren’t any plans to take that project from the city, but Stam said some other projects in proximity to downtown could help it resolve itself naturally. Increased residential and commercial projects, like the Dos Rios development currently under construction, will bring more people to the area and could bring another business or businesses to the old City Market space.

“There’s some more commercial projects happening in downtown, which will drive more activity,” Stam said. “There’s also some residential projects in the works, and I think those will really help, too.”

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