The low-lying Riverside community is Grand Junction's oldest, outside of the city's original square mile, but its outlook has never been more modern.
Dirt is already turning on projects to transform the expanse between the Riverside neighborhood and the confluence of the rivers to the south — once the final resting place of more than 3,000 junked cars — now planned as green space, a bike park, and the Riverfront at Dos Rios mixed-used development.
A complementary city project just to the north of that to make major upgrades around Riverside Park — the historic heart of the Riverside neighborhood — will mean new facilities and also new concrete along the Riverfront Trail, which courses through all the city's current development projects along the river.
"For the area at large, you have a live-work-play story that is unique to all of Grand Junction," said Jen Taylor, drawing the distinction of Dos Rios from the adjacent Las Colonias riverfront business park development.
That vision for the sometimes marginalized but notably proud Riverside community came to Taylor in 2016. It's personal. She moved into the neighborhood in 2017 — to be "all in" as she puts it — and has been part of the working group that helped develop the Riverfront at Dos Rios project.
"I think that (Riverside has) been misunderstood for many years, as a neighborhood. The culture, the heritage, the story that is truly fundamental to the story of Grand Junction," Taylor said. "It needs to be honored, and it needs to be revered."
Cindy Enos-Martinez, long a public face of the Riverside neighborhood, said the community is excited for the changes, which include the addition of a full-size basketball court and new picnic shelter, along with the economic development project on its border.
"It's a dream that people wanted — to see development, and the improvement of an old neighborhood," she said, touching on a branding theme that the working group thought captured community feeling toward the project — nuevos sueños. New dreams.
Taylor has particular dreams of her own for the area, in the form of a multi-acre cantina "campus" she plans to open as part of the development. Her ambitious idea — the Baja-themed El Jet's Cantina + Sky Outpost — isn't the only business planned for the area.
Like Las Colonias, and Bonsai Design, the Dos Rios development has a unique tenant in the outdoor recreation industry lined up, Sunshine Polishing, a ski-lift and gondola painting company that plans to locate there.
Taylor said Sunshine owner Dominique Bastien has become a good friend in the process of making the Dos Rios plan a reality, and her business fits with what Taylor envisions for the area.
"She was committed to the riverfront. She saw it. She felt it. It was perfect for her," she said of Bastien.
Taylor — who has spent years having conversations and meetings with city officials about the development project — also thinks it's important to recognize the city's vision, and willingness to pursue pricey projects in support of that vision, for the entire riverfront area.
"This is happening on your watch. You're the heroes of this story. You're making it happen," Taylor told city councilors and staff, including City Manager Greg Caton, when the outline plan for the property was adopted in April.
The Dos Rios plan notably creates two points of access to Riverside Parkway, and two points of access onto Hale Avenue on the northern boundary. Development "pods" are planned — 17 acres for parks and open space, nearly 10 acres for light industrial or commercial, and 15-plus acres of mixed-use development including some for outdoor recreation. The properties, excluding the open space, would be available for sale.
City staff project the total cost for the Riverside neighborhood improvements and development of the Dos Rios project to be $12.5 million, spent over the lifetime of the project.
Much of the Dos Rios property is in the regulated 100-year floodplain, and a small area adjacent to the river is within the floodway. The floodway acreage will be used for open space and recreation, and new fill material will be brought in to the other areas of the development to raise the base-floor elevations of new projects by at least a foot beyond what's required, according to former city community services manager Kathy Portner.
The Riverside Park improvements were authorized by City Council at their meeting last week. In addition to the new basketball court and picnic shelter, the project will re-route parts of Riverside Park Drive and Park Avenue, and create new concrete curb, gutter and alleyway parking as well as new sidewalks.
A unique, oblong bicycle park envisioned for south of the neighborhood, closer to the confluence of the rivers, is included as part of the Riverside Park improvements, which are expected to be finished by late summer.
Enos-Martinez has lived in Riverside all of her life, except for the year or so she and her husband Jose built and lived in a house across town. They quickly moved back — "It wasn't home, it wasn't comfortable," she said. Enos-Martinez hopes the changes will spur current Riverside residents to improve their own properties.
Taylor said she believes that the new development on tap for the area would "ideally, create an affordable scenario" that keeps some of the character of the current neighborhood. She also said she envisions giveback programs with businesses or developers that would support the Riverside community, the critical Riverside Education Center, the Riverside task force, and even related groups like the One Riverfront Foundation and the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association.