Brian Mahoney has been eyeing public access for properties along the Colorado riverfront since 1986, but he's always had his sights set on an elusive, high-rising parcel that just happens to include the junction of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers.
There have been notable overtures by Mahoney and others in the past to buy the property — owned for years by salvage yard operator Dean Van Gundy, and now owned by his son Randy — but a confluence of factors may be stirring together now to make some sort of sale of the property a reality.
Rather than protecting a historical spot — it is, after all, the namesake of the city itself — Mahoney said his interest in the Van Gundy property is "more about a nice place for people to contemplate the junction of the two rivers, and the view of the valley."
"It's just such a wonderful little vantage point and for it to end up commercialized, with people being unable to access it, would seem to be a shame," Mahoney said.
"The grand junction of the rivers — well, this is it," Randy Van Gundy recently said, from atop a bluff at the property.
Mahoney is largely credited with spurring cleanup of the area that fronts the Colorado River near downtown, specifically when he and fellow Lions Club member Larry Jones convinced the civic club to buy junk-filled Watson Island in 1986 and then clean it up. The city matched the club's $125,000, and a decades-long effort to bring the riverfront back to life began.
After Watson Island, other nearby parcels including one owned by the Jarvis family were purchased in similar transactions.
"But the one that's always eluded us right down there is Van Gundy's," Mahoney said.
Mahoney, 75, seems to have one eye on life's hourglass with his latest effort to put together a deal for the property, which has been informally dubbed Confluence Point or Confluence Park over the years.
Mahoney said it's getting more and more difficult to stick to his usual "be patient" slogan when it comes to property projects.
He recalls his initial overtures about 10 years ago to buy the property from the famously no-nonsense Dean Van Gundy, who died in 2016.
Van Gundy allegedly told Mahoney that he wanted the same deal that the Jarvis brothers got for their much-larger parcel.
"I said, 'You mean $2.10 per square foot?'" Mahoney recalled. "He said, 'No, $1.4 million (the Jarvis sale price).' "
Dean Van Gundy always had grand development plans for the unique parcel, envisioning sprawling condos, or a hotel, or a large restaurant, even a Ferris wheel, for the property.
Randy Van Gundy said his dad had previous offers to buy the property, including one that was for more than $1 million, which he turned down.
"He thought it was worth more than that," Randy said about his dad. "He just never would let it go."
Though Mahoney has made other attempts in the years since, this perhaps is his last, best chance to reach a deal with Van Gundy.
To start, the price of the property has been significantly reduced — just last year it was listed for $1.5 million. Now, the asking price for the 5-plus-acre parcel is $800,000.
Mahoney also hopes to bring the Denver-based Trust for Public Land to the table, who were involved in the negotiations of the 1990 purchase of the Jarvis property.
"The thought was, maybe if the Trust for Public Land gets involved we might make some progress," Mahoney said.
He said the trust could play a key role in negotiating a deal with Van Gundy, which might involve a series of land gifts with tax benefits along with actual money paid for the purchase of the property.
"We can't give (the Van Gundys) that much money, but we may be able to find some nice tax reasons for (Randy) to proceed," Mahoney said, about a possible tax-friendly sales pitch.
"Randy is a heck of a nice guy. And I think if we can present it in the right way, we might get it done," he said.
Another element in the mix is the local Riverfront Foundation, which later this month is expected to sign off on funding for a survey and environmental appraisal of the property, setting the table for a possible sale. The foundation also voted last year to allocate $100,000 toward the purchase of the property, but the sale never materialized.
Mahoney says that he hopes to again convince the foundation board to commit to some of the sale money, and then that commitment could be used as seed money to involve the city of Grand Junction, which would ultimately and ideally own the property and operate it as a park space. The city could also help identify and apply for grant money from agencies like Great Outdoors Colorado, Mahoney said.
Van Gundy, who said he's only had limited conversations with Mahoney about a possible sale, said he's willing to consider a deal that includes potential land gifts with tax benefits as part of the purchase.
"I just have to listen to the deal, and figure out if it's something I'm interested in," Van Gundy said this week. "Who knows?"
The property is co-listed by real estate agents Leta Wilburn with Bray and Co. and Jennifer Weaver with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty.
"You know, with the riverfront, with all the stuff they've got going on over here, you could really do something so nice to tie it all together," Weaver said this week, during a tour of the property.