While the city center portion of the North Avenue streetscape improvement is winding down, other projects in the city are breaking ground, in planning stages or just starting the conceptualization process.
If you haven't driven on North Avenue from First to 23rd and paid attention to the improvements, take a short drive and try to remember what it used to look like. Better yet, get out of the car and walk, especially on the sidewalk next to Lincoln Park. That sidewalk is now wide, spacious and far enough from the busy street that it doesn't feel as though you're tempting fate to be on it.
Be sure and look at the median improvements in the street and the facade improvements made by many of the North Avenue property owners who have taken advantage of the city's grant program, which is a matching funds program that has awarded up to $10,000 to property owners who wanted to make improvements to their buildings' exteriors. The city has $30,000 remaining and available to North Avenue property owners who'd like to participate.
Colorado Mesa University, which has spent millions of construction dollars in the last five to 10 years adding more dormitories, more classrooms and remodeling the library, is getting closer to a significant groundbreaking.
On Sept. 6, the university will have the official groundbreaking ceremony for the engineering building, which will be home to both the mechanical and civil engineering programs. Both programs are the result of a partnership with University of Colorado at Boulder, which allow students to take all their classes at CMU but obtain an engineering degree from UC.
The building will be between Elm and Kennedy on Seventh Street, which is a noteworthy milestone for the university, which has been growing in a westward expansion for the last 20 years.
"Twenty years ago, there was a big conversation in the community about where we wanted Mesa State College to grow," said Derek Wagner, vice president of intergovernmental and community affairs for CMU. "City council and county commissioners all suggested growth to the west, with boundaries on Seventh, 12th, Orchard and North."
The new building will be 68,000 square feet and will also be home to the John McConnell Math & Science Center, which has partnered with students from CMU for years in its mission to get younger children excited about science and math.
"This is a great accomplishment for the city and the county," Wagner said.
Downtown, there are also several new developments in the works. Matt Telinde is working with the city of Grand Junction to transform the building at 104 White Ave., which used to be a Value Inn motel, into an assisted living facility. The proposed facility would have 45 kitchenette suites, as well as a large common area, a nursing station, laundry facilities and outdoor spaces on the roof. Tellinde hopes that the time is right for an urban assisted living facility, where residents could possibly walk downtown to restaurants or to the grocery store next to the facility.
Senergy Builders, along with Colorado Land Advisor, is working on a mixed-use plan for a vacant lot downtown at Fourth and Rood, next to the parking garage called The Confluence.
"It's going to be a 25,000-square foot mixed use space," said Darin Carei with Senergy Builders. At this point, the project is in very preliminary stages. "We're hiring an architect this week."
The Confluence would include retail and restaurant space on the ground floor, and residential space on the upper floors, with some studio, some one-bedroom and a few two-bedroom units.
Carei and his partner at Colorado Land Advistor, Jeffrey Fleming, plan on targeting baby boomers who are tired of mowing and home maintenance, as well as millennials who are not interested in a piece of suburban pie.
"Never before in the history of America have we had a generation that wanted to live downtown like the millenials," Fleming said. "They want more art, more fun, more social opportunity."
Fleming believes that new downtown living spaces could be key to helping the Grand Valley attract and retain a young workforce. Fleming and Carei are also working to attract retail and restaurant tenants who are elsewhere in Colorado, but who don't have a presence in Mesa County.
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is excited about The Confluence, and is hoping that other developers will see a vision for other downtown locations owned by the DDA.
"We put out a request for proposal for both R-5 and White Hall," said Kathy Portner, acting director of the DDA. R-5 includes not just the old school building at Seventh and Grand Avenue, but the entire block, which currently has a gravel parking lot and lawn, while White Hall refers to the vacant lot on White at Sixth Avenue.
"In the RFP, we've left it wide open," Portner said. "We're interested in getting more housing downtown. If someone proposed some mixed use that included housing, that would be great."
The RFPs are due back by mid-September, and the DDA hopes for some great proposals to it can move forward to put both properties back in use.