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Projects proceed, but future uncertain

In the midst of dire predictions for large-scale commercial construction projects, the Grand Valley has been home to several landmark efforts. Some were recently completed. Others are scheduled for completion within the next 12 months.

Beyond that, though, few are willing to predict how much activity will occur.

“We are a long way from much new construction except for large companies that have special needs,” said Dale Beede, managing broker at Coldwell Banker Commercial Prime Properties in Grand Junction.

Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich recently predicted a rocky year for sales tax collections because of an anticipated drop in construction activity and the purchase of construction materials. “We have little or no projects for the third and fourth quarters of this year and none for 2012,” Kadrich during a public seminar on city finances in early June.

Filings for building permits suggest no large commercial or residential projects will be under way before 2013.

The construction of an American Furniture Warehouse near Gold’s Gym along U.S. Highway 6 & 50 is the only major private commercial project under way in Grand Junction. Workers on that project will look for new employment by the end of the year, when the warehouse is scheduled for completion.

Kadrich cited a measurement of manufacturing as another reason for pessimism. The Institute of Supply Managers Purchasing Managers Index continues to decline, reflecting slowing in the manufacturing sector. For July, the PMI fell more than four points to 50.9. At that level, the index still forecasts growth, but at a slowing pace. Still, the ISM reported that 10 of 18 manufacturing industries experienced growth in July.

While the city itself doesn’t plan any major projects for next year, construction proceeds on a three high-profile projects scheduled for completion over the next year.

The 29 Road viaduct over U.S. Highway 6 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks is set to open before the end of the year. The approximately $30 million cost of the overpass and approach ramps is shared with Mesa County government.

A police station and public safety complex at Fifth Street and Ute Avenue, a project priced at $35 million, is due to open next summer.

And renovation of the Suplizio Field grandstand and press box is under way, with the completion scheduled before the Junior College Baseball World Series in late May. The cost of that project is estimated at $8.3 million.

The city opened the Riverside Parkway in 2008, another leg in a planned traffic loop that includes the parkway on the south, 29 Road on the east, Interstate Highway 70 on the north and 24 Road on the west. Local and state officials hope to construct a 29 Road interchange at I-70 by the end of the decade.

In light of recent budget tightening, pay cuts and layoffs, Kadrich doesn’t have any concrete plans for new construction within the city.

The same holds for Mesa County, although public workshops have been staged to discuss construction of more riverfront trails between Grand Junction and Fruita. Officials are first searching for ways to fund the repair of riverfront trails destroyed by flooding this year.

Colorado Mesa University, formerly Mesa State College, has been the king of local construction over the past five years. A refurbished Houston Hall on North Avenue and new dormitory on Bunting Avenue are the latest additions to a list that includes $182 million worth of work. Other projects completed since 2006 include a new university center and cafeteria, the Maverick Center sports and classroom complex, the Academic Classroom Building at the corner of Elm Avenue and Houston Street, expansion of the Moss Performing Arts Center, expansion of the Wubben Hall and Science Building on College Place and the addition of several new dorms.

Much of the construction has been provided by two local companies — Shaw Construction and FCI Constructors.

CMU recently completed an agreement to acquire land owned by Community Hospital at the northwest corner of 12th Street and Orchard Avenue. CMU plans to construct an apartment-style dormitory on the property within the next year. The long-term plan is for the university to take over the entire hospital property by 2016.

The university also plans to expand the main campus west to Seventh Street over the next couple of decades.

Community Hospital plans to construct a new hospital and health care complex on property it owns at G and

23 1/2 roads near Canyon View Park.

Some local construction could be driven by the national economy and local demand. Recent national reports indicate consumers are spending more freely this summer, which could develop into more demand for retail outlets. Dick’s Sporting Goods has permission to construct an outlet in the Rim Rock Center, but the company has yet to break ground.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of commercial space already constructed and available for people interested in opening a business or investing in commercial space. Economic conditions could dictate how quickly those fill and how much new construction might occur over the next few years.

About
Mike Moran has worked as a news and sports reporter, and news manager for the past 30 years, in markets that include Rochester, New York; Colorado Springs; Panama City, Florida and Monroe, Louisiana. He also teaches Speechmaking at Mesa State College and assists his wife, Toni Heiden, in managing her real estate company in downtown Grand Junction. Mike is active in Kiwanis Club of Grand Junction, the Mesa State MBA Alumni Committee, Habitat for Humanity, the United Way and the Botanical Gardens of Western Colorado.
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