North Avenue once served as one of the busiest thoroughfares in Grand Junction and one of the busiest business districts in the city. So it’s disconcerting to those with long-term perspectives to see some of the changes that have occurred over the years: the businesses that have closed or relocated and the rundown and outdated appearance of some areas. There’s concern, too, a growing number of motorists use North Avenue more as a route to get to other places than a destination for shopping or dining.
Fortunately, business and property owners along North Avenue have begun meeting to discuss ways to renew efforts to revitalize the area. At the same time, the City of Grand Junction continues to work on implementing long-term plans formulated for developing and redeveloping the corridor.
Any and all efforts to give North Avenue a needed facelift should be encouraged, although the scale of such a project means many years of work will be involved. Remember that North Avenue stretches more than four miles from east to west.
What’s important to keep in mind through what likely will be a long process is this. The North Avenue business district might be older than the Mesa Mall and far older than the new development along 24 Road, but North Avenue continues to play a significant in the Grand Valley economy.
While some prominent businesses recently have left North Avenue, hundreds of businesses remain and even thrive there. Tax revenue from retail sales there accounted for 11 percent of overall city collections in 2011.
Some large employers operate along North Avenue, too, including Colorado Mesa University and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. And there are attractions that still draw residents and visitors to North Avenue, in particular the newly renovated Suplizio Field that serves as the home of the Junior College Baseball World Series as well as a new minor league baseball team.
Given the length of North Avenue, long-term city plans for the corridor call for a continuation of the mixed uses already found along the corridor: retail stores, to be sure, but also office space and even housing. Districts along various portions of North Avenue could accommodate different uses — a student housing and entertainment district near CMU, for instance, or perhaps a senior housing district with neighborhood stores.
Several tantalizing examples offer a preview of what city planners say a revitalized North Avenue might look like, including the building CMU erected that features stores on the ground level and student housing above and the new Fiesta Guadalajara restaurant at the intersection of North Avenue and Seventh Street.
It’s encouraging that business owners and city planners expect to work together on developing and implementing revitalization efforts along North Avenue. Business owners have an obviously important stake in the outcome and should play a significant role. Even as city plans offer guidelines for what the corridor should look like, businesses developing and redeveloping properties ultimately will turn that vision into reality.
There’s a growing sense in Grand Junction of renewal, of revitalizing the downtown, Horizon Drive and now, North Avenue. A change of direction for North is needed and welcome.