Grant expected to jump-start North Avenue improvements

Bill Pitts
Bill Pitts

Construction is expected to soon begin on improvements along a stretch of North Avenue in Grand Junction, funded in part by a federal grant.

The renovation work comes as a group of business and property owners develops plans to revitalize what was once one of the most vibrant commercial districts in the city.

“We feel very fortunate to have been awarded this grant,” said Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts. “This is a project the community and city council have been talking about, but we were not certain how we could fund.”

“We are hopeful that the completion of this first phase will spur private investment and be a jump-start for the North Avenue business group that is forming and that the improvements can go well beyond this section in the future,” Pitts added.

The City of Grand Junction received a nearly $1.2 million grant from the Federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation program for the project. The program offers funding to carry out projects that integrate transportation, community and preservation plans. An estimated $29 million in funding was available nationwide through the program.

The improvements are planned for a section of North Avenue between 12th and 23rd streets. The project will include improvements to curbs, gutters, sidewalks and medians. Bus turnouts also will be added.

The city will provide a local match with engineering and design services for North Avenue from First Street east to 29 Road, anticipating that additional improvements will be completed in the future.

The North Avenue project is expected to take about 18 months. City staff plan to work with businesses and property owners during the design phase.

At the same time, a group of business and property owners along North Avenue has been organized to renew efforts to revitalize the area.

The group has set a number of goals, among them fixing medians and implementing and enforcing more consistent regulations for signs and landscaping. The ultimate goal is to develop a distinctive district that attracts businesses and their customers. There’s interest in establishing a business improvement district in which property owners would pay taxes for funding improvements.

While North Avenue isn’t as prominent a business district as it once was, tax revenue from retail sales there still accounted for 11 percent of overall collections for the city in 2011. A number of large employers remain located along North Avenue, among them Colorado Mesa University and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Meanwhile, the city proceeds on work to develop what are called overlays to implement two long-range plans for the North Avenue corridor. City planners are working with a committee of about 20 people on the overlays.

The overlays follow the adoption of two corridor plans for North Avenue — the first for the three-mile stretch from 12th Street east to the Interstate Highway 70 Business Loop, the second for a one-mile section from 12th Street West to U.S. Highway 6 & 50.

The plans call for mixed uses along North Avenue, including retail stores, but also office space and housing. The plan would create districts along various portions of North Avenue to accommodate different uses.