Lengthy list of projects under way

Commercial construction in the Grand Valley is keeping some companies and workers busy this summer. While leaders in the industry caution the pipeline is far from full for 2011 and beyond, they’re gladly taking the work they can find in the meantime.

The projects range in size and in type — from such private commercial projects as the new City Market grocery store on 24 Road to the publicly funded construction of a 29 Road viaduct over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the mix of private and public funds that finance construction on the Mesa State College campus.

Construction on the new City Market store is well underway on the east side of 24 Road just west of Kohl’s department store. The City Market store constitutes the latest addition to a complex that includes a commercial strip mall anchored by Kohl’s and the Regal Canyon View Theater. The grocery store is scheduled to open by early summer of next year.

The 24 Road corridor is also set to be home for a Candlewood Suites hotel north of the new City Market. Another hotel and a restaurant also are planned, although details haven’t been announced.

Other private ventures include construction of a new hotel in downtown Grand Junction and an American Furniture Warehouse along U.S. Highway 6 & 50.

While the hotel business is going through a downturn nationally and in the Grand Valley this year, business at the Hampton Inn and Main Street Suites in downtown Grand Junction has been a different story.

Kevin Reimer, co-owner of the hotels, attributes the difference partly to location. “Downtown itself is such an amenity.”

Work is now underway on a third hotel, a Spring Hill Suites by Marriott, at the northwest corner of Third and Main streets. Reimer and his brother and co-owner, Steve Reimer, are feeling the effects of a hefty supply of commercial space. They originally envisioned a first floor filled with retail stores, but now hope to land just one retailer. The size of the hotel has been scaled back from six stories to five. Completion is scheduled for next spring.

Northwest of downtown, American Furniture Warehouse plans to open a 150,000-square foot facility between Gold’s Gym and the Rimrock Trade Center. The company hopes to open in the spring of next year and says it wants to use local construction workers where possible.

“We believe in supporting the community,” said Kevin Michalek, general manager of American Furniture, which currently operates 12 locations in Colorado. “We’re trying to use, where we can, as many local people as we can.”

Also near the Rimrock center, a Batteries Plus store is under construction across the street from Einstein Bagels. The bagel shop itself opened this year in the large shopping center that also includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The managers of the Hobby Lobby franchise on North Avenue are discussing plans to build a new facility near the Sonic restaurant in the Rimrock center. The Grand Junction Public Works Department says the city is reviewing plans for a 50,000-square foot facility for the hobby outlet. If approved, it would become the new location for Hobby Lobby, leaving the present space vacant in the Teller Arms Plaza.

Another private venture is located at the Corner Square development at the southwest corner of First Street and Patterson Road. Developer Bruce Milyard has seen businesses fill some of the vacant space, including an Egg and I restaurant, Enstrom Candies outlet and McAlister’s Deli. There’s still more space to fill and Milyard is pushing ahead with a 48-unit apartment complex on the property. The upscale units are scheduled to open next summer, potentially providing more customers for the nearby businesses.

In the public sector, Mesa County and the City of Grand Junction are funding construction of the 29 Road viaduct over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. They’re splitting the estimated $30 million cost of building the viaduct and the associated ramps and interchanges with the Interstate Highway 70 business loop. Completion is scheduled for late 2011.

Crews are also replacing sewer and water lines along North Avenue, with some of the funding coming from low-interest bonds and vehicle registration fees. The city and state also plan to widen U.S. Highway 6 & 50 from the Rimrock Center to Mesa Mall, with completion scheduled for late November.

Federal stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enacted by Congress last year have helped the City of Fruita reconstruct an interchange and install a traffic light north of the Interstate 70 interchange. The stimulus program also helped finance reconstruction work at an I-70 interchange at Palisade.

At Mesa State College, public and private funding totaling $150 million has financed construction of a lengthy list of projects since the beginning of 2006. Those projects include an expanded athletic facility and nursing classrooms in the remodeled Maverick Center, a parking garage at Elm Avenue and 12th Street, new dormitories and retail space on the north side of North Avenue, a three-story Academic Classroom Building that houses business offices and classrooms and expansion of the Moss Performing Arts Center.

Still more construction is on the way. A new student center that includes a second-floor ballroom is scheduled for completion by December. Reconstruction work on Wubben Hall and an expanded Science Center is scheduled for completion by the fall semester, which starts Aug. 23. Refurbishing of Houston Hall, the original building on the Mesa State campus, and construction of more dormitory buildings on Bunting Avenue are underway and scheduled to be finished by the beginning of the fall semester in 2011.

Despite the commercial activity, much office and retail space is available in strip malls, from 25 Road near the Grand Mesa Center to a commercial area east of City Market on Orchard Mesa to the Peach Tree Shopping Center in Clifton.

And some projects, such as an office complex northwest of the Marriott Hotels on Horizon Drive, have been scrapped during the downturn. That’s also the case with commercial property at the northeast corner of Main and Seventh Streets in downtown Grand Junction.

Owner Doug Simons, who co-owns Enstrom Candies, has abandoned plans for a high rise that he hoped would include retail, office and upscale condos. Now, he hopes to sell the lot.

Despite such derailed plans, the projects that are underway present hope for developers, real estate agents and financiers as they look toward 2011 and beyond.

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