North Avenue, previously a burgeoning hub for Grand Junction business, faces an increasing trend toward vacancy and disrepair. Yet, a community-minded group of business owners hopes to counteract current conditions through teamwork.
Poppy Woody, co-owner of North Avenue's Grand Mesa Medical Supply store, is one among a growing number of people who believe improvements are imperative to the area's economic health. Business and property owners would like to see this area revitalized, she said.
According to Woody, up to 40 people recently met to discuss frustrations with North Avenue's downward push. They also met to brainstorm options for future improvements to the area, including potential partnerships.
"We will be discussing options going forward," Woody said. "We will be getting together to make North Avenue an improved area. People here will be doing their own improvements, but you have to work together. Anything that we can accomplish must be met with city support."
Woody said she doesn't mind being a "squeaky wheel to help improvements be prioritized." She suggests small improvements along with big ones.
"Picking up trash even," she said. "There's a lot of things that we can do as individuals."
Concerned business owners aren't the only ones organizing efforts for future improvements on North Avenue. The City of Grand Junction has been developing its own plans since 2007.
Why? The city wants to see a once thriving area "be brought back to its best self," City of Grand Junction principal planner Dave Thornton said.
Historically, North Avenue was a high-production business corridor, Thornton said. It sold a large portion of goods and services to the Grand Junction community.
"In the 1970s, North Avenue was the place to be," he said. "Now everyone wants to be by the mall."
While traffic hasn't waned on North Avenue, Thornton noted it's simply not stopping. Long-term improvements are needed to remedy that, he said. One vision for North Avenue includes improved sidewalks, bike lanes, as well as upgrades to the street and landscaping.
In 2007, the city hired a consultant to create a North Avenue corridor master plan from 12th Street east to the I-70 business loop, Thornton said. It was adopted in 2007, but its forward trajectory stalled as the city completed its comprehensive plan for the entire urban area (which was adopted in 2010).
In 2011, the city again looked at North Avenue, this time at the west corridor to the business loop. By the end of 2011, a plan was in place for the four-mile area.
Now, city officials are implementing another push - a North Avenue Corridor Overlay Zone District. Such a district would provide guidance and standards for everyone involved in revitalization projects, Thornton said. City council also formed its own North Avenue Advisory Committee, a group of people representing the area to help with the overlay process.
"The goal there is to decide what North Avenue should look like in the future as it continues to develop," said Kevin Bray, an advisory committee member and owner of Bray and Company Real Estate. "It's a chance for business owners to get involved."
Bray also said North Avenue owners are exploring the option of creating an owners' association. The purpose of such a group would be "to look at North Avenue to clean it up, and to make smart investments to bring it up to speed."
"It's a CDOT-owned corridor, originally planned as a highway corridor, and it's changed," Bray added.
Thornton said he hopes to have the overlay project done by September and adopted by the city this fall.
While city officials and North Avenue owners both have high hopes for future upgrades, how to fund it will be the big question moving forward.
Thornton said he believes a public/private partnership between the city and owners will get the job done.
One small project is already in place - city council recently approved a $25,000 grant to redo handicapped-accessible ramps at some of North Avenue's intersections.
"It won't fix them all," Thornton said, "but it's a start."
Community input will also be a huge part of the improvement process going forward. With more than 500 business and property owners on North Avenue, lots of interests will need representation.
"We would hope that whatever we do will stop migration and help fill up vacant spaces," Thornton said.
Woody said another community-driven meeting will be held in early June as a planning session for improvement priorities.