The future of downtown Grand Junction housing
April 28, 2014
When Free Press readers were asked to describe preferred types of downtown housing, they had some interesting answers.
Marilyn Anderson Wilcox: A loft!
Megan Henry: Tiny homes (500 sq. ft. or less) that are solar powered and have a community garden!
Jelley Cliffo: I would live in the condo that is on the north side of Main on the 500 block. Or better yet, the ones that are at the northwest corner of, I think, Main and Forth.
Bill Kiger: A nice craftsman style home would tempt me.
Rachel Budman-Burke: A reasonably priced loft with charm and a free parking space.
When local Realtor Doug VanEtten received a string of unrelated calls earlier this year — all folks hoping to purchase lock-and-walk housing in downtown Grand Junction — there weren't many options available.
"We have so many people in the valley who are baby boomers, and they're retiring at a rapid rate," he said, noting that this demographic is seeking smaller-scale housing within strolling distance of nice restaurants and downtown shopping.
One the other end of the spectrum, VanEtten noticed the younger-aged demographic seeking an urban-style lifestyle similar to that found in downtown Denver or Salt Lake City.
That's why he reached out to Downtown Development Authority's executive director Harry Weiss, and ended up on a steering committee for downtown housing development.
According to Weiss, he's also long thought Grand Junction's core could benefit from multi-family, mixed-use housing. And to determine whether a market exists for that type of downtown development, the DDA joined forces with The Sonoran Institute out of Glenwood Springs, Colo.
"We wanted to survey people already living in Grand Junction," Weiss explained, to gain an understanding of the current market and then come up with a plan for the future.
Findings from a Downtown Grand Junction Housing Market Analysis, published in March, point to a need and desire for more types of downtown residences, he noted. Thirty-eight percent of 1,100 valley residents already living and working in the area said they'd move downtown given the opportunity. And of those interested in living downtown, many said they'd favor loft-style housing and higher-density housing rather than single-family homes and even four-plexes.
"Grand Junction has always focused on more traditional housing," DDA board chair and local commercial Realtor Jodi Niernberg said, "but an influx of young people to the community because of Colorado Mesa University and St. Mary's Hospital has created more of a need for an urban-living environment. The trend across the board is change."
Niernberg added that due to a lack of housing options within Grand Junction's original square mile, people are forced out of where they want to be — which is right near Main Street and its surrounding area, herself included.
When she moved back to her hometown of Grand Junction within the past decade, she hoped to purchase a downtown loft or townhome with her husband, Josh — owner/chef of Bin 707 Foodbar. They instead opted for a single-family home — still downtown, but not in the thick of things — before moving further away from the area a year ago.
"I would still love to live downtown if we had the right space," Nierberg said, adding that being a broker she often hears the same sentiment from others. "Bin 707 employees constantly ask me to help them find space downtown."
As part of the study, Weiss worked with Denver-based Van Meter Williams and Pollack, LLC (http://www.vmwp.com), a full-service architecture and urban-design firm, to identify potential (and hypothetical) areas for downtown redevelopment.
"White Hall is the most active piece in my portfolio," Weiss said, as it's land the DDA has access to already. "VMWP's scheme combines new construction with adaptive rehabilitation of the education wing, producing 43 residential units in a variety of housing types including 1-bedrooms and studios, and 1.75 parking spaces per unit."
From there, Weiss hopes to craft a strategy where the DDA "can tip the scales" regarding downtown housing development in the near future.
"We want to leverage private investment, and work with the private sector to get a project done."
Want to weigh in on the future of downtown housing development? Contact Weiss at email@example.com.