Fruita gets funding: Grants awarded for beautification
Free Press Correspondent
Downtown Fruita businesses are preparing for the construction that will begin in July to expand and beautify the area for residents and tourists, thanks to two grants the city received from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). The city has a long relationship with DOLA, receiving over $7 million in funds for drainage improvements, the Fruita Community Center, building roads and many other ventures over the years.
The first grant in the amount of $225,000, along with a 50-percent match from the city, will go toward the Downtown Master Plan, adopted in December 2013. This will develop new seating areas and more “bulbouts” (a particular shape to street corners that look more like a bulb than a corner). It gives more space. at street corners for increased space, improved crosswalks and additional landscaping from Civic Center to Circle Park. City employees will aim to make it a smooth process for local businesses so that operations are minimally impacted. The project is currently out to bid and scheduled to begin after the Fourth of July holiday to avoid conflicts for other special events.
According to Ken Haley, Fruita’s public works director, “The improvements should increase the opportunities for businesses; and in turn, we look forward to attracting more people to downtown.”
The community has also been an integral part of the process, with people attending city council meetings to share ideas, and business owners [along Aspen Avenue] were able to contribute to the final design.
“This process has been valuable in determining how different businesses might use the space and how the project will impact them. The city will continue to meet with individual owners prior to, and throughout, the construction phase,” Haley added.
Mike Bennett, Fruita’s city manager, said he is looking forward to seeing how improvements will contribute to the economic development of the community, especially since Phase One should be complete in time for Fruita Fall Fest. New to the area, Bennett is having a great time exploring his new home, including the food.
“We have high-quality eateries with a great vibe, live music venues multiple times at various locations each week,” he said. “It’s so much fun to stay local and hang out with familiar faces. Good food and great company in a real community is special and unique to Fruita.”
Bennett’s vision of Fruita for the future includes attracting new businesses that compliment the small-town atmosphere and promote the recreational aspect of the area without overly commercializing. Tourism is vital to the economy, and the city is looking for new ways to attract visitors. Ride the Rockies cyclists will travel through downtown Fruita in June, instead of using the frontage road, as it did in the past. Businesses plan to welcome riders with food and entertainment throughout the day.
The second grant of $20,000 (plus a 50-percent match from the city) is intended for the Gateway Enhancement project. It will beautify the I-70 entrance/exit ramps, plus roundabout areas. This will include landscaping, signage and safety improvements to the pedestrian bridge. The plan is only in the beginning stages, and the city is looking to the community for design input.
“We have creative residents with lots of ideas on how to do this, so we don’t see the need to pay an outside designer to come up with it,” Bennett said. “But we need to pay for construction and design documents drafted around the residents’ ideas in order to go after future grants to pay for the construction.”
An informational booth will be set up at one of the summer’s Thursday night concerts to ask questions and inform the public about where the city is in the process.
For more information on Fruita’s master plan, visit http://www.fruita.org.
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