Partnership brings Colorado Mesa University Students to Grand Junction’s downtown |

Partnership brings Colorado Mesa University Students to Grand Junction’s downtown

The Downtown office has moved to 437 Colorado Ave., from its former location in the Whitman Educational Center. From left: Aaron Hoffman, marketing & communications manager for Business Improvement District; Harry Weiss, executive director of Downtown Development Authority; and Diane Keliher, senior administrative assistant for the Downtown office.
Caitlin Row / | Free Press


Downtown Development Authority and the Business Improvement District supports revitalization and growth in Grand Junction’s downtown area through development, funding, marketing, events and more.

Downtown Development Authority has multiple funding mechanisms, its own board and budget, and a close connection to the Grand Junction City Council. It funds capital projects through “TIF” (tax increment financing), and it works to create a strong vision for downtown Grand Junction’s future, complete with multi-use development to create a healthy business district.

Downtown Development Authority is complimented by a Business Improvement District (BID), another legislative mechanism to serve downtown businesses. Downtown property owners within the downtown district agree to pay into a fund that BID manages to do marketing, advertising promotion and special events for the area. It was created for Grand Junction in 2006 to operate for 10 years.

When Colorado Mesa University fine-art majors hosted TETRAD — a pop-up exhibit in an empty storefront on Colorado Avenue last spring — it set the stage for an influx of artists to Grand Junction’s downtown area.

In a recent partnership between Downtown Development Authority and CMU’s art department, a permanent exhibit space (along with working studios and classrooms) is set to open on Friday, Oct. 3, during Grand Junction’s First Friday art walk. Located at 437 Colorado Ave., the new art gallery — which hasn’t revealed its name yet — will be managed by students and house a rotating series of exhibits connected to the school. Accredited art instruction will also be conducted on site.

“This is an effort to get classes downtown and integrate college students into the downtown scene,” said Suzie Garner, head of CMU’s art department. “We really think we’ll reach a broader audience, which means more exposure for artists and faculty.”

The permanent art space has been in the works since last spring, Garner confirmed, due to overwhelmingly positive response by the public to TETRAD, which was hosted from April 4 through May 11 at 503 Colorado Ave.

“It was very well received,” said Downtown Development Authority executive director Harry Weiss, who was involved in facilitating the event. “The students loved the quality of the space and the opportunity to show their work downtown. They sold a lot of work, too.”

With that experience in hand, CMU’s art department planned an even bigger move over the summer — to relocate its permanent, on-campus gallery at University Center to a downtown location with more visibility.

Weiss, who long hoped to facilitate CMU’s migration downtown, offered to split the 5,000-square-foot unit and move the Downtown Partnership office (housing Downtown Development Authority and the Business Improvement District) from the Whitman Educational Center near Whitman Park (248 S. Fourth St.). About $40,000 was budgeted by the Downtown Development Authority for the move, which created a single entrance off the sidewalk with the Downtown office to the left and the art gallery to the right.

“We contributed office-operation funds to improve the space,” Weiss explained, including shared areas of the unit.

“It worked out really well.”

Though Downtown’s office has already moved, CMU’s gallery is still working towards completion. Both Weiss and Garner hope to coordinate a joint open house on the evening of Friday, Oct. 3. More information regarding the event will be released next week.

For more information, call the Downtown office at 970-245-9697 or visit

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