Who We Are: Levi Lucero pushes for North Avenue name change in Grand Junction
MORE ON LEVI LUCERO
As longtime locals, the Luceros raised four children in Grand Junction, two of which still live here — Gary Lucero (Grand Junction’s “youngest and first Hispanic mayor,” Levi Lucero said), Dennis Lucero, and daughters Karen Egan of Colorado Springs and Regina Montesano of Woodland Park, Colo.
“I’m proud of all my children,” Lucero noted, who now has nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. “We all meet here (at Lucero’s home). This is a real get-together place, like a railroad station.”
In his free time, Lucero also paints and plays the saxophone.
“Behind every successful man is a good woman,” Lucero added.
Editor’s note: Who We Are is a regular series featuring men and women who embody the unique spirit of the Grand Valley. To nominate someone to be featured, e-mail email@example.com.
Longtime Grand Junction resident Levi Lucero is many things to many people — he’s a man of action, an artist, a public servant and entrepreneur, a family man, and an active church member. And when he gets an idea, he likes to see it through to completion.
Most recently 82-year-old Lucero, along with his wife Bernice, have strongly advocated for a new name for North Avenue to promote pride in Colorado Mesa University. He hopes to change the name of the busy road to University Boulevard.
According to Lucero, he’s spent considerable time surveying North Avenue businesses on their opinions regarding his proposed name change.
He also was a part of the city’s North Avenue Advisory Committee, which Dave Thornton, a city planning and development supervisor, said formed to create a zoning overlay district for the North Avenue corridor.
Business response throughout the area has been largely receptive and supportive, Lucero confirmed.
“North Avenue is prime,” he said. “To me it’s a plus, plus, plus every way you look at it.”
Lucero is expected to come before Grand Junction City Council sometime this spring to present on the proposed name change.
“He’s put in many, many personal hours, trying to see if there’s enough public interest,” Thornton noted. “I applaud him for his effort.
“I know he’s been very passionate about it and he has a decent argument for it. It’s part of a branding idea.”
Indeed, Lucero sees much potential for the lagging North Avenue corridor, currently home to Colorado Mesa University’s burgeoning campus. Before retirement, he worked as both a real estate investor and public servant, including long-standing involvement with the Grand Junction Housing Authority and the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce.
“I love this place, I love the people, and I want to make this a better world,” Lucero said.
The desire for a name change on North Avenue is also shared by Tim Foster, Colorado Mesa University’s president for the last 10 years.
“Levi is one of those amazing stories,” Foster said. “He is a self-made man who has accomplished so many things it is hard to count. Perhaps his most enduring legacy is his two sons, Gary and Dennis. The University Avenue project is similar to many things he does; (it moves) our community forward but does not personally benefit Levi at all.
“The current name of North Avenue is a remnant of long ago and makes no sense,” Foster added. “The street is literally in the middle of Grand Junction and runs east/west.”
A SELF-MADE MAN
Lucero grew up in Las Animas, Colo., and he moved to Grand Junction in 1959 after a tour with the U.S. Navy.
“I married in 1954, and came to Grand Junction on a honeymoon,” Lucero said. “I fell in love with this place.”
Upon arriving to the valley, Lucero worked as a printer for The Daily Sentinel — and he was quick to take advantage of a work-based scholarship program where the newspaper paid tuition and costs for any staff member to attend a class at what was formerly called Mesa Junior College.
“The way to get ahead in the world is education,” Lucero said. “I began taking courses … and The Sentinel would pay for it. I took them in real estate law, Toastmasters, anything that was educational.”
According to The Daily Sentinel’s former publisher and owner Ken Johnson, he got to know Lucero quite well in the 1960s, during the paper’s “hot metal” days.
“Levi was a career printer, working in the composing room,” Johnson noted. “His main job was to assemble the pages of type, headlines and photos, all in lead and held together as a page by a stout metal frame.”
When Lucero left The Daily Sentinel after 11 years, he went on to find success in Grand Junction real estate and continued to support higher education in the valley.
“I’ve been involved in the junior college and the university for 55 years,” Lucero said, adding that when the school converted from a two-year to a four-year college, he gave the closing remarks at a joint meeting with the Board of Trustees on whether the school should become a university.
Lucero also opened a popular restaurant, “Escondido,” in 1977 and was an active member in North Avenue’s business association. It operated until 1989 at 509 28 1/2 Road in Grand Junction.
“Levi, of course, made a huge mark for himself and for the Latino community by building apartments, condos and houses, many of which were sold to Hispanic families,” Johnson said. “He was active in any event and every promotion the North Avenue merchants tried, and through the years he became one of the ‘go to’ guys for good things (in) Grand Junction.
“He is still pushing ideas, including changing the name of North Avenue to University Boulevard. Knowing Levi and his persistence, he’s likely to get it done.”
Bernice Lucero agrees with that sentiment: “He just works and works until it goes.”
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