What’s next for Rifle’s Henry Building?
Commercial space in the heart of downtown is considered prime real estate in many cities and towns.
In the case of the 108-year-old Henry Building in Rifle’s central business district, Garfield County hopes to gain a sense of just how prime the space is. Commissioners, during a joint meeting with Rifle City Council in late September, expressed a desire to sell the building that the county purchased for $437,000 in 2000, according to records with the Garfield County Assessor’s Office.
The Henry Building, which at one point housed a J.C. Penney department store, most recently served as office space for Garfield County Clerk and Recorder employees and other county staffers who have since moved into the new three-story county administration building near the Garfield County Fairgrounds.
The move has left the Henry Building, located at 144 E. Third St., largely vacant, with the exception of GarCo Sewing Works, a program intended to help people on public assistance develop job skills needed for gainful employment. The program is a partnership between Colorado Mountain College and the county.
For some time the county has been weighing what to do with the building, which was built in 1908, according to assessor records. During those talks, other entities have expressed various degrees of interest in the space.
For CMC, the building could carry a couple of different positive possibilities, said Richard Maestas, CMC’s western regional vice president and acting dean of the Rifle campus.
First and foremost would be the potential for downtown classroom space. The college opened the CMC Downtown Rifle Academic Center in the 200 block of West Avenue in the fall of 2015 to a great response. The downtown center has directly led to a growing number of people seeking their GED, while greatly benefiting members of the community who struggle to access CMC’s main Rifle campus located by the airport. The only hitch has been its size.
“It’s getting utilized but unfortunately it’s not big enough,” Maestas said.
CMC is in a multiyear lease for its current space in downtown Rifle and would have to reassesses the situation once the initial lease nears its expiration. Ultimately any decision would have to go before CMC’s board, Maestas added.
Another attractive possibility could involve a partnership. This summer, CMC met with representatives from the city and the Rifle Heritage Center to discuss the possibilities.
As previously reported by The Citizen Telegram, the heritage center has encountered issues in its current location, which is owned by the city.
A partnership among the three would make the effort “just ripe for grant funding” that could be used to rehab the Henry Building, Maestas said.
However, during a joint conversation between Rifle City Council and representatives from the heritage center over the summer, the Henry Building offered too few solutions to the problems plaguing the heritage center’s current space. The need for renovations in the Henry Building coupled with a likely reduction in space for displaying the large volume of items in the center’s collection made the Henry Building an unlikely new home for the center.
Additionally, the city expressed little to no appetite for taking on any responsibility for another aging building in need of upgrades.
That point was reiterated during the joint meeting with the commissioners in late September.
“I want to sell it,” said Commissioner Mike Samson. “I want to sell it because I think we can get a decent price for it.”
Samson’s remark at the joint meeting drew a positive response from some city officials who would like to see a sales-tax generating businesses occupy the space.
Samson reiterated his remarks earlier this week, stating that there is a general consensus among the commissioners regarding the Henry Building.
“I think that’s a unanimous feeling … that we would just as soon not be the caretakers of the Henry Building anymore,” he said, adding county staff is in the process of putting together building specifications so that the county can advertise the space and get a sense of the interest in the space.
“You never know how people are going to react to that,” he said. “Somebody could be out there saying ‘I’ve been looking for a prime commercial piece of property in downtown Rifle’ and snatch it up.”