Downtown Grand Junction is in the middle of a big project- one that defines and outlines the future goals of the Downtown area. Currently, Downtown is operating under a 38-year-old Plan of Development. As one could imagine, many shifts have occurred in Downtown and the community since 1981, leaving the guiding document outdated.
Through a partnership with a non-profit out of Glenwood Springs, Community Builders has been working with Downtown GJ to write a new and fresh Plan of Development. Last week, Community Builders and Downtown Grand Junction did a livestream Q&A. Questions came from Facebook and Instagram users per Downtown’s request.
Taylor Kidd of Community Builders sat down with Brandon Stam (Director) and Caitlyn Love (Marketing and Communications) from Downtown GJ to answer the community’s questions regarding the Plan of Development.
What is a plan of development?
Brandon– “Good question. It’s like a business plan or roadmap for Downtown. We’re currently operating under the 1981 plan. So yeah, it’s time.”
Taylor– “It’s like an outline for the types of goals that you have, not just as the Downtown Development Authority but the community as a whole. It’s where that funding should be directed to- the vision you have for Downtown, and not just over the next few days, but months and years into the future.”
Brandon– “Yeah, it’s really a community visioning effort. That’s why we wanted to work with Community Builders because we wanted to have that community visioning effort. It’s not just our plan, it’s the community’s.”
Caitlyn– “I think that’s great to mention, too. It would be so easy for us to get a committee together and just write a plan that we envision, but that’s not the goal of this. We want to include stakeholders, business owners, community members, and partners to really come up with something that works for all of us.”
Why is the plan of development important?
B– “ I think it’s just important to outline what are challenges are and what are goals are and some strategies to get there.”
Who is going to pay for this development?
Brandon– “I think ideally you form partnerships like public-private partnerships and with other public entities. I think it’s really just trying to pull resources where you can to make projects viable. Obviously, there’s some projects that are bigger than others. I think those might take a little longer to get off the ground, but then there’s other projects that can start right away.
Taylor– “Right, and I would say part of Community Builder’s job has been making sure these strategies are feasible and financially feasible. “
Brandon– “Yeah, I think everything here is realistic”
Is the rec center going to be reconsidered for Downtown?
Brandon– “ I hope they keep pursuing it. I know in other communities it took a multiple effort to get a rec center. It would be great if it was Downtown. I’m obviously biased, but hopefully they keep at it.”
Caitlyn– “ I think one important thing to distinguish is that we Downtown are all for a rec center, especially in the Downtown core, but it’s not our decision and it’s not something we have jurisdiction over as Downtown.”
Brandon– “Yeah, it’s more of a community wide initiative. Like I said, I hope it would end up Downtown, and hopefully they keep trying to push for it.”
What are the plans, if any, for the City Market building?
Brandon– “Unfortunately, when City Market closed, that was a big hit to us. It is currently a privately-owned building, so if we were to be involved, we would have to find a way to acquire it, lease it, or something like that. I think our goal would be to find a use for it that is fitting for Downtown and activate some things. So, for example, if there was a private entity that wanted to move there that we felt was a good fit, we could help try and make that happen. It is challenging because we don’t necessarily have control of the site.”
Caitlyn– “I remember when Brandon first tried to get in touch with the owners, he was writing hand-written letters saying, ‘Hey what are you doing with the building?’ and the letters kept coming back as return to sender. There was so much of an effort to try and figure out who even managed the building. So, we’re on top of it, but it’s not our building.”
How will this plan of development change the authenticity of Downtown?
Brandon– “I feel like it’s actually taking the authenticity and building on it. Instead of just focusing on Main St., we’re pushing things out onto Colorado Ave. and further south. I think we’ve done a really good job of listening to the Downtown community, figuring out the things that are authentic, and building off that.
Caitlyn– “We go back to ‘What is the identity of Grand Junction?’ Yes, outdoor rec is a huge thing, but Downtown is so much more than that. We just became a Creative District through the state, and community members see it as an art center. We’re also the epicenter of entertainment, culture, and just that vibrancy. I can’t think of anything more authentic than to plow the way for those sorts of projects. Especially with that connection down to the river.
Taylor– “Yeah and with the development of Las Colonias and Dos Rios at the river, that would be really awesome to keep that energy going that way.”
One idea a community member presented was turning Main St. into a pedestrian mall (ped mall). Is that incorporated into the plan?
Caitlyn– “In the 60’s, ped malls became super popular, and there was a huge initiative for many Downtowns to turn into ped malls, and 80% of them across the country have failed. Colorado actually has two of the best examples in the entire country of successful ped malls- 16th Street Mall in Denver and Pearl St. in Boulder. And so, it’s really easy for people to look at those and say ‘Why isn’t Downtown GJ a ped mall?’ But in the 60’s, just to provide context, our leaders went the opposite direction of a ped mall and created a Downtown that hadn’t been done before.”
Taylor– “I would say too that, in terms of economic development, it’s really great to have cars driving by these businesses. Otherwise people might not know they’re there. When people drive by, they see those store fronts, the people, and they’re exposed to that culture. Having a street for cars down Main really brings in more business.”
Brandon– “I think they key is making sure cars aren’t the center piece, and that you have a shared pedestrian area. That’s really where the magic happens.”
Caitlyn– “And in the 60’s, they really did create that magic here because they made the sidewalks so much wider, and the street is actually pretty narrow.”
Taylor– “Everyone at Community Builders always says that Downtown Grand Junction’s Main St. is perfectly designed.”
Where’s the food truck court going to be?
Caitlyn– “That’s actually a really good question because we don’t know yet. We have a few different concepts and you can see some of the sketches we’ve done. One idea is to take a parking lot and turn it into a hybrid plaza. So, essentially it would be a parking lot when events weren’t going on, but during events you can transform that space and maybe have a food truck court. We don’t have any concrete plans for where that will be.”
Brandon– “Food trucks are also a creative way to add activation to an area. Our plan focuses a lot on adaptive reuse where it doesn’t require a ton of money. There’s lots of ideas like food trucks to help activate sites so I think we’re looking at ways to complement existing businesses.”
Taylor– “And there’s some ideas too of having some brick and mortar areas and a year-round space for farmers markets. Do you want to talk about that a little more?”
Caitlyn– “Yes. So, once again, we’re really trying to connect Downtown to the River. On that 7th street corridor, there’s a really great space on 7th and South. There’s an old flee market right there and there’s opportunity to get that going for a farmers market. This concept can be applied anywhere, but that location is just a great spot for it. And who knowns, later on it could expand to flower vendors or meat vendors.”
Will there be any job opportunities that come out of this?
Brandon– “An indirect way of creating jobs is creating more activity downtown. We’re not claiming that this plan will directly bring in jobs, but there is job creation through development and activity. We have a great example of this Downtown. Aaron Young, who owns the Cart group, is building a 4-story office building Downtown. Because of that, he can bring in 80 more employees.”
What’s the idea for the alleys and breezeways?
Caitlyn– “So this is a multi-part question because you have to address a few things here. The first thing is that people are already using the alleys and breezeways. They are walkable areas. The goal is to activate those spaces and make them more appealing while also utilizing that space a little more creatively. The second part of this is through the Creative District. Putting murals up, painting the dumpsters, and bringing more of that landscaping on Main St. to the alleys. I just see that as a huge opportunity for a different type of experience Downtown. In addition, a lot of the retail spaces Downtown are long and skinny. If we can cut those spaces in half and have one business face Main St. and the other the alley, that creates more shops and a better environment for everyone.”
Taylor– “I think another thing to note here is that the alleys are still going to function as normal alleys. There are no barricades, the dumpsters will still be there, and deliveries will still be made. The whole idea is just making that space more appealing and activated.”
Caitlyn– “Yeah, we’re not changing anything. We’re just making it better.”
Taylor– “I think that’s a good point because a lot of what this whole plan does is taking things that you already have and building on them to make it better.”
Will there be free parking for Downtown employees and business owners?
Brandon– “With parking, it’s always a challenge. If you have too much parking, that means you don’t have enough people Downtown, and if you have too little parking, you can’t access it. So, it’s kind of a balancing act on that end. What we’re looking at is ways to get creative with the parking we already have. The city did a parking study a couple years back, and it showed that we have plenty of parking. The issue is the perception of where parking is and how we utilize it. So, one idea is using privately-owned parking lots and coming up with an agreement. We have a lot of privately-owned lots that aren’t being used. Taking those and allowing employees and shop owners to park there is definitely feasible.”
What are some of the challenges in building more parking structures?
Brandon– “It really is a cost driven thing. You really have to have enough activity to warrant the cost of those. We still have existing debt on the current parking garage, so they’re really expensive. I definitely think they’re an effective strategy, but you have to have the activity to be able to invest. Like I said, it’s a balancing act. You don’t want parking to get so bad that people can’t access Downtown, but you don’t want to have so much parking that it prevents new development Downtown.”
Caitlyn– “As a community, we have to decide what we want our downtown to look like. Do we want lots of parking so people can be close to Downtown, or do we want an experience Downtown where you may have to walk a little further, but it’s fun because there’s an experience to have from your car to Downtown?”
Brandon– “The other thing is too that the City actually controls the parking. We’re more of an informational source, and hopefully our plan gives them some ideas on how to utilize that parking. We’re not the only people involved, it’s a lot of players that have to come together to figure out some issues.”
A community member wants to know- what is the possibility of turning Colorado Ave. and Rood Ave. into one-way streets, creating a loop around Main St.?
Brandon– “What happens with one-way streets is that you increase the speed of traffic and you create more safety issues. We hired an independent traffic consultant to look into that, and what we found was that having two-ways actually creates more of a pedestrian friendly environment. It’s also more economically viable, and the reason being is that cars have to pay more attention and have to slow down on two-way streets. So, we’re actually looking at creating more two-way streets as opposed to one way streets.
How can somebody get involved?
Caitlyn– “We’ve been in this process for close to a year, and with community engagement, it’s been about nine months. We’ve done surveys and Instagram polls and a bunch of open houses. We did a charrette as well. So, there’s been a lot of ways to get involved thus far, but if you’re still looking to get involved, definitively like and follow us on Facebook and Instagram, spread the word and share the video about the project.”
How will the plan of development accommodate the BLM influx?
Brandon– “It’s going to be huge to have the BLM in Grand Junction, but from what I understand, the influx went to a much smaller number, which is still awesome. There’s a lot of ancillary employment that will probably come from that. So, I think with the Plan of Development, creating more Class A office space because we would love to have the BLM Downtown. So, driving activity and development makes us an attractive site for the BLM.”
*photo by Devon Balet*