By Penny Stine
It looks like construction season in many parts of Orchard Mesa, where construction has started on the new, $40 million middle school and where homes continue to be sold as fast as construction companies can build them.
The construction fence and office trailer were installed at the middle school in late July, and the foundation is getting dug and built for the new building, which will be in front of the old building on Unaweep Avenue. The existing school will continue to be used throughout the construction of the new school, which is scheduled to be complete by December 2019.
Construction may disrupt a few schedules and activities and may impact where parents can pick up and drop off their children. For the most accurate information, check the school’s website.
Although the existing school will be demolished after the new school is built, the building that houses the community swimming pool will not be. It will continue to serve as a city-operated facility and will no longer be a safety issue for the school since the community pool and the school will no longer share a building.
New homes on Orchard Mesa continue to sell well. Michael Maves with Maves Construction has several homes under construction at Chipeta Heights, east of 29 Road and south of B 1/2, and the developers behind Mountain View Estates are doing infrastructure construction for the next filing.
“We’re doing filing three at Mountain View,” said Rick Wagner, one of the development partners for the neighborhood. “They will all be developed and finished by the end of August.”
According to Wagner, many of the lots have already been sold to builders who are currently working in earlier phases at Mountain View.
“We’re selling them to whoever comes in,” Wagner said. “As long as they meet our covenants, anyone can purchase and build in the neighborhood.”
Covenants include a size requirement of at least 1,800 square feet, with stucco and stone exteriors. Homes can be ranch or two-story. Builders who have already reserved lots include Corey Carter, Chuck Lopez, and Jim Jenson, who have all built several homes in the first two filings at Mountain View.
Homes are still being built at Spyglass Ridge, a planned development that has its own community center, walking trails and some of the best views in the Grand Valley. G.J. Gardner is building many of the homes in Spyglass, which is accessed from 27 Road off Highway 50 in Orchard Mesa.
“We’re getting ready to start three homes in Spyglass Ridge,” said Lawrence Balerio, owner of G.J. Gardner. The company owns five more lots in the neighborhood.
“We’re hoping to do infrastructure by mid-to-late September,” Balerio said, “and hoping to start building the first home in November. We want to be ready to sell by early spring in 2019.”
The homes will be stucco and stone Craftsman style homes, with front porches, and timber and metal accents. Prices will most likely be in the mid-$300s up to about $400,000.
With this much residential construction and the new middle school underway, expect additional commercial development to follow within the next few years. There are under-utilized commercial developments waiting for more end users, and new rooftops could bring more attention from businesses who are looking for a new place to call home.
By Penny Stine
The commercial real estate market has been slower to recover from the Great Recession than the residential market, which is typical, according to many local commercial brokers. Many commercial transactions are more complex, with a higher price tag than a typical 2,000-square foot home, and commercial deals often take years to work out the details, especially when there is significant remodeling that needs to be done to an existing building or new construction of a larger building on vacant land that may involve multiple tenants.
“Retail hasn’t come around and oil and gas haven’t either,” said Sid Squirrel with Bray Commercial. “The only thing that’s saved us is companies relocating here because they can’t afford to expand on the Front Range. We’ve seen a lot of people on the residential side for several years, and now we’re seeing it on the business side.”
The City of Grand Junction has been working closely with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership to bring Las Colonias Park, and Riverfront at Las Colonias, the business park intended to be a home for local businesses involved in the outdoor recreation industry, to market. Efforts are moving along nicely.
“We’re wrapping up phase one of infrastructure ahead of schedule,” said Greg Caton, city manager of Grand Junction. Phase two construction will start this summer, and should be finished by the spring of 2019. During phase two, there will be additional bathrooms, a boat launch along the Colorado River, a dog park and a festival area.
“By spring of next year, the entire project will be substantially complete, including significant amounts of grass. Phase three will be a river recreation area, which will be a public space that gives people an opportunity to get connected to the river.”
Two businesses, Bonsai Design, a manufacturer of zip lines and outdoor aerial adventure courses and Rocky Mounts, a manufacturer of car and bike racks, are planning on calling the Riverfront at Las Colonias their home, but both the city and GJEP hope that there will be many more.
Just a mile or so further west, the city is also working to update the plan for the Riverfront at Dos Rios, a 60-acre site next to the river that has sat vacant for decades. Although the city is hoping to have a conceptual plan finished for the area soon, the first tenant for the business park, Sunshine Polishing Technology, has already submitted formal site plans for review with city planners.
“There will be additional trails and public spaces at Dos Rios,” Caton said. The business park won’t have the same emphasis to recruit businesses that are involved in outdoor manufacturing, but it will be a good fit for those companies or for other companies that have a commitment or corporate philosophy of embracing the outdoors and connecting with the river.
Both of these projects have been decades in the making, and it’s an exciting time for residents who can remember when the areas were junkyards and dumping ground. It’s an exciting time for residents who haven’t been here quite that long, but who have looked forward to a better utilization of prime riverfront areas.
Elsewhere in the Grand Valley, commercial projects are moving along. Merritt Construction is currently doing an extensive remodel of the office building at 790 Wellington for STRiVE, a non-profit that provides support and services to people with disabilities and their families.
“For the first time ever, this building is designed for the clients we serve,” said Doug Sorter with STRiVE. Some of the improved amenities in the new facility will include an approved diagnostic clinic, therapeutic indoor and outdoor play areas, a nurse triage and handicapped accessible bathrooms throughout the entire building.
STRiVE looked at several buildings before selecting the one on Wellington. Ultimately, the building’s central location, with close access to the medical community and its two floors, which allow the non-profit to separate the administrative offices from the direct service areas, convinced STRiVE that it had found a home.
“This has been divine intervention,” Sorter said. “It’s been an absolutely perfect fit.”
STRiVE is currently conducting a capital campaign to raise funds for the new site; those who wish to donate can do so at strivecolorado.org.
Another long-time project is moving forward at Corner Square, a development that was started in 2008 but stalled when the economy took a nosedive. Ten years ago, Bruce Milyard with Western Constructors built one large office building at the corner of First and Patterson, as well as a group of luxury apartments, and a smaller retail building in front of those. Although the plans included another building on Patterson next to the Walgreens store that built in the development, the struggling economy resulted in a giant hole in the ground for 10 years while Milyard waited for better times to build.
Construction started in June, and the building shell will be finished and ready for tenant finishes by the end of April. Milyard isn’t ready to announce any end users in the building but has been working closely with three tenants who are interested in the location.
“We know how limited Class A office space is in Grand Junction right now,” said Milyard, who is confident that he will be able to find other tenants who are interested in the space. There is additional room at Corner Square for two additional buildings in the back. Originally, the plan was to build more apartments, but Milyard is waiting to see how quickly this commercial building fills before making a final decision on the area in the back of the development.
“I promised Pat Gormley (the former owner of the 20-acre parcel of land) I’d do something he could be proud of,” Milyard said. “It’s going to be really nice when it’s finished.”
At Home-ah in Loma
By Penny Stine
The west end of the Grand Valley is a great place for people who want an agricultural lifestyle or who simply want to be out in the country, away from noise, neighbors, and traffic. Loma and Mack are home to few urban or suburban conveniences, although there was recently a planning hearing for a new 300-foot cell tower north of Loma that could improve telecommunications to residents in the Lower Valley. Loma has a school, a post office, and a general store, while Mack has a liquor store and a post office. Loma is also home to the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Auction, although that isn’t exactly a suburban amenity.
Loma does, however, have a food truck, which is pretty urban for the laid-back farm community. Of course, the food truck serves barbecue, offering traditional offerings like ribs, brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken and all the traditional sides.
“I live out there,” said Beth Burt, who operates Double B Barbecue and first set up her barbecue trailer at the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Auction on Wednesdays during the auctions while the restaurant was closed. “I developed a Loma following.”
Burt has been operating at the Loma Country Store Thursdays through Sundays since April, and she’s pleased with the amount of business she’s had.
“I’m meeting so many different people,” she said. “It’s funny how much traffic is through that little place.”
Although the urban amenities in Loma might be lacking, there’s no shortage of recreational opportunities. Loma is home to the famous Fruita mountain biking trails at Horsethief Bench, which have garnered Fruita a world-class reputation for mountain biking, even though the trails are in Loma. A majority of the riders in the area are from out-of-the-area in the spring and fall, but this time of year, it’s mostly locals who go out and ride early in the morning before the heat makes it unbearable. According to statistics from the BLM, there were 58,000 people visiting the Kokopelli trailhead in 2017.
The city of Fruita is currently building a bike trail that connects the Colorado Riverfront Trail system from where it currently stops in Fruita to Loma. The trail is paved, with a single track trail running roughly parallel to the paved portion for mountain bikers who are in Fruita and want to ride to the trails. The opening of the trail has been delayed due to various construction issues, but the final bridge over Reed wash is scheduled to be built on Aug. 1, and the trail should be open to mountain bikers and road bicyclists the following week.
Loma is also home to Highline Lake, which is a refreshing, nearby place for locals to go for boating, fishing, paddle boarding or swimming, especially this time of year when the heat is relentless. Those who prefer their water recreation on a river can also find adventure in Loma, where there’s a boat launch on the Colorado River that takes adventurers on the 25-mile, Ruby-Horsethief section of the river to Westwater, Utah. Thanks to the permitting system for campsites, the BLM is able to track the number of people who float that section of the river, as well as where they’re coming from. In 2017, 21,000 people came through that section of the river, and according to Collin Ewing with the BLM, about 85 percent of them are from outside Mesa County.
Real estate in Loma and Mack is selling, although not as briskly as in other parts of the Grand Valley where buyers can find 2,000-square foot homes in neighborhoods full of other, similarly priced homes. Because the tiny Mack sewer system is not accepting new taps and there is no sewer system for Loma, most available tracts of land or properties for sale come with acreage. Some are small acreage parcels of one to five acres, and others are larger parcels with hundreds of acres that are used strictly for agricultural production.
“Hay prices have doubled in the last year,” said Mandy Rush, a RE/MAX 4000 agent who handles many horse and agricultural properties across the Grand Valley. “There’s a lot more interest now than in past years in productive farm ground. So much farm ground in the north and in Fruita has been developed; if you want a large parcel of farm ground, you have to go to Loma and Mack.”
Rush has a Mack property with 295 acres in six parcels, with a shop and utilities, as well as gated pipe and pivot irrigation that’s currently in grass alfalfa hay production. The property has been on the market for about three months, and she’s already received three offers on it, although none of them have been accepted at this point.
The drought and fires in many hay-producing areas across the western United States have led to increased hay prices, which Rush said has been good for agriculture in the Lower Valley.
“It’s brought attention to the importance of maintaining our agriculturally productive land,” she said. “There’s importance and value in farm ground.”