GJ Sentinel: North Avenue Switching to University Boulevard

Council OKs North Avenue name change

Switch to University Boulevard becomes official in March 2018

By Amy Hamilton
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bye, bye North Avenue.

Make way for University Boulevard.

An idea that percolated for years to change the name of the street, thanks to initial efforts by local resident Levi Lucero, got the green light Wednesday night. The Grand Junction City Council voted 5-2 to make the name change for the four-mile route from First Street to the Interstate 70 Business Loop.

Councilors Phyllis Norris and Duncan McArthur opposed renaming the roadway.

Kevin Bray, with the North Avenue Owners’ Association, said Lucero literally pounded the pavement for years, visiting with North Avenue business owners over the idea.

The route is about four miles long, but, “Levi has managed to put in more than 100 miles,” Bray said, addressing councilors.

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke said support for a name change to align with Colorado Mesa University was one of the first things business owners proposed in focus meetings with community leaders about economic development. About 1,000 people signed the latest petition in favor of the name change.

“We get much more from the university than it gets from us,” she said, about the increased visibility the newly named street will bring.

Schwenke said the chamber is willing to help businesses “navigate the name change.”

North Avenue officially becomes University Boulevard on March 1, 2018. After that date, business owners still can receive mail at North Avenue addresses for the following 12 months.

The city of Grand Junction expects to spend $22,000 and nearly 350 labor hours to create new signage for the corridor.

A few people on Wednesday expressed dismay over the proposed name change, calling the project a waste of money and arguing that the change dismisses the street’s historical significance, or that it amounts to a change in name only and won’t help to bring back its hey-day as a robust retail route.

Randy Emmons, owner of Randy’s Southside Diner, said he couldn’t have been prouder than when he opened his North Avenue location, 2430 North Ave.

North Avenue has a special connection for him and if money is going to be spent, it should be spent sprucing up the street and not on changing its name.

Norris said she’s opposed to a name change because if the issue went to a vote, she doesn’t think voters would agree to it.

McArthur said the road’s historical significance — as U.S. Highway 6 it is also dubbed the Grand Army of the Republic Highway — should be celebrated.

He argued CMU has little frontage on North Avenue, and that the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center is just as visible.

“I would rather see us embellish the historical nature, rather than bury it,” he said.

At the meeting’s end, Lucero said he was proud to see the shift in thinking in the past five years toward acceptance of a name change.

Lucero, who said he has worked in higher education since CMU was a junior college, said the idea for the road to be named after the institution was an item on his “bucket list.”

“I want to give my thanks to all of you who supported this,” Lucero said, and he was swiftly treated to a standing ovation.

North Avenue denoted Grand Junction’s northern boundary in 1881 when George Crawford of the Grand Junction Town Company named it, according to the city’s report.

The naming of North Avenue and South Avenue “was likely as much a matter of practicality as anything else. While the names given by the Town Company have remained, changing the name of North Avenue to University Boulevard, a change first suggested by Levi Lucero, a longtime resident of the city, is wholly consistent with Crawford’s pioneering spirit,” the resolution states.

GJ Sentinel: CMU20000 Bringing Local Businesses and Students Together

By Joe Vaccarelli
Monday, August 7, 2017

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is looking to ensure college students receive a warm welcome from local businesses when they return to Colorado Mesa University for the fall semester.

Through its CMU 20000 initiative, the chamber is distributing packets it put together to businesses that include a window sign that states, “We are CMU.” Other materials include a brochure explaining CMU 20000 and a card explaining how businesses can participate in the effort, such as offering student discounts.

CMU 20000 is a campaign to grow the university’s student body and create support from the local community. The goal is to bring enrollment up to 15,000 students and have 5,000 community supporters. The level of support could range from people who attend a theater performance to a business owner who volunteers to visit a class and work with students, according to chamber President and CEO Diane Schwenke.

“We want to embrace our identity with CMU,” she said. “This is a very visible step.”

Schwenke said she hopes this effort can reach 1,000 businesses by the time classes start at CMU on Aug. 21 to, in the long term, build community and university collaboration and make Grand Junction feel like a college town. She noted that 15,000 students would have a $600 million annual impact on the city.

The Grand Junction Chamber Diplomats and CMU Alumni Association are working with local business districts such as the Horizon Drive Business Improvement District in distributing packets. Volunteers will visit businesses in the coming days to speak to owners and hand out materials for the project. Businesses can also visit the chamber office at 360 Grand Ave. to pick up materials.

“I think it’s a great program. I think it’s a great idea,” Horizon Drive BID Executive Director Vara Kusal said. “We love CMU, they’re growing and very forward-thinking and we want to help in any way we can.”

Zane Hyland, a CMU graduate and local business owner, spent part of his Monday visiting some businesses in the downtown area.

Hyland joined the chamber last month and was looking for a way to give back. He said he saw the value in businesses building a relationship with college students and he received a positive response from business owners he visited. Hyland recently opened Maverick Pest Management.

“Being a CMU grad, I see the importance of this campaign,” Hyland said. “As CMU grows, Grand Junction can grow and it becomes a cycle.”

GJ Sentinel: University Blvd. gets city's green light

University Boulevard gets city’s green light

By Charles Ashby
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Colorado Mesa University could soon be located at the corner of University Boulevard and Maverick Way.

Three groups pushing to change the name of North Avenue — the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, the North Avenue Owners Association and the CMU 20000 Steering Committee — now are also looking at a similar name change for 12th Street.

While there was consensus Monday on the seven-member Grand Junction City Council to draft a resolution to change the name of North Avenue to University Boulevard, they weren’t so willing to agree to changing 12th Street to Maverick Way — at least not just yet.

That means that in the next month or two, the council is to vote on a resolution to rename North Avenue, but call for it to change over the course of about a year.

That will give businesses along the roughly 4-mile corridor enough time to make the transition.

Within the next couple of months, the council may consider a similar resolution for 12th Street, but only if the three entities pushing for the name changes can show they’ve spoken to all of the businesses on that street to get their thoughts on the idea.

“People want change. They are tired of sitting on stop,” Councilor Duke Wortmann said at the council’s twice-a-month workshop.

“I really don’t care what the name is,” added Councilor Duncan McArthur. “I don’t think it makes a difference whatsoever. I think it’s ridiculous, but fine. If everybody wants it, fine.”

Diane Schwenke, executive director of the chamber, Alex Chaffetz with the CMU 20000 Steering Committee, and Kevin Bray with the North Avenue association told the council they are prepared to offer whatever technical help businesses need to make the transition.

“On an individual basis, in both corridors, we’re saying to businesses, ‘We will help you along the way through all of this,’” Schwenke said.

The three said a name change by itself doesn’t represent an economic boon, but rather one piece of a greater goal of increasing CMU’s student population to more than 20,000, which would be a major economic boost.

The three said the university generates more than $450 million annually in economic prosperity for the region. If the university can get to 20,000 students, it would boost that figure to about $600 million, they said.

Their plan is to rename North Avenue from First Street to 29 Road to University Boulevard as early as next spring, and then start the process for renaming 12th Street from Horizon Drive to Pitkin Avenue to Maverick Way, in honor of the university’s mascot.


GJ Sentinel: CMU, Chamber aim for 15,000 students

By Gary Harmon
Monday, June 19, 2017

The next step for Colorado Mesa University is to reach enrollment of 15,000 students, or about half again the 2016-17 number — an effort that will require 5,000 volunteers and partners, officials said Monday.

CMU President Tim Foster unveiled the campaign before the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon at the Grand Vista Hotel, reminding about 80 people that the university still has a long way to go to meet its charge of making a college education attainable for residents of 14 Western Slope counties.

At the same time, chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke noted that the university is a major economic driver for the Grand Valley and should be recognized — and promoted — as such.

The university brings in nearly $450 million annually into the local economy, the chamber noted.

“This is going to be a multi-pronged, multi-level effort” to boost enrollment at the university, which will pay off with a more stable and solid local economy, Schwenke said.

Among the ways of boosting consciousness about the university could be changing the name of North Avenue to University Boulevard — an idea championed by local resident Levi Lucero — and changing the signs along Interstate 70 to reflect the presence of the college.

Mesa County officials also have signaled that they would be willing to add to their new highway signs a recognition that the county is home to Colorado Mesa University.

While Mesa County might be home to a university, it lags behind the Western Slope in general in terms of education, Foster said.

Among Mesa County residents between the ages of 25 and 34, 25.2 percent boast bachelor’s or advanced degrees. More than a third of Coloradans in general — 37.5 percent — have attained bachelor’s or higher degrees, and for Western Slope counties in general, the number is 31.7 percent.

Attracting 5,000 additional students to CMU is made more difficult by greater competition than existed when he became president in 2004, Foster said.

Back then, there was a handful of public and private colleges and universities in Colorado.

Now there are 464 institutions of higher education in the state — everything from cosmetology schools to Bible colleges. And many of them are hoping to attract the same students that Colorado Mesa is hoping to bring in, Foster said.

“We are at our heart a liberal-arts college,” but have moved to provide more practical education, Foster said, pointing to graduate programs in nursing as well as degrees in engineering in concert with the University of Colorado, criminal justice and other disciplines.

The chamber is seeking members for a committee that will deal with student recruitment, community visibility, community engagement and government engagement.

CMU and the chamber have set up a website, http://www.cmu20000.com, and will soon establish a Facebook page for the effort.

GJ Sentinel: CMU, District 51 Team Up to Encourage More Kids to go to College

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

College and career advisors from Colorado Mesa University will begin working with School District 51 students next year in an effort to increase the number of students who pursue college or other post-secondary education.

School District 51 Board of Education members voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a five-year agreement for the new positions, which will cost the university approximately $261,600 a year and will cost the school district $21,600 a year.

The advisors will work at Grand Junction, Central, Palisade and Fruita high schools in order to “help students explore their post-secondary options and understand the potential ramifications of stopping their educations at a high school diploma,” according to a statement from the university.

Click here to read the rest of the story here. 

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