Criterion: CMU is Grand Junction's bridge to the future

9/12/17 CMU Criterion Editorial (

Those who arrive in the city of Grand Junction will increasingly find a yellow brick road of signs and promotions that direct them toward Colorado Mesa University. 12th Street and Orchard Avenue now have banners hung from light posts, welcoming those travelers to the CMU domain. The college receives a regular influx of students who may be entering the city for the first time, though likely, they would never have come to the city otherwise. And yet, the city where CMU is located is frustrated with the university’s growing presence.

Understandably, many Grand Junction locals have had enough of drunk students disrupting a quiet neighborhood with parties, litter and disorderly conduct. And, as CMU makes its march towards 7th Street, those who live in the path see the writing on the wall. It’s time to move. The conservative population of a small Western Colorado city has no interest in becoming a college town, but it’s time to accept that there is no alternative.

On Aug. 16, the Grand Junction City Council voted to officially change the name of North Avenue to University Boulevard. The change was headed by the CMU20000, a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce initiative to promote the growth of CMU by an additional 5,000 students, with the help of 5,000 community members. This action is intended to be a visible demonstration of community support for the university, which has an estimated $447.5 million annual impact.

Despite a university population that seems largely apathetic to the decision in general, the surrounding community has resoundingly made their opposition known. Businesses cannot stand the thought of spending the money to make the change on their end, as well as the impact it has on the local taxpayer. Petitions are attempting to reverse the decision.

Though the link between the Grand Junction economy and CMU’s growth is clear, the benefit of CMU’s continued long-term growth is distant, unlike the everyday financial realities of a business. However, this resistance to the name change is primarily indicative of a pervading conflict between the goals of the university and the values of an older, local community. The main value of latter, it seems, is to avoid change at all costs.

But, the inability to adapt to change is the path to extinction. In this case, the nature of extinction could be economical. While cities on the front range have experienced economic growth, Grand Junction has continued to flounder without a sustainable driver.

Changing infrastructure, landscaping and adding better sidewalks to the future University Boulevard are certainly steps in the partnership between the community and CMU. These actions concretely acknowledge the economic link between community and university. On the surface, the University Boulevard initiative is an act of support and acceptance.

The reality is more complicated. Regardless of how many initiatives or economic growth plans the university and the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce propose, Grand Junction has to decide to become a university town for itself.

Student support of such an idea is not enough; after all, 62 percent of CMU students graduate and promptly move to other cities. Not only is Grand Junction a town that in itself is unlikely to draw college-aged students, it is a town that is unable to attract many to remain upon graduation. The result is a dangerous stagnancy, as the young cycle through and move on, and only the older and traditional remain.

It would be, frankly, patronizing to tell community members to simply appreciate what the university has done for them economically.

But, CMU is Grand Junction’s bridge to the future.

If the town wants to be known for more than retirement homes and nearby wineries, attracting and retaining not just young students, but young, valuable college graduates, is critical.

Having a “college town” feel is important for many potential students. While Grand Junction is making some steps in the right direction, more could and should be done to create a stronger link between the university and the community.

Considering both the social and economic benefits of CMU, a name change for a street and some Maverick window stickers are small steps in the right direction. Tradition is certainly important to Grand Junction, and as CMU continues to expand and ask more of local community members, the university should certainly keep this particular value in mind. However, the community itself should further analyze the value of CMU and the benefits of developing a collegiate and post-collegiate local community.

In the short term, the changes CMU asks the community to make may seem drastic on one hand, or unnecessary on the other. But, in the long-term, this partnership with the university will allow the city to continue to grow, rather than remain distinctly behind the times. If this does not come to fruition, the university will find ways to become more self-reliant, further creating a cultural division between the two communities.

Mayor Taggart's Comments on CMU's Impact


Excerpt from GJ Sentinel story "CMU Welcomes Freshman Class..."

While college officials and students were welcoming the incoming freshmen to the campus, Grand Junction Mayor Rick Taggart welcomed them to town.

(CMU President) Foster told the students that Taggart and the rest of the Grand Junction City Council voted only last week to rename North Avenue to University Boulevard. That change is to occur over time starting next spring. The city also is considering a proposal to rename 12th Street, which also abuts the campus, to Maverick Way.

“On behalf of the city of Grand Junction, welcome to this wonderful campus,” Taggart told the new students. “Grand Junction is western Colorado’s university town. Kicking off an academic year is a big deal to the city of Grand Junction because we recognize the critical role that CMU plays in educating our future workforce, enhancing our civic life and adding dramatically to our region’s economic base.”

GJ Sentinel Opinion: When CMU Grows, We All Grow


Efforts to grow CMU will result in more wins for our community

Congratulations to President Tim Foster and his entire team at Colorado Mesa University for continuing to make smart and effective moves that will help establish Grand Junction as Western Colorado’s university town.

As CMU’s 10,000 students return for the new school year, they are being welcomed with banners along our streets, the opening of a fantastic new health-sciences facility and the continued construction of an incredible new engineering building on campus. The students in those programs will earn degrees for high-demand, well-paying jobs.

The Grand Junction City Council is doing their part to support the cause. Each year the city contributes significant funding towards the expansion of the campus. They recently voted in favor of University Boulevard, and they will undoubtedly be asked to do far more. We should all thank them for their continued support.

Alongside these efforts, the CMU20000 initiative was recently launched by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce to spearhead efforts to bring the university and our community closer together. Businesses are getting engaged with We Are CMU window stickers, special discounts for students and the development of a more robust internship program. Efforts with on site high school councilors to get more District 51 students on track to college are already underway.

Did you know CMU already contributes $450 million annually to our economy? Efforts to grow CMU will result in plenty of more wins for everyone in our community: A more highly-educated workforce, more parents that fly to our airport, stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants and shop at our stores, and more students that decide they want to live here, start a career and raise a family.

I suggest all of us do our part. Attend a CMU event this year or simply walk around campus to check out all of the new facilities. Keep updated, suggest ideas or volunteer to help at And please share your enthusiasm for all of the positive things taking place at Colorado Mesa University, whether it’s with friends, neighbors, on social media or a letter of support to the newspaper or City Council. Because when CMU grows, we all grow.

Grand Junction

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,, 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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