Economy & Economic Development  December 11, 2015

Greeley’s downtown rebound: Developments bring new life

GREELEY — The slow and methodical revitalization of downtown Greeley is on the verge of picking up steam as several large high-profile projects backed by private and public investments take shape.

Foremost on the list are plans for a hotel and conference center on city-owned land backed by a group of private investors; the city’s plans to construct a city hall complex on newly acquired land; Weld County’s plans to improve a recently acquired property; and several private developers drawing up plans for commercial and housing projects.

“These can serve as a catalyst to draw more interest to downtown and revitalization,” said Pam Bricker, executive director of Greeley’s Downtown Development Authority, whose bread and butter is helping property owners in the DDA’s roughly 65-block district — from Third to 18th streets north to south, and Fifth to 11th avenues, east to west. The DDA was established in 1998 by voters who live, own or lease property within the district to foster economic development through financial tools such as tax-increment financing and grant programs.

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At the forefront of revitalization efforts has been Bob Tointon, the DDA’s chairman since its inception, downtown Greeley property owner and a member of the Colorado Business Hall of Fame since 2003.

Tointon, a former chief executive of Greeley-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co., bought his first property in the heart of downtown 30 years ago, and he began acquiring more properties during the past 15 years.

He has made heavy investments in two of the eight properties he owns or co-owns in downtown Greeley — the iconic Shaw and Kress buildings, home of the Chop House and the Kress Cinema and Lounge, respectively.

In the early 2000s, Tointon restored the buildings’ facades to near their original state, hoping to spark more interest in downtown.

“Those were big investments, but not necessarily good investments,” Tointon recalled, who wanted to right a wrong and bring back some historic charm.

“Previous owners, in an effort to clean up those buildings, really botched it by adding stucco surfaces to bricks, knocking off cornices,” he said.

Tointon said business in those buildings is still a bit sluggish.

“They’re doing OK, but we’d like them to do better,” he said.”

Historic buildings along Eighth Street in historic downtown Greeley on Nov. 25.  Joel Blocker / For Bizwest

Tointon, 82, is ready to pass the baton.

“I’m kinda tapped out. I don’t have the appetite for any more major projects.”

But his restoration efforts haven’t gone for naught — a growing cast of businesspeople have picked up the torch. Along the Eighth Street corridor, new businesses recently have popped up, including the Brix Taphouse and Brewery, Right Coast Pizza and Hearne’s Fine Goods, leaving only one available space on that plaza.

Bricker said the owners of the Lincoln Park Emporium are expanding the size of that business within the building that overlooks Lincoln Park at 822 8th St, and the owners of the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant are working to improve that building at 825 Ninth St.

“These minor projects still help overall,” Tointon said. “Many believe the hotel can add additional energy to what’s already going on.”

Hotel and conference center

Although a contract has yet to be signed, the city and Hensel Phelps, which was one of two companies that responded to a request for proposals on behalf of a group of private investors, are working on plans for the most significant project — a hotel and conference center at 919 Seventh St. Bricker is studying the feasibility of the DDA extending tax-increment-financing assistance to the investors whose names have yet to be made public.

“We’re glad we have the home team working with us on this,” Bricker said.

Becky Safarik, Greeley’s assistant city manager, said in late November that the city and Hensel Phelps are “still plowing through a number of development components. … We expect a daylighting of the design and the framework of the ‘deal’ by earl January.”

Safarik said renderings of the hotel are being reviewed by staff and won’t be shared with the public until the city council and the DDA have had a chance to view them.

The city wants to redevelop about 80,000 square feet of land it owns that takes up the southern half of a city block between Ninth and 10th streets. That area, known as the Lincoln Park Annex, currently houses city council chambers, a 198-space parking lot and bus-transfer site. Council chambers and the bus-transfer site are currently being relocated. The north half of the block has a municipal building that will remain intact.

The city would like to see a hotel of approximately 150,000 square feet and 150 to 200 rooms with about 5,000 square feet of conference space that would include 2,000 square feet of breakout meeting space.

One of the many murals that can be seen through an alleyway in historic downtown Greeley. Joel Blocker/For BizWest

The city is expected to retain ownership of the land and will enter a long-term lease with the hotel owner/operator that allows a shared-parking arrangement between the hotel and the city.

The surrounding area has a fire station, municipal court building, library and city administrative offices to the north; a park, churches, county government building plus office and retail stores to the south; retail, office and parking to the east; and a public recreation center, senior center and civic auditorium to the west. The fire department likely is being moved to a property the city recently acquired from Safeway at 1122 11th Ave.

A new city hall complex

The city intends to move City Hall from its iconic Round Building at 1000 10th St. to a new location within the next two to three years.

The city has been acquiring land within the block west of City Hall, where it wants to build a complex to consolidate the city’s 800 employees that now are housed in five separate buildings scattered throughout downtown.

That block consists of the City Hall Annex building at 1100 10th St. and several other properties. The city, through its Greeley Urban Renewal Authority, recently acquired five properties in that block.

Recent land purchases were for 1111 11th St., 1115 11th St. and 1015 11th Ave., along with purchases of Weld County School District 6’s property at 1121 11th St., and Ten Sleep Investment Group LLC for 1011 11th Ave.

Safarik said having employees spread out has “compromised customer service. … Together, we can be much more efficient.” She said the city has hired an architect and will be conducting planning sessions with citizens, the designers and city staff to determine what the city complex will look like.

The county and Chase Plaza

A year after Weld County’s purchase of the Chase Plaza building at 804-822 Seventh St., some county employees will move in early next year to be closer to the county courthouse at 915 10th St.

Existing tenants of the building are not being forced out, but the plan has started businesses leasing space to look for new quarters elsewhere.

The county paid $5.5 million for the property as part of a long-term plan to form a judicial complex in the downtown area, and it has been remodeling the interior to accommodate its employees. The county has been holding funds in capital reserve to acquire tracts around the historic Weld County Courthouse as part of a strategy dating to the mid-1980s.

The Chase Plaza, which had sold in 2008 for $9.95 million, will provide the county with 119,875 square feet of office space, plus parking for future county use.

Library on the move?

The first steps are being taken to secure a tenant for the city’s Round Building. The nonprofit High Plains Library District is studying the feasibility of converting the Round Building into to a library, where it would move its Lincoln Park Library currently located on city-owned property where the hotel and conference center would be built, which also houses Greeley Municipal Court and headquarters for the Greeley Fire Department.

Safarik said it would make sense to move the court to the new complex and put that property and the library building site on the open market for private redevelopment.

The library district currently leases space for the Lincoln Park Library from the city for $10 per month, said Janine Reid, director of the High Plains Library District, which oversees seven libraries in Northern Colorado, including Lincoln Park.

The library district received a $15,000 grant in August from the State Historical Fund for a historic-structure assessment. The district has hired Denver-based architecture firm Slaterpaull/Hord Coplan Macht to conduct the study that is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Robert Tointon, chairman of the Greeley Downtown Development Authority, stands in front of three of the eight buildings that he owns or co-owns in historic downtown Greeley. Tointon bought his first property in downtown 30 years ago and has been at the forefront of efforts to revitalize the area ever since. Joel Blocker/For BizWest

Safarik said the city would like to see the library in the Round Building, but if a deal falls through, the city likely would put the building on the market. “We’ve received inquiries about the building from private parties,” she said.

The two-story, 28,228-square-foot Round Building was constructed in 1967 by Hensel Phelps and opened in 1968 as the Weld County Bank, with additional occupants including the National Sugar Beet Growers Federation, the Mountain States Beet Growers and several small businesses. It later became home to United Bank of Greeley that in 1987 merged with Norwest Bank.

The city of Greeley acquired the building for $1.6 million in 1987, and interior offices were renovated to accommodate city employees.

Other projects in the DDA district are in the works.

Mokler revitalizing Jerome Building

Jim Mokler, 63, an investor based in Fort Collins and retired real-estate agent, recently purchased the Jerome Building at 800 Eighth Ave. Calling it a “tired” 51-year-old building, Mokler plans to redevelop it for office and retail tenants.

The three-story Jerome Building, built in 1964, originally housed a Hested’s Department Store, which included a cafeteria. Hested’s closed its Colorado stores in 1976, and the building was renovated in the early 1980s to become 100 percent office space — but has had few updates since then, Mokler said.

“It was kind of tired and let go,” Mokler said. “I’m bringing some money to the table. I’m a value-add guy. I know how to fix stuff up. I want to revive it, give it some new life, modernize it. I think people are going to like what they see.”

Currently 80 percent leased, the building’s tenants include a Colorado Department of Corrections parole office, plus offices for Lutheran Family Services and Senior Resource Service. Mokler said he is working with the current tenants but also has been talking with retailers including coffee-house and fast-casual restaurant chains, and is working on landing a law firm to lease 3,000 square feet.

Mokler said he’s excited about the “cool vibe going on downtown” and the building’s location, since there’s “very little office space around.” Its neighbors include the new $10 million “Ice Haus” building, the Greeley Museum and the Downtown Center Gallery. A walking mall and the Weld County Courthouse are nearby.

“Right now, this is my new baby, my new focus,” Mokler said. “This will be fun.”

Doctors to the rescue

A pair of doctors have purchased the historic Masonic Temple building at 829 10th Ave., with plans to convert it to a restaurant and events center called Masons.

Dr. Maurice Lyons, a vascular surgeon at CardioVascular Institute of North Colorado, and Dr. Christopher Michael, an anesthesiologist, formed the entity Cardiac Investments LLC to purchase the building for $100,000 from Masonic Building Corp. of Greeley Colorado in May.

The building was designed by William Bowman for Greeley’s Masonic Lodge in 1927. Architectural features include a gable roof with a shaped parapet wall and circular windows and pilasters — attached columns — on the east elevation.

The three-story building has 3,810 square feet of space on each of the first two floors and a 644-square-foot loft on top.

Lyons said work first will begin on the second floor that will house the events center.

“We envision renting it out for high school prom functions, high school reunions, banquets, wedding receptions, business gatherings. … It won’t have a kitchen, but the events can be catered,” he said.

Lyons and Michael want to create a tapas bar on the first floor, which they expect to build and open after the events center is up and running. Tapas are Spanish cuisine and include a wide variety of cold and hot appetizers and snacks.

Farmers getting involved

Todd Doleshall and Glen Cook, goat farmers in Eaton, recently opened The Farmers Pantry at 931 16th St. in the old Book Stop building. In addition to selling product from farmers in the area, Doleshall and Cook plan to open a kitchen in the 1,800-square-foot space.

“We passed inspection in November,” Doleshall said. “We have a slim inventory now, but next season, we’ll have product from about 10 farmers in the area.”

In March, Doleshall and Cook plan to apply for a USDA grant to help finance a kitchen, and they expect to know if they receive the grant in May. “When produce shelf life is about to expire, we will use it to make food in the kitchen.” Doleshall said.

Coming in from the cold

MW Development Enterprises LLC based in Kansas City, Mo., is ready to spend $11 million to build the Ice House Lofts, a 58-unit apartment complex called the Ice House Lofts at 517 12th St. in the southeast corner of the DDA district.

The developer wants to create 58 rental units, 18 in the historic building constructed in 1929 that housed Greeley Ice and Storage, and 40 more in a new three-story building that will be constructed on the lot.

Rents are expected to be $1,050 for a one-bedroom, $1,350 for a two-bedroom and $1,550 for a three-bedroom apartment. Gary Hassenflu, managing member of the development company, told city officials that funding for the project will come from the sale of federal and state historic tax credits, owner’s equity and a construction loan from a private lender. The project is being designed by E + A Architecture in St. Louis, Mo.

The mystery project

Sources involved in downtown revitalization efforts say the Richardson family, owners of Mineral Resources Inc., a privately held oil and natural gas producer based in Greeley, has been buying property in the southern end of the downtown district, including property at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 16th Street, where they may construct a mixed-use building.

Doug Storum can be reached at [email protected], 303-630-1959 or 970-416-7369. Dallas Heltzell contributed to this report.

 

GREELEY — The slow and methodical revitalization of downtown Greeley is on the verge of picking up steam as several large high-profile projects backed by private and public investments take shape.

Foremost on the list are plans for a hotel and conference center on city-owned land backed by a group of private investors; the city’s plans to construct a city hall complex on newly acquired land; Weld County’s plans to improve a recently acquired property; and several private developers drawing up plans for commercial and housing projects.

“These can serve as a catalyst to draw more…

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