by Doug Storum
EVANS — The city of Evans is leading the redevelopment of a 12-acre parcel of land it recently purchased in hopes of sparking the revitalization of a much larger area along U.S. Highway 85 that is sprinkled with blighted properties.
The city, through the Evans Redevelopment Agency that is run by the city council, paid $3.4 million for 12 acres of land from four property owners at the southwest corner of U.S. 85 and 31st Street, where it will lead an effort to create The Junction at Evans.
The city, experiencing an uptick in sales- and use-tax revenue from the oil and gas boom, used funds that exceeded the tax budget to buy the property. It also conducted a series of studies that concluded the area is best suited for retail uses.
With the land purchase, the creation of an Urban Renewal Area and tax-increment financing, the city believes it has the mechanisms in place to help fund development when it occurs.evans_urbanRenewal_map
Trent said the city could develop the 12-acre parcel itself, sell land to a developer or use tax-increment financing to aid a developer, with the caveat that it be retail, including shopping, dining and entertainment.Economic development director Sheryl Trent said the city will be very involved in redeveloping the 12 acres located at the northern end of the 335-acre Highway 85 Urban Renewal Area, a sliver of land on both sides of the highway and bordered to the north and south by the city limits.
Evans has a population of about 20,000 people, but because it lies on Greeley’s southern border, the city says there are 110,000 people in the area that are potential customers.
“We’d like to see a large grocery store or a large outdoors store anchor the area,” Trent said.
The city has been engaged in preliminary talks with potential developers, she said, but declined to identify them. “You could say we are in the dating phase,” Trent said. “The city is willing to be patient,” but there is no timetable in place to begin redevelopment.
The property is occupied by a Diamond Vogel Paints store and Paradise Billiards and Restaurant, plus vacant warehouses, storage facilities and parking lots. Trent said the city is helping businesses relocate, with Diamond Vogel Paints already choosing a new site on 23rd Street.
Trent said the city has a budget to go toward the demolition of existing buildings and constructing infrastructure that will be partially funded by anchor tenants.
Trent said the city will approach redevelopment conservatively, with a close eye on the oil and gas cycle, which, according to some experts, may slow because of lower oil prices.
Mayor John Morris sees the project as an investment in the community’s future. “By creating new revenue streams, jobs and business opportunities,” he said, “the city will be able to provide better services and programs for our residents long term.
Updating an old plan
With the improving economy, the city last year updated its Highway 85 Urban Renewal plan. It was first drafted in 1999 and updated in 2002, but was left in place until being reworked last year.
The 335-acre area has 164 properties – a mix of retail, office, industrial and residential properties, some of which are home-based businesses and many are “awkwardly shaped lots,” according to a report on the updated plan. It also contains areas deemed blighted, based on criteria set by state lawmakers.
From a development standpoint, “blighted can be a good thing,” Trent said. “It allows a municipality to step in and help revitalize an area.”
It also allows a municipality to exercise the right of eminent domain, the taking of private property for the public good.
The plan for this area, Trent said, is to eventually have three primary uses: retail including a neighborhood retail district, office and automotive commercial. It would include open space, mostly city-owned parcels, and public facilities including park-and-rides and park lands.
Because the area is surrounded by several established neighborhoods, the plan offers an opportunity for developers to build vertical residential units to provide live/work and recreation spaces.
The plan also addresses improving streets and roads, traffic flow and safety. It includes suggestions for roundabouts, a pedestrian bridge, some road closures and improving in-and-out access to businesses.