BLM field office construction begins this spring
[ By Kendra Walker ]
A new Gunnison Valley community is in the works, with plans to bring approximately 1,700 new housing units, commercial space, a government campus and a new trails system across 633 acres adjacent to Western Colorado University in Gunnison.
The construction of the new development, called Gunnison Rising, will officially kick off this spring with the building of a new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Gunnison Field Office. Infrastructure development will begin this year followed by housing in spring 2022, with the rest of the development phased over the next 25 years.
The property spans both sides of Highway 50, between Western and the Gunnison Cemetery and Tomichi Village, and adjacent to BLM land to the north and Tomichi Creek to the south.
With close proximity to the university, downtown amenities, trails and river access, Gunnison Rising’s master plan offers “an ideal place to live, work, play, and raise your family in a safe walkable environment.”
Dick Bratton, one of the partners in a partnership that owns the land, initially had the vision for the development more than 10 years ago. “I saw the opportunity to put something together that doesn’t exist anywhere else, with a cohesive plan and amenities,” said Bratton. “From Grand Junction to Salida on Highway 50 there’s nothing anywhere near like this. In a small town this place just doesn’t exist.”
The idea is to build off of the amenities already in the area and create a “cool place to live, work and play,” Bratton explained. “In Gunnison, you have the university, airport, Blue Mesa Reservoir, the ski areas in Crested Butte and Monarch, recreation, hunting and fishing and so on. The next big step is Gunnison Rising.”
Given its proximity to Gunnison’s downtown, parks, Western’s campus, trails, river and airport, “That’s a land package that’s really unmatched in any other small town,” said Bratton.
The Gunnison Rising development includes the creation of a government campus south of Highway 50 that will include a new BLM building. According to Bratton, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service Gunnison Ranger District have also expressed interest in the location. “It would be unique to have the stars aligned and to get all these like-minded entities together, and provide a gateway to the river and recreation there,” said Bratton.
The south side of Highway 50 will also include a maker’s district for small-scale makers and tinkerers to set up shop, with easy access to Western’s ICELab business resources. Additionally, 500,000 square feet of commercial space is planned for neighborhood shops, restaurants and services.
The plan also calls for a residential neighborhood on the north side of Highway 50, with approximately 1,700 units ranging from single-family homes, multi-family buildings, duplexes and triplexes, and community-oriented cottage clusters.
“People can’t find adequate places to rent or own in the area right now,” said Gunnison Rising general manager Ron Welborn. “Seeing the need for housing options and work options that are not currently available in the area, we’re creating options for people that are few and far between in Gunnison and in other mountain towns.”
Bratton agrees, saying, “With housing so expensive in Crested Butte, we anticipate a number of folks wanting to come live here from the north end of the valley as well. And we hope it will attract better quality and retention of Western staff and students. With the pandemic and more people working from home, overall this will offer a better quality of life.”
Because the parcel is adjacent to the Tomichi Creek Wildlife Area and surrounding BLM land, the Gunnison Rising neighborhood will also incorporate new trails to connect to downtown and the existing trail system.
The development team has worked closely with the city of Gunnison, Gunnison County and Western to create the plan, as it was important to Bratton from the beginning to collaborate with the city, county and university to look at all angles. The hope is the project will receive positive support from the community, knowing that it’s already been vetted by these three entities.
“And there were things that came out of the conceptual planning process not directly part of Gunnison Rising that we are now looking into,” said Bratton, noting discussions to improve the fishery and wildlife habitat, connect the Hartman Rocks and Signal Peak trail systems, upgrade the rodeo grounds and turn the river corridor into a state park.
Construction will take place over multiple phases beginning this spring with the BLM field office and infrastructure, including roads, sidewalks, water, sewer, electric and gas. Gunnison Rising representatives are also working with Colorado Department of Transportation to address construction on Highway 50, but most of the construction will be done on site and be phased out to minimize construction disturbance and access to the surrounding areas.
“We plan on having infrastructure in place to start construction on housing in spring 2022,” said Welborn. “We’re probably looking at some of the housing being ready by winter 2022.”
Welborn said the project is already receiving interest from government, businesses and families wanting to locate to Gunnison Rising. “Over the past two years everything just started coming together in terms of the right plan and right approach and right product. The responsible planning and implementation of Gunnison Rising will benefit the entire Gunnison community through the broad housing, retail and live/work options that we continue to foster through collaboration with the various stakeholders in Gunnison.”