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Vacant building eyed for business hub

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Photo by Pat Sunderland A vacant building at 124 E. 6th Street is being eyed for a collaborative project involving Delta-Montrose Technical College, Delta County Economic Development, Delta County Joint School District #50 and the City of Delta.

A group of stakeholders has come together to bid on the former City Market/Chaco building at 124 E. 6th Street in Delta. The major players include Delta County Economic Development (DCED), Delta County Joint School District, Delta-Montrose Technical College and the City of Delta.

Tom Huerkamp, DCED vice president, said the initiative "popped up" in the last two weeks, when DCED learned the price on the property had dropped substantially.

DCED is proposing a business incubator coupled with an expanded campus of Delta-Montrose Technical College in the heart of downtown Delta.

The building would also house offices for DCED, Region 10 and the Small Business Resource Center, DMTC classrooms and an innovation center to support entrepreneurship.

Huerkamp outlined DCED's vision while asking the Delta City Council to release $25,000 in discretionary funds for the project.

The $25,000 was earmarked in the 2016 budget for a specific DCED project. Initially, DCED had asked the funds be committed to marketing materials for the riverfront property. After discussing that project twice with members of the Delta City Council, DCED abruptly switched direction.

"We think this is a priority that is timely," Huerkamp said. "It doesn't take away from the need for the market study, but we think this is more important at the moment."

He explained a lowball offer for the building had been rejected, but negotiations are ongoing. DCED asked for the city's contribution before closing out the 2016 books so the funds can be used either for building acquisition or as matching funds for remodeling grants. He promised that if the deal "doesn't fly," the funds will be returned to the city. With that caveat, council voted unanimously to release the funds to DCED, although the building will be owned by Delta-Montrose Technical College if the deal goes through. Councilmember Gerald Roberts said the project would be a "fantastic use" of that building. Christopher Ryan said he was surprised by DCED's rapid change in direction, but understands DCED is working on a number of projects simultaneously. "I still feel we need to move forward with the marketing plan, but the incubator could spark some growth," he said. Bill Raley welcomed the opportunity to find purpose for a building that's been vacant for "a long, long time."

All recognized the value of having Delta-Montrose Technical College students in the downtown area where they can access shops, restaurants and the movie theater. Huerkamp said the school district is looking at moving business and drafting classes downtown so health care programs can be expanded on the campus south of town.

"I think it's a very good project and the school board can be an economic leader in our county," school superintendent Caryn Gibson said at the Dec. 9 school board meeting, where she sought board support for the project.

Although she said the school district is very excited about the project, it's going to be difficult for the technical college to go much higher than the current bid.

Huerkamp said DCED, other community nonprofits and private citizens, such as himself, are committing funds to keep DMTC's financial commitment within the preferred range of $75,000 to $100,000.

"We are very excited about the project because it will give our Delta-Montrose Technical College new classrooms and be able to support an innovation center where students and other people can create, build and explore their ideas to spur economic development for Delta County," Gibson said.

The project is known as ENGAGA Delta County. The name stands for ENergy • Growth • AGriculture • Entrepreneurship.

The name reflects a specialized focus on energy (coal, solar, hydro and methane) and agriculture (production, manufacturing and export). The Innovation Center will support current business expansion, help to attract young families, new families, businesses and private investment, Huerkamp said.

The current owner of the building is the Mercy Foundation of Tampa, Fla. Huerkamp explained the foundation buys distressed properties in economically depressed areas for literally pennies on the dollar and provides the seller with significant tax incentives. He said the asking price was $495,000. The foundation purchased the building for $30,000 and is now asking $275,000. The property is listed with Lucinda Stanley of Grand Mesa Commercial Real Estate.

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