Southern belle? 

Developers, city officials jump on South Nevada bandwagon

For many small merchants of South Nevada Avenue, it began with a dream. Specifically, a dream about buying a few banners to hang on lamp posts.

They've come a long way, baby!

Forget the banners. Now everyone's thinking about crime fighting and business beautification the benefits of an urban renewal designation and the prospect of new development. Slowly, this dream is edging closer to reality.

At a recent South Nevada Merchants Association meeting (the business owners who started it all), city officials were a strong presence. City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, Assistant City Manager Mike Anderson, the Housing and Community Development department's Chad Wright, the Economic Development Division's Brian Grim, police Commander Kurt Pillard and police Detective Olav Chaney all offered help.

They spoke of funding beat cops through private donations, and making the merchants group a nonprofit to accept tax-deductible donations. They touted setting up a special district to collect property taxes for purposes like paying beat cops, marketing the area and improving property. They said the city would step in to fix bad streetlights, and bring volunteers and Dumpsters for a much-needed creek clean-up.

"This isn't sexy stuff," Anderson told the group. "But this is basic building blocks."

All this is just the beginning. As previously reported in the Independent, the El Pomar Foundation has a group working on a South Nevada plan that will combine visions of various developers and business owners. The plan will be used to apply for urban renewal area and state enterprise status two huge financial incentives that would be sure to encourage business restoration and new development in the area. Plenty of fresh ideas are out there. Here are a few:

Developer James Rhue, CEO and president of Shopping Center Enterprises Inc., is looking at properties along the east side of Nevada Avenue. Rhue is in the preliminary stages, asking property owners if they'd be interested in selling, and imagining what could be done with the land. Rhue has said that he'd like to acquire around 11 acres and possibly set up a "community shopping center."

As previously reported, developer Mark Morley has bought many properties behind South Nevada to the west. Morley's purchases were to include the Chief Motel, but that deal didn't go through. Morley also tried to buy the Cheyenne Motel, but the Cheyenne's owner wanted more than Morley offered. Morley says he's not discouraged and can work with property he has bought. He imagines a mixed-use development along Cheyenne Creek showcasing the area's natural beauty. Because the area is in a flood plain, Morley is working to rectify his plans with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations and the city's streamside ordinances no small feat. Complicating the issue, those regulations prevent Morley from simply tearing down structures during the planning process, because they set a time limit for replacing the buildings. But the vacant structures are an insurance risk and can be a magnet for hiding criminals and squatters.

Danny Mientka, principal of the Equity Group, has bought property along Cheyenne Road, from behind South Nevada's McDonald's to Mount Washington Avenue. He says he was originally envisioning a retail strip mall, but like Morley, he's in the process of determining what he can build in the flood plain.

Allen Van Whye, local businessman, owns about 14 acres northeast of the I-25 and South Nevada interchange. He says retail, a hotel, an office building or affordable housing are possibilities for the area, which features streams and mature trees.

Griffis/Blessing Inc. has purchased properties along South Tejon Street with an eye toward residential development. CEO Buck Blessing says any redevelopment will be gradual, and blend in with the existing neighborhood.



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