Town of Fraser may develop ‘FroDo,’ a residential-commercial downtown area | SkyHiNews.com

Town of Fraser may develop ‘FroDo,’ a residential-commercial downtown area

by Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News

An architectural design depicts a block on the east side of downtown Fraser, but the Maynard Real Estate building (inset) was accidentally excluded. "That doesn't mean we plan on knocking the building over," Town Manager Jeff Durbin said, adding that he believes the building would work well with the scheme.

After roughly seven years of on-and-off planning, FroDo ” Fraser’s downtown improvement project ” has been given a face and a possible partner.

A design study was presented to Fraser’s board of trustees last week, depicting a downtown neighborhood with single-family cottages, duplexes and row houses. The design, created by a Boulder architectural firm, shows a quaint, filled-in neighborhood in what is currently an essentially empty piece of land dotted with patches of tall grass, a restaurant and a real estate office.

“We look at that parcel, and the opportunities are huge. The block is underutilized, and what happens to (it) is the key to the future of what happens in town,” said Town Manager Jeff Durbin.

The property, which is surrounded by Zerex and Doc Susie streets, and Eastom and Fraser Avenues, has been on the market three times since Durbin started working for the town, he added. In the past, Fraser’s board of trustees has been hesitant in getting involved in the market, but lately it has shown signs of moving forward and playing a more active role.

“We don’t want to be developers or take away people’s property rights. But if we can work with them in a fair way, maybe we can be more aggressive and do something there that makes sense,” Durbin said.

The town currently has a lease-purchase agreement with John Hillison on the property. While plans to buy the property outright are still being mulled, Mercy Housing knocked on the town’s door last week and expressed an interest in developing the block of land.

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Erin Ganser, project developer for Mercy Housing, discussed with the board possible plans for the property, and submitted a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Mercy Housing is the nonprofit organization that developed Wapiti Meadows in Fraser, a neighborhood of low-income housing for family, seniors and people with special needs.

Ganser told the board the organization was interested in a possible collaborative planning process for FroDo, with a focus on homeownership for locals. Mercy Housing wants to be a part of the commercial and residential aspect, she added.

Durbin said Mercy Housing presents an opportunity for the town to work with an organization that does the development side but isn’t a for-profit developer. Trustee Joyce Burford also believes Mercy Housing would be a good fit for the property.

“The management they have of (Wapiti), and the feedback from people who live there … I think they’re a fantastic organization to partner with,” Burford said during a phone interview.

Design study ‘fits’ downtown Fraser

The FroDo project focuses on three aspects: Enhancement, attainable housing and economic development. It is roughly 1.5 acres of land in the center of town, with 320 feet of frontage on U.S. Highway 40, or Zerex Street.

In the design study submitted last week, the architectural sketches show shops on the main floor, with residences or offices above. The western fronts on selected buildings depict a similar character to the old Fraser Mercantile building ” an attempt to tie the architectural design to the town’s past.

The drawings also show a series of attached single-family homes over two-car garages, which are accessed from a back alley. There are roughly 26 units shown, with 6,500 square feet of ground-floor, nonresidential space.

Burford said when she first saw the design study, the neighborhood looked colonial to her. But once she studied the plans, she felt they reflected downtown Fraser.

“I was really excited, because it not only matches what we have going on in Fraser, but it adds some freshness as well. It gives a neighborhood feel for that block, which has been empty for so long,” Burford said. “It reminds one of an old, small town neighborhood.”

Burford believes the FroDo project will impact Fraser positively in an economic way, she added. With all the development going on with Rendezvous and Cornerstone, Fraser needs something that will also draw people downtown. FroDo provides a balance, she said.

“I think this will be a shot in the arm. It’ll be great for revitalizing the whole downtown Fraser,” Burford added.

Lease agreement to end in roughly three months

The town is half way through its lease agreement for the property, and the clock is ticking. There are many options, Durbin pointed out ” for instance, the town could buy the property, or it may end up being the developer. It could also partner with Mercy Housing, he added, to do the heavy-lifting.

“January will be an interesting month for this,” Durbin said.

Burford pointed out that the design study of FroDo, and the possible partnership with Mercy Housing, are signs of things falling into place. Durbin agreed he felt the town was moving in the right direction, but now it needs to get creative to figure out how to make it happen.

“If we can pull this off, it will really create a lot of positive momentum in that area … and provide some good space for local businesses, and housing for locals,” Durbin said. “We’re trying to make good things happen.”

– To reach Stephanie Miller, call (970) 887-3334, ext. 19601 or e-mail smiller@grandcountynews.com.

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