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OCCA buys former Goodwill-owned house, is turning it into welcome center

ABOVE: A view from the southwest corner of the interior of 2324 W. Colorado Ave. shows the front room (which will become the greeting area for visitors) and, through the wide door opening, a slightly smaller room (which will be used for meetings. RIGHT: The historically decorative styling on the stairs to the second floor is to be retained in the house's renovation.

Westside Pioneer photos

       The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) now has a building for a welcome center. The business group, which focuses on attracting shoppers to the historic commercial area, closed in early May on a 20-year mortgage for a 116-year-old, Victorian-era house at 2324 W. Colorado Ave.
       The goal is to style it after the Convention and Visitors bureau downtown, where visitors can drop in to pick up information on such aspects as lodging, restaurants, attractions and events.

A scene during Territory Days May 26 shows festive activities at Front Range Barbeque. The restaurant just bought the vacant historic house next to it, as part of a property deal in which the Old Colorado City Associates business group bought the next one down and is transforming it into a welcome center.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Renovation work has already begun. Plans call for upgrading the house as needed, restoring the hardwood floors and adding a second bathroom, air conditioning and landscaping, meanwhile retaining the historic look and feel. OCCA Executive Director Dave Van Ness said he hopes to have the center open “by the end of summer.”
       The OCCA property deal was with Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado (JA). The $165,000 sale actually consisted of two houses that JA had obtained as part of its purchase last year of Goodwill's former holdings (other than the retail store) on the north side of the avenue's 2300 block. The second house, also vacant, is next door at 2326 W. Colorado Ave.
       In keeping with prior arrangements, OCCA then sold the 2326 house to a limited liability corporation representing Front Range Barbeque. Located for the past 15 years just west of 2326 at 2330 W. Colorado Ave., Front Range is a restaurant/live-music venue that is itself customized into an older house. Owner Brian Fortinberry said he has no immediate plans for the newly available 1,042 square feet, but has previously observed that the purchase “would give us a little more luxury to do things we want to do.” Front Range had built an addition onto its current restaurant four years ago.
       The 2324 house had been used fairly recently by Goodwill - as indicated by a communications cable that had been run from the main building on its east side - but Van Ness believes the place had been vacant for several years. “It looks like they just walked out and left everything,” he said in an interview about two weeks after the purchase, pointing out the window to a dumpster in the rear parking lot that was nearly full of stuff that had to be thrown out.
       In addition to a welcome center, the 1,638-square-foot, two-story structure will become OCCA headquarters. Currently, the organization has to lease space for Van Ness' office, storage and meetings. To defray the mortgage expense, the house's meeting room will also be rentable to the public, and its extra office space will be leased.
       Van Ness said the OCCA board agreed to the contract after determining that it could afford the mortgage and receiving responses to a survey of its 54 members showing 81 percent in favor.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 5/27/14; Business: New)

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