First step toward redevelopment of Gypsum’s Railroad Ave. |

First step toward redevelopment of Gypsum’s Railroad Ave.

Builder Gary Defina stands outside the new mixed use building he is constructing at the western end of Railroad Avenue. The structure, with its second and third floor apartements and ground level commercial space reflects the vision of the new Gypsum Master Plan.
Pam Boyd/ |

GYPSUM – Builder Gary Defina is showing Railroad Avenue some love and the town of Gypsum couldn’t be happier about the relationship.

Last month, the latest draft of the new Gypsum Master Plan was released. The document envisions increased commercial expansion in the community and redevelopment of the town’s historic downtown area. Artist renderings of the Railroad Avenue neighborhood feature mixed use buildings that have street level commercial spaces with residential units on upper floors.

That’s exactly what Defina is building along the west end of Railroad Avenue.

Defina’s 11,000 square foot building will be anchored by ground level commercial space with eight apartments on the second and third floors. He also owns the existing apartment building at the corner of First Street and Railroad Avenue, as well as the immediately adjacent duplex.

“Hopefully this will help the new master plan come to life. Hopefully this will spur some small businesses to come to life along Railroad Avenue.”Jeff ShrollGypsum Town Manager

Defina purchased the property three years ago. He saw potential in the site, even though all of the commercial buildings along the street were shuttered.

Defina’s plan for the site was to build additional apartments. The eight rentals are all two-bedroom apartments and they all include small balconies. From the upper levels, the apartments feature expansive views of the town and the gypsum hills to the north.

While Defina’s vision centered on residential construction, he was willing to work with the town to include commercial space in his building. Defina noted his construction plans dovetailed nicely with the town’s new master plan process.

“They had the long range vision for what could happen down there,” he said.

That vision is reflected in the building now under construction.

Defina plans to complete the apartments first, hopefully within the next four months. From there he will complete the commercial space. Defina doesn’t yet have signed tenants for the ground-level spaces, but he said several people have expressed interest. The interest has mainly come from service-based operators, or destination businesses, as Defina describes them.

“Railroad Avenue is the old downtown, but it is not a drive-by location any more,” Defina said.

Welcome addition to town

Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll sees Defina’s project as a key, first step toward making Railroad Avenue a more viable neighborhood.

Shroll noted there is a documented need for additional rental units valleywide and Gypsum is very supportive of additional commercial development.

“Hopefully this will help the new master plan come to life,” Shroll said. “Hopefully this will spur some small businesses to come to life along Railroad Avenue.”

In the Railroad Avenue master plan renderings, the neighborhood is called The Yard. The pictures feature people congregating at sidewalk cafes and milling around shops in Gypsum’s old downtown. By integrating residential and commercial uses from the start of the redevelopment effort, Shroll hopes those renderings prove prophetic rather than simply pretty. Defina shares that hope.

“We have to get the apartments done and get some traffic down there to make it more viable. Hopefully we can make it viable,” he said. “It’s going to be nice property.”

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