City approves deal for Bonsai

Firm gets incentives to build GJ facility

Calling it a shot in the arm toward making the city a pearl in the recreation industry nationwide, the Grand Junction City Council approved an incentive package for Bonsai Design Wednesday night to locate in a soon-to-be-built business park at Las Colonias Park.

After the idea stalled three previous times before the council, it voted 6-1 to offer the company not only $1 million to help build a new facility at the park located on Riverside Parkway, but also waive about $79,000 in construction fees and offer a 10-year rebate on real property taxes.

In exchange, the business that installs zip lines across the nation would put up the remaining $1 million to construct its new home and pay $20,000 a year in rent for the next 25 years. They’ll also construct one of their zip lines that will stretch across the Colorado River near their future home.

While Councilor Duncan McArthur, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said it was inappropriate for the city to provide a “subsidy” to an existing business, the rest of the council said it makes sense to retain and help that business expand.

Mayor Rick Taggart said he was fully behind not only the incentive package for Bonsai, but the entire concept of the business park, which is part of a larger effort to revitalize the riverfront area and boost economic development in the Grand Valley as a whole.

“The positives are really high on my part, but there is one negative, and that negative is jealousy,” Taggart said. “Had this type of vision existed (years ago) I would have never sold my business.” Taggart formerly owned and later sold the outdoor company Marmot Mountain Works. 

In partnership with the Downtown Development Authority, the Bonsai agreement is the first step toward creation of a business park on city-owned land east of the new amphitheater recently built at Las Colonias Park.

The vision is to turn the entire area into a destination not only for city residents to play, but also to work, all centered on the concept of focusing the city’s economic development on the recreation industry.

As a result, the eight or nine other businesses that officials imagine would locate at the business park also would be from that industry, said City Manager Greg Caton.

The agreement calls on Bonsai — which is to add 15 more people to the 21-person staff it already employs here — to help get those businesses to the park.

“We are focused on creating a next-generation business environment with direct access to the outdoors, to open park spaces and to the riverfront,” said Thaddeus Shrader, chief executive officer of Bonsai Design. “We believe that by building this outdoor life-work-play focal point for the Grand Valley, we can increase the perceived value of our town and what it has to offer.”

Several others also spoke out in favor of the Bonsai agreement specifically and the business park plan in general, including Tim Fry, chairman of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, which helped craft the agreement.

Fry said with this project the community is set to become the next outdoor recreation hub.

“As a business owner, I always tell our salespeople to retain our customers because it’s much easier to do that than find new ones,” Fry said, referring to the incentive package for an existing business. “This business park that is aimed directly at outdoor rec is a vision for this community. This (agreement) is a message to the outdoor rec industry that Grand Junction is open for business.”

Andy Daly, managing partner of Powderhorn Mountain Resort, said he came down off the Grand Mesa to encourage the council to approve the agreement.

“This whole Las Colonias adds a wonderful dimension to our city,” Daly said. “I couldn’t applaud you and the city staff more for having the vision and the sense of creativity and excitement to make this park really something. It’s a real motivation for businesses to locate here.”

The council approved several other items related to the entire project, including awarding a $530,000 construction project to install a turn lane on both directions of Riverside Parkway to improve access into the park.

That construction project had been in the city’s long-range plan, but city officials decided to recommend it now because of the focus on the business park, and the savings the city realized from resurfacing First Street, which came in under budget, Caton said.

The council also authorized the city to apply for two state grants related to the project. One would be a $1 million matching grant to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to help build infrastructure in the business park, and the other is a $1 million application to Great Outdoors Colorado for an Inspire Initiative grant, a state program aimed at inspiring youth to spend more time outdoors. Part of that grant would go to recreational improvements at Las Colonias.


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