Commercial construction pounds bucks into city’s budget

Springhill Suites, now under construction at Main and Third streets in downtown Grand Junction, joins nine other commercial or industrial projects approved as of September this year.

A crane and backhoes are working in concert this week to bury fuel tanks at the site of a new City Market gas station and grocery store off 24 Road. To the northeast, the new, four-story Candlewood Suites, with 97 rooms is framed in and now sports new windows.

The city of Grand Junction is experiencing some commercial growth this year, yet not one new commercial project is on the docket for next year, according to Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich.

As the city looks to sales tax, property tax revenue and more jobs to stimulate the economy and float budgets, city officials already are getting a little bit uneasy about balancing the city’s 2012 budget.

“Next year, the bulk of that work is done,” Kadrich said of projects now in the works. “Usually we have some inkling by now of interest for commercial development. We haven’t had any. I am a little nervous for next year.”

New commercial development with million-dollar price tags generates permitting fees and more taxes for city coffers. But the largest benefit for the cities are new jobs and sales of goods and services that commercial developments bring, Kadrich said.

“New commercial construction is valued at millions of dollars more than housing projects,” Kadrich said. “Construction buys material and hires workers, and that generates more revenue.”

Commercial construction already is down in Grand Junction compared to last year.

September’s year-to-date numbers show 10 commercial or industrial projects were approved this year compared to 23 projects during the same time last year.

Total construction, which includes residential homes and offices, was down nearly 15 percent throughout the city in year over year comparisons.

However, the valuations on the city’s construction projects in the year-to-date analysis, comparing this year to last year, are up.

As of September, the city calculated $92.7 million of construction projects so far this year, more than last year’s $73.5 million in construction projects during the same time last year.

No new commercial projects have entered the city’s official planning stages, but some companies are asking some preliminary questions about setting up shop locally, said Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Ann Driggers. She cannot release specifics on companies inquiring about business opportunities because it is confidential, she said.

“I would say that with new construction, we don’t see a ton in the pipeline,” Driggers said. “Companies are looking at going into existing buildings and expanding. I think we will see some projects like that. Some of the smaller projects are much easier to get off the ground.”

New and existing businesses had reported their biggest hindrance to expanding is wading through a lengthy city planning process. To address that, city planning staff members have been directed to expedite the process as much as possible.

“To give them due credit, they recognized that was going to be important,” Driggers said of city planning staff. “We’re working with some businesses currently, and we’re out there beating the bushes, trying to generate interest. There are a lot of businesses in a holding pattern until after the elections. People want to see where the economy is going.”


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