Montrose: Southern edge of town attracting commercial development
With two state highways bisecting the town, a regional airport that serves ten times as many visitors as residents, and a location that puts it an hour’s drive from almost every available recreational activity offered in the state of Colorado, Montrose sees a lot of people passing through to somewhere else.
The winter visitors on their way to Telluride have caused several major airlines to add Montrose as a destination. There are weekly direct flights in the winter to Montrose from Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark and Atlanta, as well as daily flights from Houston, Dallas, Denver and Salt Lake.
In the last few years, a lot of visitors passing through have decided to stop and stay awhile. The population of Montrose County has grown at a steady pace of four percent per year, while the city of Montrose has grown from a little more than 12,000 people in 2000 to more than 15,000 in 2004. Unlike much of the Western Slope, where the energy industry is driving growth, Montrose is growing because Montrose has been discovered. “It’s been the strongest market I’ve ever had,” says Mindy Timian, broker associate with Kienholz-Miller. “Real estate jumped 20% in pricing last year. It was tough to find a house under $200,000.”
Retirees and 2nd homebuyers are settling in the area, creating a strong market for homes in the $400,000 price range. The city is in the same growth management quandary in which other Western Slope towns struggle.
“Growth is a two-edged sword,” says Public Information Officer David Spear. “How much is too much, how do you control it?”
As Montrose grows, city planners are determined to keep those amenities that brought people to the area in the first place. “We have a lot of dedicated park space,” says Spear. With 24 dedicated park spaces and 17 miles of bike and walking trails in a city surrounded by national forest land, ski resorts, lakes and recreational areas, the city is determined to provide its residents with plenty of recreational opportunities within the town itself.
The fastest growing residential areas in Montrose are south and east of the town, where two golf course communities have been developed. There are several new housing developments scattered on the eastern side of town, including American Village and Raven Crest, where homes under $300,000 can still be found. Brown Ranch Subdivision in the southeast, where it’s not hard to find a half million dollar home, is one of the newest neighborhoods and will have several homes in the upcoming Parade of Homes. The city recently annexed the Blue Sky addition of more than 500 acres at the southern edge of town west of Highway 550.
Most new commercial development is also taking place south of town along Highwy 550. Oxbow Crossing has recently added several restaurant chains, while a brand new J.C. Penney’s store is planned for River Landing, a retail area that will be built across the highway.
Growth hasn’t just added new retail stores and restaurants to the town. Montrose Memorial Hospital has recently built a 92,000 square feet patient tower, adding a new emergency unit, a new ICU, cardiology and a medical/surgical unit. They’ve also upgraded the food service area, allowing patients to order items off a menu instead of receiving the identical, institutionally bland hospital food featured at many hospitals.
The hospital also partnered with St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and San Juan Radiation Oncology to open the San Juan Cancer Center in early April. Although chemotherapy had been available, radiation therapy wasn’t.
“It’s a really good thing,” says Leann Tobin, public relations director with Montrose Memorial Hospital. “We were putting our sickest patients on the road.”
The school district, which serves 6,000 students in both Montrose and Olathe, has also been trying to keep pace with the growth. A bond levy passed in 2002, allowing for 12 new classrooms at Montrose High School, remodeling at the middle schools, extensive renovation at some of the elementary schools, and new construction of a 500-student elementary school. Unfortunately, while the 2002 bond took care of most of the overcrowding at existing schools, it didn’t include growth funds.
City planners are trying to plan for growth as they work on the prioritization of arterial projects. Although there is a small bypass so travelers heading toward Gunnison along Highway 50 can avoid the congestion of downtown, the main streets in town are the highways, which can cause traffic delays and jams, especially near the downtown area. An alternate north/south corridor, skirting on the eastern side of town, is being discussed by the city.
“The main purpose is not to build the roadway now, but to preserve the right of way,” says Kerwin Jensen, community development director.
Montrose has received federal funding for the project, which comes with environmental standards that must be met before construction can start. The target date for the construction start is sometime in 2008.
Unless the snow stops falling at Telluride and the water dries up at Blue Mesa, Montrose will probably continue to be a town that a lot of people pass through. Once they’ve passed through, some of them will want to come back. The city’s trying to get ready.
• Cottonwood Elementary
• Johnson Elementary
• Northside Elementary
• Oak Grove Elementary
• Olathe Elementary
• Pomona Elementary
• Centennial Middle School
• Columbine Middle School
• Olathe Middle School
• Montrose High School
• Olathe High School