Next steps for Bonsai Design

Construction work begins at the Las Colonias Business Park, where a deal was struck between Bonsai Design and the Grand Junction City Council to make the company an anchor tenant in the park. Bonsai plans to build a warehouse, office building and research and development site in the park.

It may have taken four tries, but at last the Grand Junction City Council approved a lucrative package for Bonsai Design to become the anchor tenant in a 10- to 15-acre business park at Las Colonias Park. The project will not only keep the adventure program installation company in town but also will initiate a prospective hub for the outdoor recreation industry. 

Now, after months of trying to approve a plan, it’s time for Bonsai, the city and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership to start to implement it. And there’s plenty to do even before construction begins on the Bonsai buildings in spring or summer 2018.

“Now the fun begins,” GJEP Executive Director Kristi Pollard said.

Pollard will be working with Bonsai Design owner Thaddeus Shrader to recruit more outdoor-oriented businesses for the development while also partially overseeing the creation of the Las Colonias Development Corporation, an entity that would serve as a master leaser for the business park.

“What we wanted to do is create a vehicle, an LLC, to take on the debt of developing the property,” Shrader said.

The corporation would have a board of directors that includes city staff and representatives from Bonsai, GJEP and the Downtown Development Authority. It could apply for grant money and begin to finance early infrastructure projects such as roads connecting the park to Riverside Parkway without having to wait for City Council approval to allocate the funds.

Grand Junction City Manager Greg Caton said the corporation is still in the concept phase and he expects it to form and go before the planning commission and City Council for approval within the next four to six weeks.

Bonsai has plans to build a warehouse, office building and research and development site in the park. Once built, the company will be able to move out of its current home at the Union Station train depot, which was sold last year, and it can begin work on installing a zip line — which the company has specialized in for two decades — in the park that will go over the Colorado River. Shrader expects the zip line to open in 2019.

Before agreeing to this deal, Bonsai had been offered an incentive package to relocate to Ogden, Utah, but ultimately decided to stay in Grand Junction.

Shrader noted the popularity of the zip line would hinge on the development of a play park around the business park and dreamed of the possibilities of water recreation areas around the river.

“We will have a hard time getting people excited about zipping over a piece of dirt,” he said of the green space, which includes plans for a lake.

What comes next depends on who signs on to build in the business park, but optimism is high.

“It’s not just a business park development, it’s a new focal point for the Grand Valley and to put our flag in the ground as a great outdoor recreation destination. It’s not just some old warehouses on the side of the road,” Shrader said.

Caton also expressed his enthusiasm for the project.

“We’re very excited. The whole idea is a Google-like campus,” Caton said. “This is really a game-changer in the outdoor rec industry and sending a message that we are open for business.”

As for recruiting businesses, Shrader believes the outdoor amenities, the show of support by the city and the collaboration between Bonsai and GJEP can bring over some attractive clients. Some discussions have already begun, although nothing is finalized.

The state of the Front Range market, both housing and commercial, could also lure people to the west side of the Continental Divide.

“I believe there will be a strong chance we can attract businesses from the Front Range market because of the fact that it’s so overcrowded over there,” he said. “We’re dripping with trails on either side. When we really start to describe that, people raise their eyebrows. They get very interested very quickly.”

The incentive package Bonsai received included $1 million from the city toward its new $2 building, a 10-year property tax rebate worth approximately $46,000 and the waiving of $79,000 in construction fees.

The ambitious plan to keep Bonsai in Grand Junction was lauded by the likes of Pollard, who is anxious to see it pay dividends for the city.

“It was a really aggressive incentive plan, but the other offers were also aggressive,” she said. “It was a really unique opportunity to help an existing business, but it also sends a clear message to other businesses that we’re willing to help them succeed.”


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