Speaker preaches value of downtown


DDA seeks new leader

The city of Grand Junction is taking applications through July 8 for a new Downtown Development Authority executive director.

Executive Director Heidi Hoffman Ham is leaving the position this summer to relocate to Hot Springs, Ark. Ham said she is simply relocating because her husband has a new job.

The last time DDA leadership switched hands was in 2008, when Ham replaced Harold Stalf. The next executive director will be paid $50,000 to $80,000, according to the job posting, and is expected to have a background in finance, economics, urban planning and/or public administration.

The focus on developing urban centers downtown and throughout Grand Junction in the city’s comprehensive plan could mean less urban sprawl. It also will mean more tax revenue for the city and Mesa County, according to a development expert who spoke to downtown business owners and city personnel Tuesday evening.

The Downtown Development Authority hosted the speaker, Joe Minicozzi of Public Interest Projects in Asheville, N.C., who was brought to Grand Junction and other Western U.S. towns by conservation group The Sonoran Institute. Minicozzi said cities may be tempted to build malls and large retail stores, but there’s more tax revenue per acre in supporting renovation of multistory downtown buildings.

Minicozzi found Target and the North Avenue Wal-Mart, for example, bring in more sales tax than some downtown buildings. But while those two stores paid a combined $58,097 per acre in property tax in 2010, downtown buildings brought in much more, including $105,908 per acre for Alpine Bank at 225 N. Fifth St.; $199,945 for the Dalby, Wendland & Co. Building at 464 Main St.; and $468,571 for the Home Loan building at 205 N. Fourth St.

“Even with the insane amount Wal-Mart makes, it doesn’t come close to the revenue from downtown,” Minicozzi said.

Downtown buildings come with a higher tax price because they’re more likely to be vertical, and property taxes are based on a building’s worth, not the number of acres it covers.

Minicozzi’s presentation will help the Downtown Development Authority, the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County make policy decisions and may help convince developers about the value of a vibrant downtown, DDA Executive Director Heidi Hoffman Ham said. She said Grand Junction needs a healthy downtown, but it also has many commercial centers around town that could help support a robust tax base.

“It’s not either/or. We want to make sure all our commercial centers are strong,” Ham said.

Grand Junction City Councilman Bennett Boeschenstein and Deputy City Manager Rich Englehart attended the meeting and said Minicozzi’s ideas fit with the city’s comprehensive plan to encourage development in village centers and a downtown center.

The two men said the presentation confirmed the importance of sticking to the plan’s idea of creating denser developments in clusters and building vertically downtown.


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