Study spurs board to start Horizon Drive project
The recently released results of an Economic Impact and Traffic Report for the Horizon Drive District has convinced district board members to move forward with plans to spruce up the area.
The $14,500 study combined a survey of businesses in the district with a list of employment, sales tax and traffic data. Businesses were surveyed so district board members could make sure their plans to add medians, landscaping and eventually roundabouts would be well-received, a goal district representative Victoria Patsantaras believes was accomplished.
“It confirmed the direction the board is taking, which is to improve the district’s image. It all came back to, ‘We want our community to look nice,’ ” Patsantaras said. “Our goal is to make it much more aesthetically pleasing and safer.”
The district has issued requests for proposals from planning and landscape design firms interested in landscaping the sides of Horizon Drive and adding landscaped medians in the center of the road. Eventually, the district would like to add roundabouts as well.
Patsantaras said roundabouts and medians will slow traffic and, along with landscaping and sidewalk improvements, will help meet the three main requests of businesses surveyed: to improve traffic flow, make the area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists and add “curb appeal” to the neighborhood.
The district estimates it will take $5.32 million to complete the work in three phases. The district has budgeted $250,000 to contribute toward landscaping and median work next year, but Patsantaras said the property taxes that businesses pay into the district will not be enough to fund all improvements. That’s why the study included a second element that shows what the district contributes to the economy, according to Horizon Drive District Board President Clark Atkinson, vice president of Shaw Construction at 760 Horizon Drive.
“The purpose of the study was to identify the significance of the area and use that to persuade the city (of Grand Junction) to make it safer and enhance the flow of traffic,” Atkinson said.
The data study found sales tax from purchases made at Horizon Drive businesses account for about 5 percent of total Grand Junction sales tax collections and the 2,241 hotel rooms in the district generated 63 percent of lodging tax collections in the city in 2010.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment collects data for 144 of the district’s 227 businesses and found those 144 employers have 2,614 employees, about 5 percent of Mesa County’s workforce. Those employees are paid an average wage of $40,856, which is nearly $3,000 more than the average wage in Mesa County.
The survey also found about a quarter of Grand Junction office locations were in the Horizon Drive District as of January and a third of vacant office space in Grand Junction is in the district.
“We’ve known the Horizon Drive District is a pretty significant piston in the Grand Junction economy and we felt we needed to quantify it,” Atkinson said.
Patsantaras said the district is hoping the city will pay 80 percent of the project cost for at least the first phase.
As the district changes, Patsantaras said she expects some things to remain the same, such as the district playing host to a majority of hotels in the city and numerous offices. She envisions more commercial and office space, particularly on undeveloped sites zoned for business use.
Atkinson said the vision for Horizon Drive’s future that is being pursued now began about five years ago. He hopes to make the area a welcoming “gateway” for people coming off Interstate 70.
“First-time visitors enter Grand Junction on Horizon and it’s important we have an impression that’s a good and lasting impression,” he said.