Change is on the horizon in Clifton
The future of Clifton is up in the air right now; it’s in an unincorporated area in Mesa County. It’s not part of Grand Junction like Orchard Mesa or the Redlands, yet it is not a separate city or township, like Fruita or Palisade. “We’re down to two options,” say Michael Warren with the long-range planning department. “Clifton can be annexed by the city of Grand Junction or incorporate into its own city.”
The option to stay the same doesn’t exist. Clifton is one of the most densely populated areas within the valley, but it doesn’t have the types of amenities that usually go hand-in-hand with urban densities, like parks, an adequate storm water drainage system, a quick response from law enforcement, sidewalks or streetlights in some areas. The county doesn’t have the resources to offer the amenities.
That doesn’t mean the county hasn’t made an effort to serve Clifton and look to the interests of the residents. Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland was part of an economic recruitment group with the goal of attracting more businesses and services to underserved areas. The group commissioned the Buxton study to identify the demographics of certain geographical areas in the valley and discover what types of goods and services are lacking in those areas.
“My concern is the Clifton-Fruitvale area; 19,000 people live in the study area, but in the entire east end, there are 37,000 people,” says Rowland. “They all drive miles to get to the west area to shop, eat out and recreate. It can help with transportation issues if they’re able to stay home.”
The county is identifying areas for potential business park development, too, in hopes of encouraging more commercial and light industrial employers to take another look at Clifton. They would like to see development that resembles the Foresight Business Park in Grand Junction.
The county is also identifying areas where parks and trails are needed, including a location at D Road and 32 1/2, where the county has already applied for GOCO money to build a nature center, interpretive trails, and a link to the Colorado Riverfront Trail. When completed, the park will be similar in size to Corn Lake.
“Hopefully, if we get a grant for it we’ll start right away,” says Warren, “Meaning some time this year.”
Attracting new businesses and services is also vital if the area is to incorporate into its own entity, as it will need a larger tax base to provide revenue.
Gold’s Gym did not wait for the Buxton study to go forward with a location in Clifton. Recognizing the opportunities in the east end of the valley, the gym recently purchased the old Albertsons building in Peach Tree Plaza. The building will receive a complete overhaul, and when it is finished, it will be identical to the Gold’s Gym on the west side of the valley.
“The market data shows that there’s room for another one in that area,” says Stacy Cook, the real estate broker for the property. “They felt like it was the right thing to do.”
Although the big gym won’t be finished for another three or four months, Gold’s Gym leased space near the Albertsons to set up a temporary gym and offer pre-opening deals. “The temporary gym will be set up with all equipment,” says Cook. “They’ll offer great deals and great prices on memberships. They hope to open within the next 30 days.”
Other changes at Peach Tree Plaza include a new traffic light near the Taco Bell for easier access in and out of the shopping center. The county recently finished an access control plan for Highway 6 through Clifton and has plans to close the access into Peach Tree Plaza by Starvin’ Arvins and open a better access into the shopping center near First Street.
“It’s getting more difficult to make a left turn out of the access by Starvin Arvins,” says Ken Simms, transportation planning manager with Mesa County. “We couldn’t put a signal there because it’s too close to I-70B.”
The plan also recommends limiting the access along Highway 6 to make it safer for cars on the road. The county has also applied for grant money to get more funding for pedestrian facilities near Peach Tree Plaza. Right now, there is no sidewalk along I-70 B, so pedestrians have to walk in the rocks or on the shoulder.
Those who enjoying walking in Clifton will soon have a safer place than the side of the road. Thanks to funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Riverfront Trail is expanding into the Clifton area from its current stopping point at Corn Lake.
“We’re adding about two miles of Riverfront Trail eastward from Corn Lake,” says Sue Gormly with the Riverfront Commission. In addition to the trail, a small wildlife viewing area on county-owned property will be added to the parks along the riverfront system. The Clifton Nature Park will include minor improvements like a parking lot, wildlife viewing areas, trail access and shade structures.
“This is a real partnership with GOCO, Mesa County and the Clifton Sanitation District,” says Gormly. The biggest cost will be for the section of trail from the Corn Lake area under the 32 Road Bridge.
“We’ll go as far as we can eastward with the dollars we have,” says Gormly. “Our goal is to be complete by fall of 2009.”
There are several residential and commercial projects up for consideration with Mesa County Planning. While many of the developers want to get zoning issues cleared up, most are taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding the economy before committing to big projects.
“I think Clifton has some potential,” says Blu Gray, who has some property in front of the planning commission for rezoning. Gray is waiting to see what happens to the national economy before he moves further on what could be a retail and townhome project near Clifton Elementary School.
With annexation or self-governance on the horizon, road improvements and a push to attract more retail and services to the area, buying or investing in Clifton could prove to be a visionary move right now.