It's clear progress marches on — and rather quickly — at the city's Las Colonias Park redevelopment project southeast of downtown.
This, despite a head-scratching beatdown at the ballot box earlier this month of a measure that would have made it easier for businesses to locate there.
Future arteries at the park are staked, heavy equipment is moving earth and rock, curbs, gutters and parking areas are mostly done, and the distinctive wings of the park's butterfly lake are cemented in place, already holding some water.
So nothing much has changed for the vision of the project — 130 acres of prime recreational riverfront park space, anchored on the east end by a unique 15-acre business park populated with outdoor recreation companies.
Progress, in fact, has officials targeting a June opening for the city park portion of the project.
Park backers and city officials say Grand Junction voters' perplexing but sound rejection of Measure 2F on the April ballot — which would have allowed for the extension of city leases from 25 years to 99 years — is but a bump in the road for the business park project.
"It is an annoyance, and it's a setback, but it's not the end of the world," said Robin Brown, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, a key backer of the project.
"With the noise of everything else on the ballot, we didn't do a good job of campaigning for it, I don't think," Brown said, in reference to the other more high-profile questions before voters in April — raising taxes for public safety agencies, roads and a community recreation center. In the end, the first responder tax raise was the only one approved by voters.
"We still have been very successful in securing businesses to locate down there," said Greg Caton, Grand Junction city manager. "The 25-year lease does work for businesses. This was just to create additional flexibility."
Two companies have committed to build at Las Colonias, even with the 25-year lease restriction that's still a part of the city's charter.
Bonsai Design, a local outdoor recreation company that specializes in zip lines and other adrenaline-inducing attractions, is planning to build its headquarters at Las Colonias, and anchor the business park. A combination project between Bonsai and the city will connect Eagle Rim Park with Las Colonias by zip line across the river. Bonsai and the city will split revenue from the public-private zip line, and Bonsai gets $1 million toward construction of its $2 million facility, among other tax and fee breaks.
Bike rack and accessories maker RockyMounts has also signed on to build at Las Colonias, as part of a company rebrand and move from Boulder to Grand Junction.
Both companies signed on despite the 25-year lease limitation because "they were so excited about the potential for the park," GJEP's Brown said.
"However, both companies had the expectation that they would either get a 99-year lease or be able to buy the property. And that is still the intent," she said.
Drawing other perhaps large or international companies to the park, though, is key to the city's vision for Las Colonias, and without a change in the 25-year financing limit, it may be more difficult to attract those type of companies, Brown said.
"Most people that are going to build, say, a $4 million building, do not want a 25-year lease. They want to know they own the land for longer than that," she said.
For Vance Wagner, regional president of ANB Bank — which provided some bond financing through the Downtown Development Authority for Las Colonias to be developed — not much has changed in terms of vision for the park after the lease question defeat.
"We knew going in that there was a 25-year lease, and we had no concern about that whatsoever," Wagner said.
He said that the city's ability to renew those 25-year leases at anytime should be enough to satisfy companies with concerns about building and not owning the property.
"You still have the ability to be there for as long as you want to be there," he said.
"It's hard for me to imagine that the city of Grand Junction would welcome businesses to town, who will bring a business to that site, and then 25 years later tell them, 'We don't want you anymore,'" Wagner said.
Brown said that local financing under the current limited lease terms is available, from banks that understand the concept of the park and are willing to take on the additional risk of 25-year lease terms.
"But 25-year leases are not the final answer. We need to come up with an option that works a little bit better for those making the investment," Brown said, adding that it's possible voters might someday be confronted by the lease question again, however with much more of an educational campaign attached.
But that's the future. In the present, the park itself should be pretty much done sometime in June, including landscaping and green spaces, Brown said.
She said both Bonsai and RockyMounts are in the permit process with the city right now, and both hope to break ground within 60 days, with winter openings planned for the new buildings.
The park's whitewater feature is expected in the fall, and the zip line across the river is planned to be installed within a year of Bonsai's building going up.
Still more activity is happening behind the scenes with parcels in and around Las Colonias, Brown said.
Both the prominent former sugar beet factory across Riverside Parkway and the former Brady Trucking property on the eastern edge of the park are under contract with Front Range developers who are considering what to do with the properties, according to Brown.