First impressions mean everything to tourism-based business. And, to better draw travelers in from the highway, Horizon Drive property owners are pushing for new projects to spice up Grand Junction's gateway.
"A lot of people will only see this part of Grand Junction while stopping at a gas station," Horizon Drive District (HDD) board member Brenda Brock said. "We think it should be a beautiful, welcoming space to draw them back for (future) visits."
Proposed plans call for beautifying the busy area, while also amending pedestrian and traffic issues. Pending projects will cover a 1.4-mile stretch from G to H Road.
"We're envisioning a center median with landscaping and potential for art," HDD executive director Victoria Patsantaras said. "There will also be an improved landscape, sidewalks, bike lanes and bus pullouts. We anticipate roundabouts at each of the lighted intersections."
With the District's current project planned in three phases, the first redevelopment leg - H Road to the Crossroads Boulevard signal light - is the least expensive, Patsantaras said. If funding requirements are met, construction could begin next summer.
"Making it safer for both pedestrians and cars is going to be huge," Brock said. "Beautification will be great for the city and Horizon Drive."
Improvements made to the bustling business corridor will also better promote the area to travelers using Grand Junction Regional Airport, Patsantaras added.
Initial public efforts to improve Horizon Drive began in 2004, with the first phase of projects done in 2008. The HDD funded $285,000 of the $1.3 million project, as a partnership with the City of GJ. A wild horse mosaic, now the largest piece of public artwork in GJ, was part of the initial push.
"Horizon Drive requires an investment," Patsantaras said. "We produce an economic impact of $300 million annually to the City of Grand Junction. That's a significant impact."
According to Patsantaras, Horizon Drive's upcoming projects will cost between $5 and $6 million, pending completion of final designs. And, implementing all plans will be completely dependent on fundraising efforts.
The HDD is currently funded by a .005 mill levy on the area's 120-plus commercial properties.
"This District money is planned to fund 20 percent of the total project cost," Patsantaras said. "We look to leverage this funding with partnership."
Potential stakeholders include the City of Grand Junction, Colorado's state government and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
"Eighty percent of the funding needs to come from these partners or transportation grants," Patsantaras said.
Horizon Drive owners aren't the only ones interested in improving their business corridor. A growing group of property owners and businesses on North Avenue are currently exploring ways to counteract an increasing trend toward disrepair and vacancy. City officials are working on a North Avenue Corridor Overlay Zone District to provide guidance and standards for future improvements.
City of GJ principal planner Dave Thornton said North Avenue owners could "follow in the footsteps" of Horizon Drive efforts with a similar funding concept.
"The model has worked here locally," he said.
For more information about the HDD, visit www.horizondrivedistrict.com.