Rifle looking to build momentum from growing local economy
With new businesses popping up throughout town as well as plans for major infrastructure improvements soon to take shape, Rifle’s economic development continues to build momentum in 2019.
Rifle Mayor Barbara Clifton highlighted plans to improve Rifle’s gateway, which has been discussed for years but is finally coming to fruition this summer and will revamp the entrance to downtown.
As part of the opening of Wendy’s, which is being constructed on the site of the old gas stations on Railroad Avenue, the city is also working on installing underground power lines; paving the alley behind the restaurant site; gutter and sidewalk work along Railroad Avenue, Centennial Parkway and West Avenue; as well as landscaping and other work to improve the look of Rifle’s entrance to town. Work is expected to be completed this summer.
“All that will make an improvement as you drive to town,” she said.
The entrance to town had been a priority for the city for a long time, but it was the improvement to public infrastructure while securing a private investment that really attracted the city at the time.
“I am really excited with the businesses coming to town for a couple of reasons,” Clifton said. “It gives citizens more variety, but it also creates sales tax for the city.”
She said the sales tax could then be used to make further improvements becoming something of a cycle to keep making Rifle a better place to live.
When Rifle City Manager Scott Hahn started last August, he spoke to how important it was to get off to a fast start after months of stagnation between city managers.
He credited Rifle’s revitalization as the vision of the planning department, City Council and other city officials’ vision taking shape as residents are beginning to see the improvements firsthand.
This spring alone has seen Rifle open a new coworking space, as well as several new restaurants, franchises and other businesses in town including Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins last week with more on the way, including Wendy’s and likely Culver’s.
“I think it’s obvious the town has been on the right path for development,” Hahn added. “We’ve been getting this up for a long time, and it seems to be really taking off. Our flexibility is opening the town more to businesses to come in.”
He spoke to the fact that Rifle recently opened up the possibility of waiving development fees for housing projects, which isn’t necessarily bringing businesses into town directly, he said, but rather shows Rifle is business-friendly and open to accommodating developers.
Planning Director Nathan Lindquist reiterated that development fee waivers are for residential housing developments only. However, he said that also seems to have picked up.
“We’re expecting quite a bit of new housing from the development fee waiver,” he said.
He added that the number of building inspections the city has completed is up 30 percent in 2019, showing there has been a clear uptick in business development.
“We’ve picked up a lot of momentum in 2019, and these projects will start to build off one another as the city and community are doing a lot of different things,” he added. “Rifle is starting to show its best face. This phase is all about improving the quality of life.”
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