It’s time for change along Horizon Drive

Bring to a mind, for a moment, the memorable places you’ve visited in urban settings — perhaps the River Walk in San Antonio or maybe the 16th Street Mall in Denver. For that matter, recall the last time you shopped at a store, enjoyed a meal or simply strolled along Main Street in downtown Grand Junction.

Now, compare those memories with your latest experiences along Horizon Drive in Grand Junction.

Those differences have motivated the board overseeing a business improvement district along Horizon Drive to propose a massive makeover for the busy thoroughfare. The changes are designed to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety, but also create a fresh and unique image for the area.

Considering a number of important factors involved, it’s time for a change.

A study conducted by Colorado Mesa University last year on behalf of the Horizon Drive District confirms the importance of the district to the Grand Valley economy. With more than 200 businesses and a total of 2,600 employees, the district generates more than $300 million annually in direct, indirect and induced economic value to Mesa County. That dollar figure, by the way, is comparable with the estimated annual economic impact of the university.

Here’s another factor to think about: More than 25 percent of the office space and fully 70 percent of the lodging space in Grand Junction is located within the Horizon Drive District. How many more businesses would locate operations near Horizon Drive if the area offered a more attractive venue?

Last, but certainly not least, Horizon Drive constitutes an important entry into Grand Junction. Horizon Drive makes a first — and sometimes only —impression on travelers visiting the area. What should that impression be? Should Horizon Drive remain a busy business district, but one that’s indistinguishable from any other commercial thoroughfare in the country? Or, should Horizon Drive offer a unique and inviting place that encourages travelers to linger or even come back?

It’s difficult to conclude Horizon Drive doesn’t need a makeover. As with so many deserving projects, though, it comes down to a matter of money.

The Horizon Drive District hopes to partner with the City of Grand Junction in funding what’s estimated will be $5 million to $6 million worth of work. Under the current plan, the city would fund 80 percent of the work, in fact.

While city sales tax collections have increased and are expected to continue to increase, there are many demands for those dollars. The city has put off basic street maintenance for several years in the aftermath of a recession and declining tax revenues. It would be foolish not to resume maintenance now if the cost is even more expensive repairs down the road, so to speak.

But if and when dollars are available for major street projects, the proposed Horizon Drive improvements merit serious consideration.

Anyone who’s been downtown following the completion of massive street renovation projects there knows firsthand the experience associated with the finished product. What an attractive and pleasant environment in which to spend time.

Arguably, the Horizon Drive District constitutes an even more important area of Grand Junction that deserves similar treatment.

All things considered, it’s time for a change.