Tax increased proposed for downtown projects

Grand Junction voters will consider in April a proposed city sales tax increase that, if approved, would fund the construction of a downtown events center as well as improvements to the convention center.

“This is an exciting prospect for the city to be able to regain some of our regional presence as well as to bring a new economic engine to our community,” said Grand Junction Mayor Phyllis Norris.

The Grand Junction City Council voted to place a question on the April 4 municipal election ballot asking voters to approve a quarter-percent increase in city sales tax.

If approved, the city sales tax rate would increase from 2.75 percent to 3 percent in July. The increase is expected to generate about $4 million annually, although the exact amount would vary with retail sales activity.

The increase in sales tax revenue will be used to repay no more than $65 million in financing to construct an events center and renovate Two Rivers Convention Center as well cover operating costs for the facilities. The interest rate on the financing won’t exceed 5 percent, while the total repayment cost won’t top $134 million over 30 years.

The proposed events center would be constructed just south of Two Rivers Convention Center and seat more than 5,000 people for sports events, concerts, trade shows and other activities.

Meanwhile, renovations at the convention center would offer more space and an improved experience, including a larger main ballroom, additional meeting rooms and separate corridors for service workers.

The results of a feasibility study the council first reviewed a year ago concluded that Grand Junction could take advantage of its location midway between Denver and Salt Lake City to draw on a regional population to attend sports events, concerts and other attractions. While about 150,000 people live in Mesa County, that number doubles within a two-hour drive from Grand Junction.

The regional market is large enough to support a minor league hockey team that could serve as an anchor tenant in the new events center. Grand Junction also offers a good location for mid-week performances of concerts and shows booked for consecutive weekends in Denver and Salt Lake City, the report concluded.

Grand Junction also constitutes an attractive destination for conventions and meetings with its historic downtown shopping and dining district as well as outdoor recreational activities.

Norris said the facilities would create 200 to 240 jobs directly while also bolstering local lodging, dining and shopping and, in turn, tax collections. “We have to be creative in looking at ways of igniting our economy, and this is just one possibility,” she said. “I am hopeful voters will support this as something our community needs right now and into the future.”

With the increase, the Grand Junction sales tax rate would match the 3 percent rate assessed in Fruita, Palisade and Delta, but remain below the 3.3 percent rate assessed in Montrose. An average sales tax rate of 3.3 percent is assessed in 25 comparable cities and towns around Colorado.

Moreover, visitors and shoppers from outside the city account for most of the sales tax revenues Grand Junction collects. It’s estimated city residents account for about 22 percent of collections.