Grand Junction, Colorado is uniquely positioned as a bright spot in rural America, experiencing a “reverse migration” – people are moving here from big cities in search of a lower cost of living and a higher quality of life. Located on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, just four hours west of Denver and east of Salt Lake City, it is the only metropolitan area between the two. With a population of 150,000-plus, Grand Junction offers big city amenities with small-town charm.
Compared to the Denver metro area and Colorado’s famous mountain resort towns, Grand Junction is the most affordable big city in the state, with an average home price of $240,000 (half the price of a Denver home) and commercial real estate listed significantly lower than in other cities in the state. Residential and commercial building applications were up 23% and 20% respectively in 2018 – unsurprisingly, that trend continues to climb in 2019.
Grand Junction combines a low unemployment rate with a 3% job growth last year. Sales tax revenues were up 8% in 2018 as well, which helped Mesa County’s GDP climb to the 10th strongest in the state, and the strongest overall outside of the Denver metro area.
People are moving in to the area to open businesses and fill available jobs. And they’re coming in big numbers – Grand Junction is the third largest destination for people leaving the Denver area, behind Phoenix and Seattle. This has created demand for multi-family housing, mixed use commercial and Class A office space.
The City recently invested $14 million into a riverfront district, RIVERFRONT at las colonias PARK, located in a formerly blighted area along the Colorado River, complete with amphitheater, ponds, a festival area, whitewater park and zipline over the river. Nestled within the park is a commercial business park geared towards outdoor industry manufacturers. It will be anchored by local aerial canopy tour company, Bonsai Design, and RockyMounts, a bike rack manufacturer that announced its relocation from Boulder, Colorado to Grand Junction last summer.
The City’s investment has encouraged development in and around the park, including much needed and desired housing along the Colorado River. A number of developments – all in Opportunity Zones – are underway.
Grand Junction is preparing well for the growth that’s coming by updating its Comprehensive Plan and expanding transportation infrastructure across the region. The community supports this development – recent ballot measures for increased funding for schools, tourism marketing and public safety have all passed. This collaborative spirit and pro-growth attitude – 90 days is all it takes from application to permit – is setting the course for Grand Junction to meet its goal of becoming “the most liveable city west of the Rockies by 2020.”
Photo credit: A rendering of the Bonsai Design headquarters in RIVERFRONT at las colonias PARK, set to open Fall 2019.