EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a five-part, weekly series in December looking back at the accomplishments of the City of Montrose in 2021 and looking at what is on the horizon in 2022.
MONTROSE — The return on a mixture of public and private investment into the Montrose Urban Renewal Authority, MURA, is quickly becoming tangible as this prime riverfront area emerges as a magnet for new commercial, light-industrial, and residential development, which will help Montrose prosper for generations to come.
The MURA concept was a collaboration between City Manager and MURA Executive Director Bill Bell and the Dragoo family, founders of Colorado Outdoors, LLC, that was ignited during a conversation over coffee about the hidden potential of the Uncompahgre River Corridor that runs through the heart of Montrose. The Dragoos offered the entrepreneurial vision and Bell offered the detailed implementation strategy and framework.
After five years of work and careful, targeted financing, the layout of the MURA’s 160 acres of mixed-use property, situated along the Uncompahgre River northwest of downtown Montrose, is coming into focus. At the center of MURA is the Colorado Outdoors campus that is anchored by Mayfly Outdoor’s world-class manufacturing facility that was completed in 2019.
Surrounding Mayfly Outdoors, millions of dollars in new investment is quickly transforming vacant land and scant river access into shovel-ready lots for businesses to start fresh and housing for those drawn to live in the Uncompahgre Valley.
In March, the City of Montrose completed Phase I of the Uncompahgre River Improvements Project, a habitat-restoration and bank-stabilization effort along the river. This project began in late 2020 as river flows were at their lowest.
The river restoration project involves three phases spanning 8,700 linear feet of this critical natural resource. Approximately 42 of the 160 acres that make up the MURA were donated by Colorado Outdoors to the city to make the project possible.
Over the course of the past 50 years, gravel mining and other heavy industrial uses along this stretch of the river have led to riverbank erosion that has forced the river to move some 400 feet from its natural channel. This shift has forced the river to flow against its natural course, making areas of the river difficult for boaters and fishermen to navigate.
In short, the fishing wasn’t great, and the area was known for bad underwater snags for boaters.
Decades of river mismanagement also led to losses in wildlife habitat for birds, fish, and deer.
Phase I, completed this past spring, improved aquatic and riparian wildlife habitat along the first 3,400 linear feet of river. Heavy machinery worked for months to re-establish a more natural alignment of the river that also increased the river’s flood resiliency.
These river improvements are being completed along the city’s new Connect Trail that runs along the river and in front of the Colorado Outdoors campus.
This project was made possible due to financial support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Mayfly Outdoors. Other contributors were the Gunnison Gorge Anglers, Friends of the River Uncompahgre, MURA, Telluride Outdoors, and Trout Unlimited.
Now, nearly 9 months after Phase I work was finished, the fishing has improved dramatically and more and more rafts and boats are seen on this stretch of the river.
“We have seen a drastic increase in angling within this reach of the river since completion of the project," said City of Montrose Engineer Scott Murphy. “It is exciting to see so many residents enjoying this new community asset.”
The river restoration efforts have followed upon the completion of the Connect Trail, opened in January 2020, which connects the northern-most portions of the Colorado Outdoors development to Riverbottom Park via a concrete path.
Since it opened, the trail has seen regular use by recreationists and outdoor enthusiasts including kids, families, pets, walkers, joggers, anglers, and cyclists.
“It's great to see this trail being utilized so well by our community,” said David Dragoo, president of Colorado Outdoors. “These will be amazing amenities in Montrose for decades to come.”
In 2021 about $50 million in new private investment began taking shape in MURA in a variety of commercial and residential projects that make up an estimated 200,000 square feet of new construction.
Over this past summer, the city broke ground on a public infrastructure project to install utilities and roadways to support a 96-unit market-rate apartment complex within MURA. These units will be located on the southern end of MURA near the river. With the Connect Trail and easy drivable access to downtown, new residents in these units will find easy access to the river along with all the amenities of downtown Montrose, all while enjoying the fastest internet speeds on the Western Slope.
With the exception of some paving to take place in the spring, the public infrastructure elements of this project are nearly complete, according to Murphy. Most work at the site is now being performed by the developer constructing the apartment buildings themselves. More information on the project and a waitlist for rentals are available online at liveatbasecamp.co.
“The challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships, and MURA is a very good example. These types of projects can only be accomplished by working together,” Dragoo said.
A pair of “flex” buildings with commercial spaces was built at the northern end of Colorado Outdoors. Each building will house 27,500 square feet of mixed-use commercial, retail, and manufacturing spaces.
The Colorado Yurt Company is currently constructing its new world headquarters facility immediately north of the Mayfly Outdoors building. This project is scheduled for completion in the second quarter of 2022.
“The focus of the package is from all the public and private investments, the return on this investment will be new jobs and residential housing,” Dragoo said.
Site development permitting for a new Fairfield by Marriott hotel was completed this year, and the project is ready to break ground, according to City Engineer Scott Murphy.
The company in charge of building the new hotel has started off-site production of modular hotel units, with the bulk of on-site construction set to begin in 2022.
Dragoo said the focus of the MURA, Colorado Outdoors, and the City of Montrose is to be excellent community partners and work alongside local leaders to make Montrose a great place to live, work, and play.
“One interesting fact about jobs in Montrose is that each job created has a multiplier effect of 30 as compared to Denver. In other words, for every one job we can create and maintain locally is a job that is equivalent to over 30 created in Denver,” Dragoo said. “That's a huge impact on a relative basis, 30-to-1. Our focus in 2022 will be to accelerate job creation by recruiting new and expanding businesses to the area.”
Public and private investment into MURA to fund new construction, business tenants ready to open in the new flex buildings, and strong interest and demand for its new housing units have made MURA one of the most sought-after development areas in Western Colorado.
More about the MURA’s ongoing work can be found here.
More about Colorado Outdoors can be found here.
Coming up on December 15: How the City of Montrose has made it easier for residents to connect with their city government.