ARCHIVED  October 1, 1995

Johnstown braces for development

JOHNSTOWN – Over the years, Rick Hays’ father, Chet, had contributed to Johnstown’s housing stock by annexing lots, a handful at a time, from the family farm.

But up until about 18 months ago, the western Weld County town didn’t look a whole lot different than it did when Rick’s grandmother started running Hays Mercantile back in 1929.

“It was pretty stale over here for a few years,” Hays said.

But things are changing in Johnstown. Fast.

In the past year, the gates have opened on Johnstown’s first industrial park, plans have been laid for a 100,000-square-foot shopping center, new housing developments have begun to ring the city, and the population is edging toward 1,800.

“There’s no end to the expansion that we can see,” Hays said. “Hopefully, it will be controlled because I gotta live here, too, but from a business point, about a million new people would be about right.”

If larger Front Range cities continue to clamp down on new housing, Hays might get his wish.

But if those big-city developers in search of cheap, raw land and low development fees see Johnstown and think free ride, they’re in for a surprise.

“We’re laying it down and saying ‘You’re going to follow this,’ ” Town Clerk Diana Seele said. “Johnstown has had a few growing pains, but we’re learning and sticking by our guns.”

Even with the cost of laying pipe and pavement on his balance sheet, it’s still cheaper to build in Johnstown, developer Bruce Gillam said.

Gillam Development Corp. is winding down the first phases of Johnstown Center, a 67-acre neighborhood that will add 195 homes to the town’s housing inventory. Along the main commercial drag, Parish Avenue, work has begun on Gillam’s 100,000-square-foot strip center that includes Hays Market’s new 15,400-square-foot digs and adjoins a multifamily project.

Single-family homes in Johnstown Center top out at about $128,000 for an 1,800-square-foot home. Four other developments on 94 acres around town are under way or are under review.

“You’d have difficulty finding lots in Fort Collins for anything less than $30,000,” Gillam said. “In Johnstown, you could be $10,000 under that with the lot itself. Add up the fees and the added regulations, which would still be below (bigger towns), and the economics here are pretty much in your favor.

“It opens you up to a much broader market,” Gillam said.

Johnstown is a largely agricultural community but has handy access to large Front Range employment centers that made it an ideal hometown for commuters. Town Administrator Edwin Hill said Johnstown is trying to cultivate a business identity on a shoestring budget.

“We’d like to get out of the bedroom-community mode and get into getting some attractive industry here,” Hill said.

Johnstown officials are reluctant to tap city coffers to offer relocation incentives, Hill said.

But Weld County’s Urban Enterprise Zone and the Weld/Larimer Revolving Loan Fund have picked up some of the slack. Johnstown helped by waiving tap fees for tenants.

The industrial park, adjacent to railroad tracks linking Greeley, Longmont and Fort Collins, was a 25-acre farm field owned by the nation’s second-largest short-line railroad.

“Our company is pretty committed to growing our rail business and using some fairly creative ways to do that,´ said Alexander Yeros, market development director for OmniTRAX Inc.

Zeller Oil Co., a bulk hauler of petroleum products, was first to move there. Mountain States Plastics Inc., an Englewood manufacturer of custom-sized plastic sacks and irrigation tubing, expects to move there within a year.

JOHNSTOWN – Over the years, Rick Hays’ father, Chet, had contributed to Johnstown’s housing stock by annexing lots, a handful at a time, from the family farm.

But up until about 18 months ago, the western Weld County town didn’t look a whole lot different than it did when Rick’s grandmother started running Hays Mercantile back in 1929.

“It was pretty stale over here for a few years,” Hays said.

But things are changing in Johnstown. Fast.

In the past year, the gates have opened on Johnstown’s first industrial park, plans have been laid for a 100,000-square-foot shopping center, new housing developments have begun…

Related Content