STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Jack Davison had been in business on Main Avenue for more than a decade when he decided to move his business to Bodo Industrial Park in 1999.
He was drawn by lower rents and access to parking spaces, said Davison, who co-owns Office Source, an office-equipment, furniture and office-supply dealer.
The park was originally built to attract small manufacturers and industrial users in an effort to diversify Durango’s economy. But Davison’s business represents what has become a new wave of occupants: a tend toward retail and light-commercial uses, which includes restaurants, hotels, office buildings and health services.
The influx has slowly changed the face of Bodo while raising questions about a new location where the city or county can meet the demand for industrial and heavy commercial that Bodo was initially meant to fill.
Durango needs to build about 30,000 square feet of light-industrial and service-commercial space every year to satisfy business growth in those sectors during the next eight years, said Eliot Hoyt, a principal at Design Workshop, a Denver-based consulting firm that has worked with the county to analyze demand and supply for commercial space.
Bodo, the Durango Tech Center and Animas Air Park have kept up with demand relatively well, but even in 2010 “there was a feeling that there was demand that was difficult to meet because of a lack of available land,” Hoyt said.
There is some question about whether “constraints of lack of land are potentially holding down potential for creating business and jobs,” he said.
Bodo Industrial Park began in the early 1970s, the work of a group of banks and private businesses that put up the initial funds and took loans to buy the property that had previously been used by a local rancher for summer pasture. Soon after, the nonprofit Durango Industrial Development Foundation formed to purchase and develop the land for commercial use with a goal of attracting industry to help boost job creation and diversify the economy.
The park provided space for both new businesses and existing businesses that had outgrown their space in the central business district, said Bobby Lieb, La Plata County Commissioner whose father, Bob Lieb started one of the first manufacturing companies in Bodo. Many manufacturing businesses located there, including Coca-Cola, Redfield Riflescopes and Bouré Bicycle Clothing, but, through the years, that started to change.
“You have seen an evolution of Bodo from heavy commercial borderline industrial to more light commercial and retail, and it’s purely market driven,” Lieb said.
No longer out of town
As Durango has grown, Bodo is no longer on the outer ring of the city, said Greg Spitler, owner of WestCO Commercial who has created a database of commercial property in Durango.
“Now that Bodo is closer in, it has morphed from industrial park to office, light commercial space, and, as a result, it has squeezed heavy commercial and industrial,” he said.
And as Durango expands real estate prices in Bodo will continue to go up, posing difficulties for heavier commercial endeavors that need large facilities for their operations but may not be able to afford increasing rates, Lieb said.
The county has seen an increase in land-use permit requests from businesses who used to be in Bodo but now are seeking to locate businesses outside city limits, Lieb said.
Looking into the future, Lieb and several others in the economic-development arena continue to ask how La Plata County will accommodate light-industrial and manufacturing-style businesses that Bodo may have originally accommodated. Bodo is at capacity and isn’t actually zoned for industrial use, said Roger Zalneraitis, director of the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance.
And many county residents oppose light-industrial uses setting up shop all over the county, Spitler said. Industrial parks provide structure, predictability, utilities services and a way to mitigate environmental impact, he said.
The county and the city of Durango are considering the La Posta Road area for light-industrial service commercial use and the Durango Industrial Development Foundation is reviving work on a proposal to build a new business park near the Durango-La Plata County Airport. But both endeavors are currently in the planning stages, and they still need to go through several steps including local government approval processes and public comment.
An industrially zoned business park is the “place we are most in need of in La Plata County,” Zalneraitis said. A lot of the companies that may need industrial space are base companies, or primary employers, that bring jobs and money into the county by exporting value-added products or services.
County Commissioner candidate Julie Westendorff has touted the economic benefits of adding a business park as a part of her campaign platform.
Walking in Bodo?
Meanwhile, Bodo’s growth has raised issues about how the park can accommodate a changing wave of occupants. Businesses such as Ska Brewing Co. that attract visitors have put a spotlight on the lack of on-street parking and pedestrian accommodations.
“(The park) wasn’t built to be pedestrian-friendly, but changes that occurred through time have brought the question of pedestrian use more into focus,” said Greg Hoch, city’s senior planner.
The roads aren’t adequate for the amount of traffic and types of vehicles using them, and some businesses have complained of unexpected power surges, Zalneraitis said.
Even so, most in the business community who spoke about Bodo said the industrial park has done wonders.
“Bodo met a fantastic need for Durango and La Plata County,” Spitler said. “It did exactly what it was supposed to do.”