ST. GEORGE — An incoming high-end auto mall, a potential hospital and automotive testing and recreation facility are among the items of economic development in the works for Washington City shared during a State of the City address given earlier this month.
Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson recounted highlights of the city’s development over the last year during a luncheon of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce held Feb. 10.
Among those highlights were Washington City’s approaching a population of nearly 33,000 people, which is an additional 2,000 people since 2019. Building permits issued in 2020 also numbered 686, nearly 100 more over 2019.
The mayor also said the city issues an average of 1,600 businesses licenses annually, which comprises a mix of new business and license renewals, and noted that so far this year, over 40 new businesses were taking root in Washington City.
“We appreciate the businesses that want to do, and have done businesses, in Washington City,” Neilson said.
As a part of the city’s economic outlook for the coming year and beyond, the mayor had Matt Loo, the city’s economic development director, give a review of current, incoming and potential projects.
“Like everywhere else, Washington City is experiencing growth,” Loo said.
Areas of continuing and growing economic development and interests in the city include the areas just off Interstate 15’s Exit 10 (Green Springs), Exit 13 (Washington Parkway) and parts of Washington Fields.
Exit 10/Green Springs area
Just off Exit 10 and up Green Springs Drive is the new SpringHill Suites hotel, Loo said. The developers behind the hotel own additional property nearby for another hotel and a potential commercial center. The developers plan to move on these projects as the market demands, he said.
North of Exit 10, past the new Warm Springs/Boilers park, is a 15-acre parcel of land owned by the city located at the intersection of Main Street and Buena Vista Drive that is also being eyed by developers.
“We’re looking at doing some fun things there,” Loo said, adding that some groups are considering creating a “family amusement center” at that location.
Off Exit 13/Washington Parkway
A major area of development for the city has been off Exit 13, particularly on the eastern side of the highway.
Initially, Maverik gas station and a Black Bear Diner were the only beacons of commercial development in the area, in addition to continuing residential development in the Sienna Hills subdivisions along Washington Parkway.
Since 2017, however, development off Exit 13 and along Washington Parkway has exploded.
“There’s a lot of stuff happening at Exit 13,” Loo said.
Sienna Hills Auto Mall
On the eastern side of the highway are plans for the Sienna Hills Auto Mall, Loo said. The auto-mall will feature high-end automobiles across 12-15 dealerships. News of the incoming auto mall was first announced during the St. George Area Economic Summit held in January.
“That’s an amazing piece for us,” Loo said as he pointed to a 3D rending of the auto mall. “There’s really no greater resource (for a city) to generate sales tax than auto malls,” he said.
Additional commercial development is being pursued at “Washington Commons” set across the street from Maverik. This development currently features a Terrible Herbst gas station and new Best Western hotel. Future plans for the development include another hotel to be built in the next two to three years, as well as the addition of McDonald’s, Arby’s and Dutch Bros restaurants at that location.
On the hill below Washington Commons, the same developer is building an RV resort and another possible commercial center and is seeking to bring in a grocery store, Loo added.
Western side of Exit 13
On the western side of Exit 13, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, more popularly known as SITLA, which own property in that area, is working with developers to create the “Signal Peak Health Village.” This area is set between Buena Vista Drive and Washington Parkway near the Exit 13/Washington Parkway interchange.
“That is where we are in the tail-ends of final negotiations of locking down a hospital that is not IHC (Intermountain Healthcare),” Loo said. “It’s not IHC and it’s not a nonprofit, it’s a for-profit. It’ll be fun once we get that done. We’re within weeks of getting that finalized, so that’s exciting.”
Set next to the potential sight for a future hospital is 570 acres planned to be a mixed use residential area developed by WW Clyde, the same firm that is building the Desert Color development on the southern end of St. George.
“Their vision of the area is pretty cool; in fact, it’s very cool,” Loo said.
Working with SITLA, developers plan to build a high-end resort that is residential themed. This will be accompanied by an 18-hole golf course and some high-end gated communities.
Loo said the area is likely to be one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the county once built, which will provide the city with a nice addition to its property taxes.
Washington Fields and near the airport
A 16-field multi-sports complex covering 55-acres in the Stucki Farms area of Washington Fields is also underway.
The complex will cater to soccer, basketball and a host of other field-based sports, and will also feature a 130,000-square foot facility that will house an indoor soccer field.
“That will bring in a lot of visitors, a lot of activity, and a lot of growth, and a lot of sales tax and (fill) a lot of (hotel) rooms,” Loo said.
Out by the St. George Regional Airport, where Washington City annexed an 800-acre parcel of land for the express purpose of future economic development, there is the anticipation of building a complex focused around automotive testing and recreation. This includes a test and race track with the possibility of use by area police departments for vehicle-based training.
The only other place in the state where law enforcement agencies are able to get specialized vehicle-based training is at Camp Williams in northern Utah.
The city wanted to pursue the idea of tapping into the vehicle testing and recreation industry so it would not compete with established manufacturing and tech-based hubs like Fort Pierce Industrial Park and Tech Ridge, Loo said.
“We decided to go in a different direction to create more interest and more opportunities for our area,” Loo said.
Additional property around the proposed test track is being looked at as areas where possible events may be held, or simply turned into new parks, he said.
“We do have quite a bit going on in Washington City, and we are grateful for that interest,” Neilson said, adding that the city “is very exited” for developments around Exit 13.
The 2021 Washington City State of the City address can be viewed in its entirety below.
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