ST. GEORGE — Isaac Barlow had just finished a presentation laying out an updated vision for the 20-year project for an audience of about 150 that had gathered in the Vasion headquarters gym, when the questions began.
Barlow said he knew it was coming. He’d spent three evenings last week knocking on doors in the community to get more of Tech Ridge’s neighbors involved in the conversation.
The questions, which had to do with traffic impact and whether there would be enough water, didn’t seem to rattle Barlow, who is the CEO of busybusy, as well as Tech Ridge managing partner.
“We’ve been thinking about these things all along,” Barlow told St. George News.”
Many community members expressed concerns about traffic impact and control, especially where Donlee Drive is concerned. One woman said she’d seen more than 17 cars lined up, trying to get onto South Tech Ridge Drive. She also worried about the children playing on that street.
“Can we get some speed bumps?” The woman asked.
“That’s up to the city,” Barlow said, smiling. “But we are working to ease that pressure. We’ve got new roads being built to access Tech Ridge from the southwest and southeast corners of the mesa.”
To the southwest, Cloud Drive is 60 to 90 days from being completed. The southeast corridor hasn’t been named yet – Barlow and company are open to suggestions – but it should be complete in about two years, which, Barlow added, will be right around the time when the larger buildings are projected to be finished.
St. George City Councilman Vardell Curtis, who spent one year on the St. George City Planning Commission, said the community’s concerns are legit.
“Traffic will be a challenge,” Curtis told St. George News, “especially if we’re getting bottlenecked on Tech Ridge Drive right now, before the growth really kicks in.”
But, Curtis said, Barlow and company seem well prepared to tackle the challenge. Likewise, former St. George Mayor Dan McArthur voiced concerns about the way the growth, and its attendant traffic, will influence St. George’s quality of life.
“We’ve got to take long-time residents’ concerns into account,” McArthur told St. George News. “There are times when it feels like growth takes precedence. But we only get one chance to do this right.”
At the open house, Barlow assured the audience that he and his team are mindful of their concerns.
“We’ve hired the best planners in the business,” Barlow told the audience with a calm, even voice. “They’re planners who specialize in urban planning, which is really about building walkable developments. Places where people will want to work, play and live.”
Barlow said that that is the guiding principle behind the Tech Ridge master planned community. While the plan has grown significantly since it was first introduced in 2017, the potential rewards may be commensurate with the growth, Barlow said.
In 2017, Barlow and company projected that the Tech Ridge development would bring in 3,807 jobs, which would require 873 multifamily housing units and 196 single family homes. Now, the group says that they expect to create 4,876 jobs, necessitating 2,200 multifamily units and 200 single-family homes. The community will also feature storefronts, hotels and recreational areas.
That infrastructure is intended to support growth jobs value, which Barlow and company projected to grow from $216 million in 2017 to $393 million in 2021.
Currently, there are four tech companies committed to working on Tech Ridge. They include Vasion, Zonos, busybusy and Intergalactic. Each company is hiring, and looking to grow.
For instance, Vasion currently has 211 employees, and they’re projected to have 366 employees by 2023. Zonos has 95 employees, and they expect to have 227 by 2023, which, again, calls to mind the question of whether there’s enough water to go around.
Barlow said during the open house that the majority of Tech Ridge’s housing will be multifamily units, which use half the water that single-family residences use. The 2,200 multifamily housing units will use the same amount of water as 1,100 single family homes in the area.
“We’ve been, and will continue to be, very conservative about our water use,” Barlow said. “Through our plan for housing, we’re addressing water use, as well as traffic challenges.”
That is, by having the majority of Tech Ridge employees living on Tech Ridge, the project seeks to alleviate the traffic rush that begins and caps each day, Barlow said.
“We asked people to the open house in the spirit of transparency,” Barlow said. “This kind of project hasn’t been done here before, so naturally residents will have lots of questions and concerns.”
“I’m glad we got to talk about these things,” he continued. “We want people to know that we’re working on these challenges. The citizens’ concerns are our concerns.”
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