ST. GEORGE — If you build it, they will come. At least that’s the concept behind the building of Tech Ridge.
Overlooking St. George’s central district high atop one of the region’s iconic mesas, the 180-acre, approximately $1 billion mixed-use development project will include office buildings capable of housing multiple tech companies.
When completed, the development also includes residential neighborhoods, restaurants, a hotel/motel component, a dog park, gym, zip line, a city-owned adventure park for children of all ages and other commercial spaces flanked by 60 acres of open areas for various parks and recreation.
The project started in 2016 when city officials approached local tech company leadership, including CEO of busybusy Isaac Barlow, with a proposal to purchase and develop portions of what was once the former St. George Airport.
At first, Barlow, who has a background in land development, said there was little interest unless the scope of the construction and goals for the project could be codified into an official plan of action to address issues and concerns.
“One of Southern Utah’s problems is that we export our top talent. Kids that go to school here will often leave for better-paying jobs somewhere else,” Barlow said.
The region, especially for technology-based companies, also struggles to recruit and retain a skilled workforce.
“The only way St. George can continue to grow is to hire and keep top talent. And the best way to achieve this goal is to attract high tech companies to the city,” Barlow said. “It all works together.”
It was that driving force that gave Barlow, now the project’s managing partner, the vision for Tech Ridge.
To make that vision come true, a host of urban land planners from the District of Columbia, Phoenix, Arizona, Denver, Colorado, and Newport, California were brought in to draft what the project could become.
“We see it as a little more of an urban buildout and more pedestrian-focused. A place where you can walk to work, across the street to get lunch or go out to a brewpub,” Barlow said. “We want it to have Tech Ridge offer bigger city benefits without taking away from some of the unique charms of St. George.”
The larger picture, he added, targets building a neighborhood community that will attract companies as well as a talented, skilled workforce that wants to move to Southern Utah and enjoy the area.
In an interview with the Utah Business Magazine, Shirlayne Quayle, St. George director of economic development and housing, said Tech Ridge has tremendous potential.
“Innovations and new companies will sprout from this energy center, and their impact will radiate well beyond the edges of the mesa,” Quayle said. “Integrated into this dynamic are the public spaces, retail and recreational amenities at Tech Ridge that will draw residents and visitors alike. And new recreation and tourism options will play a supporting role in attracting diverse populations that will strengthen the fabric of our city.”
The city hopes increased tax revenue from Tech Ridge activities will improve their ability to further invest in public spaces, infrastructure, as well as programs and initiatives that will make St. George a destination for high-tech businesses, tourists and locals, Quayle added.
Although Dixie Technical College opening in 2001 to occupy space on the ridge, it wasn’t until PrinterLogic’s interest in relocating its headquarters that the vision began to take shape. PrinterLogic’s new 60,000-square-foot headquarters could be open by mid-November or sooner.
PrinterLogic’s new building is the catalyst, Barlow said, to drive other tech companies to St. George.
In a perfect world, Barlow added, the entirety of Tech Ridge – from north to south – will take approximately 15 years to complete.
The build will be conducted in three phases including the north district, which is currently under construction encompassing the PrinterLogic 60,000-square-foot headquarters, another 100,000-square-foot office building for local tech companies such as busybusy and Zonos scheduled for construction spring of 2021, a zip line, chairlift and bike park targeted for a 3-5 year build schedule.
“When this district is completed, it will give the feeling of the entirety of Tech Ridge,” Barlow said. “Visitors will see the vision of the live, work, play concept because it will be a complete district.”
To accommodate a live-in community, the first residential neighborhoods will be in the northern section and be comprised of 30-50 townhomes with a soft transition to multi-family, mixed-use residence consisting of for-rent apartments and for-sale condos.
Other neighborhoods and commercial development will follow on to the first section, Barlow said.
“Places can feel like a concrete jungle, but what we are doing is a perfect combination of a build environment and the natural environment,” he added. “It will have all the benefits of access to nature without that concrete jungle feel.”
Along with benefiting the residents and workforce of Tech Ridge, the open spaces, retail, restaurants and other amenities will also be open for use by St. George residents as well.
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