JOHNSTOWN, Colo. (CBS4) – In what could soon be the largest gas station and convenience store in the world, "Buc-ee's" officially broke ground on a project in Johnstown that will redefine the way people are welcomed to northern Colorado. With a 74,000-square-foot convenience store and 116 gas pumps built into the project design, Buc-ee's president Beaver Aplin told CBS4 this store will be his company's largest ever.
The project, which has been months in the making, officially broke ground on Tuesday morning. The location, set at the southwest corner of Highway 60 and I-25, promises to change the landscape of Johnstown's presence along I-25.
Johnstown officials told CBS4 the project comes as the demand for housing and retail in northern Colorado booms and is expected to skyrocket in the coming decades.
"Northern Colorado is going to double in population in the next 20 years," said Matt LeCerf, Town Manager for Johnstown.
While many may think that statistic is either crazy or unfathomable, multiple studies have backed the projected population growth.
"(Growth) is happening, but it is happening at a very smart pace," Johnstown Economic Development Manager Sarah Crossthwaite told CBS4's Dillon Thomas.
One survey suggested more than 40,000 homes will be built within seven miles of Johnstown in the coming decades. Johnstown town officials said they are working to not only meet the demands of the market today but to also prepare for the coming growth.
"We are positioned well for the new growth we are seeing in northern Colorado," LeCerf said.
Aplin said the projected growth was a major factor in his company's decision to build its first Colorado location in Johnstown.
"The traffic is wonderful here," Aplin said, speaking about the more than 100,000 vehicles that pass the interchange every day.
"We wanted to build a spot that quite honestly could grow into the future. It maybe is pretty big now, but we think the future looks bright here in northern Colorado," he said.
"These needs are critical toward commuters, travelers, visitors and residents in our communities," LeCerf said.
Crossthwaite said Johnstown planners are committed to preparing for the population growth while still assuring the downtown district of Johnstown stays true to its original roots in a small farming community
"This is really the gateway not only into Johnstown, but into northern Colorado," Crossthwaite said.
"There is growth happening all throughout northern Colorado and Johnstown is no exception to that growth. So, we are preparing for that right now by putting in the infrastructure and road improvements that we need to not only sustain the growth of right now but of tomorrow," said Crossthwaite.
CBS4 recently reported on Johnstown's plans to build 1 million square feet of retail space and more than 1,000 homes across the interstate from the future Buc-ee's location. A half-cent sales tax increase recently approved by voters will take effect in time for the projects to be completed. Johnstown plans to spend that money from the tax increase on rebuilding roads.
Aplin said, with Colorado's population growing rapidly, the Johnstown Buc-ee's is likely just the first of many to be built in Colorado outside of the Denver Metro area.
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