Old library is the wrong place for Salvation Army
September 12, 2014
Should the Salvation Army be allowed to use the "old" library building at 9th and Blake? Absolutely not!
Before I get tarred and feathered, let me say that I admire the Salvation Army and the work it does. However, a distribution center is not an appropriate use for this building or for this parcel. Glenwood Springs is known as a safe family vacation destination. This parcel is in a delicate transitional zone between the downtown and a historical residential area. This is not the location to be encouraging transients and homeless individuals to gather.
The City of Glenwood Springs and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), with the help of Garfield County, have invested millions of dollars for downtown improvements. The improvements along 7th Street were recently awarded "Best Group Effort" by Downtown Colorado Inc.
to sell or not to sell
City Council recently approved an ordinance that would allow the sale of the vacant building. This does not mean the building will be sold. It merely allows the city to ask the voters whether they would allow it to be sold. At the same council meeting, the Salvation Army made a plea for use of that facility.
Determining the best use for this building or parcel should be done with very diligent deliberation. It might be wise for City Council to look at the City's Comprehensive Plan for some guidance in this matter.
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The comp plan was the fruition of many meetings with stakeholders in the community as well as citizen charrettes and brainstorming sessions. The comp plan distills the wishes and values of the community.
The plan lists nine goals:
1. Promote long-term, sustainable, diverse economic development.
2. Maintain Glenwood Springs as the regional tourism, retail, commercial and governmental center of Garfield County.
3. Preserve the small-town character while maintaining the livability of Glenwood Springs and increasing the vibrancy and commercial success of the downtown.
4. Address transportation needs and provide multiple convenient travel choices.
5. Direct development to locations and building forms that are cost-effective to serve.
6. Provide housing for the entire community.
7. Support social diversity.
8. Preserve cultural resources.
9. Preserve natural resources.
A recent blog post at http://www.ourtownglenwoodsprings asked, as did City Council: "What is the best use for this property?" I received some thoughtful responses, and they ran much the same as the responses that City Council received. Some supported the use by non-profits similar to that of the Third Street Center in Carbondale. It could be used as a business incubator and meeting or office space. Others suggested adult day care or senior center.
Personally, I was leaning toward something different. I envisioned something that would be beneficial for tourists and residents alike, like a mini children's museum or science center. Another thought was an artist cooperative where people could watch the artists at work and visit a gallery and retail area.
AND THE ANSWER IS
However, after considering the opinions of individuals that I respect, it could be that the best use for this area, one that could bring both vitality and compatibility, might simply be … housing.
Why housing? In order to have a vital, vibrant downtown, one thing is absolutely essential — people. Although the parcel is small, the building could be razed and a new structure built. Parking could be placed underground, although its location in the General Improvement District exempts it from any on-site parking requirements.
In an ideal world, it would be mixed-use, meaning that there would be a retail or other use on the ground level. However, developers are well aware that financing for mixed use is almost nonexistent.
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
One thing is certain: Empty buildings and storefronts do not create the type of environment conducive to a thriving, healthy economy. Yes, we have issues with the fact that our main street is a state highway. But frankly, we need to accept that and move on.
The Salvation Army needs a permanent home, and I hope it is able to locate a suitable site. However, City Council needs to tread carefully, because a use, once granted, can set a dangerous precedent. The corner of 9th and Blake is not the best place for the Salvation Army. It is time to think ahead and make the right decision for Glenwood's future.
Kathy Trauger is a Glenwood Springs resident and writer who blogs about Glenwood Springs at http://www.ourtownglenwoodsprings.com. Her Perspectives column in the Post Independent appears on the first Friday of the month.