Business owners have big stake in bridge planning
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – An encounter at a public open house last week to discuss the options for replacing the Highway 82 Grand Avenue Bridge helps explain Greg Beightel’s uneasiness these days.
A group of people was pointing at his property on one of the displays, when a participant said in reference to some aspect of the bridge design, “Well, it doesn’t really make a difference,” Beightel recalls.
“I interrupted and said, ‘Yes it does matter, that’s my property,'” Beightel said.
One of the two bridge alignment alternatives still on the table for final consideration, Alternative 3, would land the north end of the new bridge directly on top of Greg and Teresa Beightel’s Glenwood Shell station.
The service station is in a prime location near the main Interstate 70/Highway 82 interchange at the southeast corner of Sixth and Laurel.
If that alternative is ultimately chosen, each of three different intersection options being studied would require the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to acquire all or part of the Beightels’ property.
The other bridge alternative still being studied, Alternative 1, would keep the new bridge on the existing alignment from Grand Avenue south of the Colorado River to Sixth and Pine on the north end.
The current 60-year-old bridge is in line for replacement under the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund program.
CDOT is in the final stages of determining which of the two alternatives should go forward to a formal environmental assessment and design. The project is slated to receive up to $59 million.
A preferred alternative is expected to be determined later this month, though construction would not begin until 2015.
The next CDOT open house is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 22 beginning at 5 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
The Beightels have owned their service station for 31 years and the property itself for about 17 years, Greg Beightel said.
It’s one of Glenwood Springs’ longest continuing businesses, and has come in handy for many a local, as well as the occasional stranded motorist with its towing service and proximity to I-70, Beightel points out.
“I think there’s still a need for that kind of a hometown service station,” he said.
The business and accompanying property are not only their livelihood but an investment in their daughters’ educations and their own retirement, Teresa Beightel said.
“We never dreamed we might have to give that property up,” she said.
Last March, two CDOT representatives came by and said they wanted to talk about the property.
At the time, a dozen different bridge alignment options were being studied, involving several possible property acquisitions.
Five months later, the Beightels’ property remains directly in the crosshairs.
“We know we have an extremely valuable piece of property,” Greg Beightel said.
“Like a lot of people, we made it through the hard times and were able to survive and maintain,” he said. “But there’s no way we would ever consider selling right now, not in this market.”
The Beightels are hesitant to say which bridge alternative they prefer. If Alternative 3 is selected and the price is right for their land, it could be a good thing.
If Alternative 1 is selected, little changes for them and the other businesses along Sixth Street that also stand to be impacted.
Supporters of Bridge Alternative 3 say it provides a unique opportunity to redevelop the section of Sixth Street from Pine to Laurel as a pedestrian-oriented extension of the downtown business district.
Last week’s open house was co-sponsored by CDOT and the Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The DDA has been working with urban designer Jim Leggitt of Denver-based StudioINSITE to look at some redesign possibilities in conjunction with the bridge project.
The design concepts focus on both ends of the bridge, in the area between Seventh and Eighth streets to the south, and Sixth Street on the north.
David Hauter, a local architect who has been working with CDOT’s stakeholders group on the bridge alternatives, believes Alternative 3 is the better choice for aligning the bridge.
“It’s the only alternative with the possibility of transforming Glenwood Springs,” Hauter said. “It would provide more green space at the entrance, and is a much more sustainable solution for the long term.”
Sixth Street in particular could become its own commercial district, with more parking, better walk-ability for pedestrians and a broader mix of retail businesses, he said.
However, some existing Sixth Street business owners say they rely on the highway traffic that would be lost if Alternative 3 is selected.
Among them is Don Bernes, owner of The Springs Liquors and the building containing the Gear Exchange and Flower Mart.
“If the bridge takes off from Laurel, I think it would be devastating,” Bernes said. “To remove the present bridge and the traffic on Sixth Street would put us out of business.”
He said Sixth Street serves as a “speed bump” for Highway 82 traffic entering downtown. It’s also a “welcoming” main entrance into town, Bernes said.
“[Alternative 3] is just too much bridge, and too complicated an intersection for our size of town,” he said. “The money was allocated to replace the bridge, and Alternative 1 is the only one that does that.”
Flower Mart owner Dennis Bader agreed.
“From the beginning, I’ve supported Alternative 1,” Bader said. “Alternative 3 is as anti-Glenwood as I’ve ever seen.
“The original goal was to replace the bridge and have as minimal an impact on businesses as possible,” he added. “I support the original goal, which is to replace the bridge, not move it.”
The DDA’s redesign concepts also focused on creating a more pedestrian-friendly downtown area on the south end. That includes the area beneath the bridge along Seventh Street, and in the 700 block of Grand Avenue up to Eighth Street.
Leggitt’s sketches depict a pedestrian plaza beneath the new bridge, and up either side of the 700 block of Grand.
The current wing street connecting Grand to Seventh would go away with the new bridge design.
There would also be areas for patio seating at restaurants, both on Grand and along “restaurant row” on Seventh Street east of the bridge.
A larger space beneath the bridge could include a more usable pedestrian mall, and even commercial space for the city of Glenwood Springs to lease.
Rob Rightmire, who owns Doc Holliday’s and The Springs bar and restaurants with his wife Cyndie, said that extra bridge height could come with a cost, though.
“There’s only three blocks of Glenwood’s main street, and we’re talking about burying one,” Rightmire said. “I know we’re going to get a new bridge, and I think that’s great. But I don’t want it to be right outside my window.”
Still, it’s a good conversation to have, and the drawings are helpful to see what’s possible as far as redeveloping the area, Rightmire said.
“We’ve finally gotten to where people can see where we’re headed,” he said. “It’s good that these discussions are finally taking place, and people are getting more involved.”
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