Citizens group suggests downtown improvements

Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Eliciting suggestions that ran the gamut from wacky to obvious, the second meeting on physical downtown improvements drew an enthusiastic crowd of around 50 people Tuesday night.

The meeting, which took place at City Hall, was part of a series of facilitated gatherings aimed at trying to reach consensus on whether to close the wing street that connects Grand Avenue and 7th Street. Since the first meeting on Nov. 4, the subject matter has mushroomed to include improvements to downtown as a whole.

In all, up to four meetings could be held on the downtown upgrades, with the ultimate goal being a concrete plan of action that can be taken to City Council and put into action.

“This is classic strategic planning,” said facilitator Gary Suiter of Assent Consulting. “This is what strategic planning looks like ” where you are and where you want to go.”

Most of the 50 or so people at the meeting either own businesses or have a vested interest in seeing the area become more attractive and customer-friendly.

Suiter started by going over some ground rules ” only one person can speak at a time; people must be civil to each other ” then explained what the city government hopes to accomplish with the meetings.

Then the group broke into smaller circles to take on specific subjects such as downtown cleanliness, parking and other issues.

“When you compare this process perhaps to last spring’s, last spring’s meetings were very passionate and one-way,” Downtown Development Authority director John Simmons said.

“What we’re seeing now is a divergent group coming together to figure out what works for them and everyone else,” Simmons said. “It’s become broader, but it’s also built a more cohesive group of interested parties.”

Once the meeting broke into groups, the participants rushed to get their thoughts out and jotted their ideas onto easels, notepads and anything else they could write on.

Some of the ideas included:

– Courting a Popcorn Wagon-type of business to serve up food under the Grand Avenue Bridge; painting the bridge undercarriage yellow ” or anything else but dingy gray.

– Bringing musicians and artists to the downtown area.

– Changing Grand Avenue to Main Street, or downtown Glenwood Springs to Olde Town Glenwood Springs.

– Advertising the downtown core with testimonials from well-known locals.

– Putting up more Christmas lights.

– Keeping shop windows cleaner.

– Extending downtown store hours.

– Bringing back the “barn dance” crosswalk system.

– Making the alleys more pedestrian friendly.

“I believe if you could create something wonderful under the bridge, that would be great,” local Realtor Donna Fell suggested.

City Councilwoman Chris McGovern, whose ward includes downtown, suggested that to compete with the coming stores at Glenwood Meadows, downtown has to be different.

“What downtown can really do is market itself for the place to buy better goods,” McGovern said. “People who buy their clothing at Wal-Mart aren’t going to be our customers, so don’t go after them.”

She also suggested courting successful businesses from places like Aspen, Basalt and Vail to see if they’d like to open second stores in Glenwood Springs.

Simmons said there will most likely be two more meetings facilitated by Suiter before a plan of action is agreed upon and brought to City Council.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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