Downtown comes to grips with GAPP
GLENWOOD SPRINGS Cheryl Guay has a question for the Colorado Department of Transportation and its plans to rip up the asphalt on Grand Avenue and resurface the road with concrete and new asphalt.Why? asked Guay, owner of Jewels & Gems on the 900 block of Grand Avenue and a Roaring Fork Valley resident since 1972. Karen Rowe, CDOTs resident engineer, has an answer, though its not necessarily the one Guay is looking for. Rowe said its time for the Grand Avenue Paving Project because asphalt on Glenwood Springs has reached the end of its functional life.But Guay doesnt see it.Theres no proof that Grand Avenue needs to be done, she said. I dont see any potholes in the road. Guay also doesnt buy CDOTs justification that if GAPP is not done, Grand Avenue would face asphalt repairs every year.If that means that a crew has to come out and patch the street for four or five days a year, so be it, Guay said. How do we know that the existing road cant last another 20 years?The project is scheduled to take from July 2004 through May 2005, and involves resurfacing Highway 82 from the Grand Avenue bridge to the 23rd Street intersection, where Alpine Bank and Big Sids Liquors are located.Theres a reason Guay has such strong opinions about GAPP. Shes afraid that her 20-year business might not withstand the effects of another road construction project and she said a lot of other downtown business owners agree. Ive spent two weeks talking to 70 downtown business owners, and everybody is against the project, she said. Waterline project cut businessGuay said last Septembers Grand Avenue waterline replacement project, in which old water lines were dug up and replaced from 7th to 10th streets, cut her business in half last year.My customers told me that with the three main intersections closed down, they couldnt turn left or right, and then they found themselves going over the bridge. They said, Sorry I didnt see you last fall, she said.CDOT is trying to soften the blow by not working on the downtown stretches during the busy summer months, while construction will occupy no more than two intersections at a time, at the request of the Glenwood Springs City Council, Rowe said. Were requiring that no construction be done from the bridge to 10th Street from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and I dont see that changing, she said Friday.Guay said thats not good enough.About half my business is tourists and the other half is local, Guay said. A lot of tourists in the summer cant afford my store. September is a much better month for me.Guay wants GAPP stopped for good, or done in a way that wont hurt downtown businesses.I dont know how they could do it, but maybe they could work at night, or early in the morning, she said. They could not make a lot of noise in the middle of the business day, or just work on half of the street at a time.Rowe noted that construction will move from side to side in each segment of the project, leaving from two to four lanes open for traffic.Jim Henderson, another Grand Avenue merchant, has another take on GAPP. Its their highway, he said of the Colorado Department of Transportation. Its not our street.Henderson, a 31-year resident and one of the owners of E-Tech Connect on the 900 block of Grand Avenue, said he knows that GAPP has to be done, though he questions how highway projects are being planned.Theyre from the big city where it makes no difference to them if a little town dependent on tourism suffers, he said. Henderson doesnt necessarily blame CDOT for the commercial inconveniences that will be caused when the highway is torn up and replaced with fresh concrete and asphalt. Glenwood Springs decided a long time ago that the state highway was going to go right through the middle of town, Henderson said. So we have to deal with those consequences.It has to get doneOleta Mexi Corry, owner of Marthas Vineyard at 727 Grand, agrees with Henderson about the historical decisions made to run Highway 82 through Glenwood. The town fathers made the decision in the 1940s that sealed our fate, she said. At that time, they could have opted for the highway to bypass downtown, but instead they decided to make everything filter right through Glenwoods business district.Her shop, a combination fine art gallery and leather-working studio, is in its 31st year the first 16 were spent around the corner on 8th Street and the last 15 have been on Glenwoods main drag adjacent to the Grand Avenue bridge. Corry said a state highway requires maintenance, so GAPP is inevitable. It has to get done, she said. They have to maintain a safe road.Corry said shes moving her business in April from her current 2,500-square-foot space to a little 320-square-foot spot around the corner in the Hotel Denver off Grand. There, shell narrow her focus to leatherwork and a less hectic pace. When youre on a main street thats also a major state highway, everybodys in a hurry, Corry said. Its noisy and its hectic. Vicki VanEngelenburg manages the Interiors a la Carte and Cook a la Carte shops in the 800 block of Grand Avenue, which are owned by Barbara Henthorn. She said the inconvenience GAPP may cause is worth it.Location, location, location, she said with a smile. Location is everything with our business. If we have to put up with the repavement, its a trade-off because of the charm of downtown. Customers will find us. Keep in mind the positive resultsRowe said other cities across the state even those with a large tourist base with a state highway going right through downtown have confronted projects such as GAPP with success.Durango dealt with a resurfacing on Highway 550 about five years ago, and so did Cortez on Highway 160, she said. And when Broadway was repaved through Denver, at first, merchants were really upset. But they worked so well with them that the American Concrete Paving Association made a video about the projects success with local businesses.Marianne Virgili, executive director of Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, isnt naive about GAPP, but has a positive outlook on the project. Weve really studied this and know from experience that it will really have an impact, she said. Our job is to view this as a challenge, and the best ways to meet that challenge. Its like when the economy went south, and car dealers came up with creative financing that led to banner sales, Virgili added. We need a similar perspective. Plus we need to keep in mind the positive results of having the project completed. Cheryl Guay is having a hard time looking at GAPP that way.This can still be stopped, she said. Otherwise, we might lose our downtown and a quality of life where store owners know you by name. Instead, they can go in there and throw their concrete down and we can live a life with big box stores. Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
At 6:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Feb. 4, voice your opinion about GAPP at the Glenwood Springs City Council meetings open forum at City Hall council chambers, 101 W. 8th St.
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