Garfield County may help with downtown improvement projects
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The city of Glenwood Springs and the Downtown Development Authority are looking to Garfield County for some extra funding to help top off the Cooper Avenue redevelopment project.
Several aspects of the initial design for the area between Eighth and Ninth streets, where a new library and public parking structure are under construction, had to be removed from the overall project budget, DDA Executive Director Leslie Bethel explained at a Thursday work session between city council, the DDA and county commissioners.
Roughly $1 million worth of additional features lack funding, including streetscape work along Cooper, upgrades to the fire station parking lot, and alleyway improvements to make the area around the new library more walkable.
“We have these great projects under way, but it’s not yet knit into the downtown,” Bethel said.
Added Glenwood Springs City Councilman Todd Leahy, “The best time to really do these other projects is while the area is already under construction.
“We would love to be able to work with you to make sure the east side of the downtown is completed the way it was originally designed,” Leahy said.
Mayor Matt Steckler presented a long list of projects throughout the city, totaling more than $8 million, for which the city will need funding in the future.
All of them provide different ways to help foster economic development, Steckler said.
“But the Cooper Street area is where we think we can get the bigger bang for the buck,” he said.
County commissioners expressed general support for helping Glenwood Springs and the DDA with infrastructure costs, similar to its financial assistance to municipalities in other parts of the county.
How much funding assistance the county could provide will be the subject of future discussions.
County Manager Andrew Gorgey cautioned that the county’s reserve fund coffers will not be as flush after this year, following recent decisions to pay off the county administration, sheriff’s office and jail buildings.
“We saved $4.4 million in future interest payments by doing that,” he said. But it does mean there will be less funds available for other projects initially as a result.
The county is also in the midst of completing several road and bridge projects using those funds, he said.
Federal mineral lease payments to the county are also now going to the special mineral leasing district, and are distributed through a competitive grant process.
“Still, there are many ways to make this work,” Gorgey said of the city and DDA’s proposal.
Officials also took the opportunity of Thursday’s joint meeting to talk about the county’s plans for its recently acquired property at Eighth and Colorado. That property, which now serves as a law office, is envisioned for future county offices. A future parking structure is also possible farther north along Colorado Avenue to serve the west side of the downtown area.
Steckler said he would like the county to follow the city’s downtown design standards when it comes time to redevelop that property.
“I think we have demonstrated that we will do that,” County Commissioner John Martin said in reference to other recently constructed county facilities in the area.
City Councilman Stephen Bershenyi also broached the subject of a possible land swap between the city and county for the Axtell Park and former Glenwood Springs chamber office site at 11th and Grand. That property is owned by Garfield County.
“I’d like to look at some ways for the city and the county to both get something we really want out of that,” Bershenyi said.
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