Glenwood confluence confab yields ideas for redevelopment
Glenwood Springs has the opportunity to do something really right, or really wrong, City Councilman Rick Davis said of the city’s confluence area.
But the closer Glenwood Springs leaders and planners get to making solid plans for the land around the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers’ confluence area, the more questions seem to arise.
Plans for the area were available for the public to see and a presentation was given at City Hall by consultants Leslie Bethel, Roger Millar and Arnie Ray. The meeting was held to garner public input and generate ideas. No final decisions were made.
“Our point of departure has been the previous planning efforts,” Bethel said.
From there, people in attendance from the community at large – which made up only a handful of those in attendance – along with city officials gave some ideas of what they’d like to see.
Those ideas ranged from developing a large tract of park land at the confluence, to filling in the area with a hotel and high-density housing. People also suggested retail stores, bars and restaurants and a theater.
Some of the questions and concerns voiced at the meeting included how the area could be developed without choking off the neighborhoods on the west side of the Roaring Fork River and views of Mount Sopris; how to keep the area on a “human scale” by not inundating it with streets and highways; and how to make the area accessible without overcrowding it. Questions about schools, trails and parking also were brought up.
“All the easy sites are gone, now it’s the tough sites. But this happens to be one of Glenwood’s best sites,” Bethel said.
She encouraged participants to share any ideas they might have even though there are many questions left to answer.
“Don’t let one piece of the puzzle slow you down,” she said.
One piece of that puzzle could include a rapid transit station located somewhere in the confluence area. And while on the subject of transportation, the shifting of the railroad wye was discussed. It could be shifted or moved to another location.
When former City Councilman and now-Downtown Development Authority member Bob Zanella asked about the area’s potential for retail ventures, Ray, a marketing consultant, said the area would be unsuitable for large retail ventures.
“I do not see this as a real prime retail location,” Ray said. “I see this area as smaller, support-like commercial.”
High-density housing was viewed by some as a good use of the land, as well as a multi-story mix of residential, retail and office space.
“We could have a more lively downtown by doing more mixed-use development,” Councilman Dan Richardson said. “As long as we can preserve the view corridors of the neighborhoods, I think four stories isn’t unreasonable.”
One neighbor said high-density housing would be an improvement from the wastewater treatment plant that now utilizes much of the confluence area.
Nearby resident Jeanne Golay suggested the city develop the area at the east side of the Roaring Fork River and the south side of the Colorado River for special events such as weddings.
“The confluence of two powerful rivers is a powerful place,” she said.
She also questioned why the idea of connecting Interstate 70 to the city via the 116 exit was dropped.
“From (the Colorado Department of Transportation’s) perspective, it really makes a lot of sense for them,” she said.
Bethel answered that they didn’t touch on that possibility because it’s “not our direction.” The plan confluence designers are using would use Midland Avenue and the 114 exit of I-70 for the relocation of Highway 82.
Community development director Andrew McGregor said he’s happy to see the city working toward making a definitive plan for the area, whatever that plan might be.
“It gives us the opportunity to actually do something instead of talking about it until we’re old and gray,” he said.
Davis said he worries that overfilling the area could cause difficult problems, suggesting that highways and roads could do more to limit access to downtown for nearby neighbors than to help it.
But consultant Millar warned that to reverse the planning process by second-guessing what’s already been researched could slow it down.
“I just want to make sure that we don’t get caught in this circular planning mode where we start with a transportation plan and go until we need another transportation plan,” he said.
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