Is GAPP paving the way to a dead downtown? | PostIndependent.com
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Is GAPP paving the way to a dead downtown?

Ryan GraffSpecial to the Post Independent
Post Independent Photo/Jim NoelkerLooking through the window of Downtown Drug in Glenwood Springs, the business owner can see a pedestrian and available parking out front. The scene will change this fall, however, when the Grand Avenue Paving Project begins. Business owners express various takes on the situation, from doom and gloom to uncertainty to endorsement of the project.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS Glenwood Springs will either be a haven for big-box stores, or a great town with a great new street. The vision of Glenwoods future depends, of course, on who is talking.The Colorado Department of Transportation is going to have a wonderfully paved highway through an empty downtown, said Sandy Boyd, owner of Glenwood Sewing Center The Quilt Shop, 822 Grand Ave.Boyd and some other business owners are concerned that CDOTs decision to spend months repaving Grand Avenue in concrete, which was announced Tuesday, will hurt their businesses. The plan calls for removing all the asphalt and pouring 10 inches of concrete for a paved surface that will last 30 years or longer with little maintenance.I hope they understand they are putting downtown on the line, said Cheryl Guay, owner of Jewels and Gems, 914 Grand Ave.If Grand Avenue is shut down for four months for paving, said Guay, it could bankrupt me. With those big machines in front of your store and making noise, no one is going to come in, she said. I still have to pay my rent those four months.Business is not good anyway, said Boyd, noting that in the last few years, Glenwood Springs retailers have had to deal with fires, road work on Grand Avenue, and a sluggish national economy resulting from the terrorist attacks and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.All of those events have driven customers away from shops in downtown Glenwood Springs, said Boyd.Even though most retailers agree that GAPP will disrupt business, many are going in with a positive attitude. Weve done all we could, said Sharon Graves of retailers fight against doing GAPP in concrete. Graves is the owner of Through the Looking Glass bookstore, 816 Grand Ave.Its here, you make the best of it, she said.

Some merchants are frustrated about the project and feel that their concerns were not considered by CDOT.Im very upset that CDOT did not take any of the local opinions into account, said Nancy Sprick Page, manager of the Main Street Gallery.Page had hoped that CDOT would repave Grand Avenue in asphalt instead of concrete, which would have taken less time and had less of an effect on business.Though many retailers are upset about the decision to use concrete, most agree that CDOTs new construction timeline, which avoids the summer months, is best for retailers.Im really glad they changed the dates, said Pat Roberts, owner of The Watersweeper and the Dwarf, 717 Grand Ave.CDOT had planned to start GAPP in midtown Glenwood Springs in July, when tourist traffic is high. But CDOT Region 3 director Ed Fink announced Tuesday that midtown construction will be done from September to December and downtown repaving from February to May 2005.That was going to be the straw that broke the camels back, when it was going to be in the summer, said Roberts.

Every retailer seems to think that downtown Glenwood will be a different place after GAPP. But they do differ in how they think downtown will change.For Guay and Boyd, downtown is part of what gives Glenwood Springs its character and charm.Tourists dont come to town for big boxes and nice pavement, said Boyd.Other retailers dont know what GAPP will do to downtown.What its going to do to us, its too soon to tell, said Graves. Until the project starts, we just dont know, she said. And while some think downtown will change for the worst, some business owners think GAPP will change Glenwood for the best.Im all for capital improvements in the community, said Larry Gruber, owner of Glenwood Music, 809 Grand Ave.Ive been walking across that street for nine years, Gruber said of Grand Avenue. Its dangerous.Gruber said hes seen people trip in potholes and bumps in Grand Avenues asphalt.Lets not fight it, said Gruber. Lets celebrate our new road and do something to pull people in.Gruber said free parking downtown or special events might help offset the loss in foot traffic on Grand Avenue.We could have some GAPP Aid concerts down under the bridge or something, said Gruber.Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 534rgraff@postindependent.com


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