Lingering construction has some downtown Glenwood Springs business owners livid
Downtown business owners, residents and at least one Glenwood Springs City Council member, Shelley Kaup, attended a Grand Avenue Bridge project update Thursday at City Hall.
While a ceremony outfitted with cake, music and dignitaries possibly will take place in late June to celebrate the formal completion of the largest construction undertaking on the Western Slope in 25 years, those in attendance at Thursday’s meeting mostly wanted to know when they, too, could rejoice regarding the finalization of the picturesque Seventh Street plans they were shown years ago.
While the Colorado Department of Transportation dealt with the bridge construction, the city is now charged with completing most of the areas underneath it and adjacent to it along Seventh Street.
The first part of the project essentially involves rebuilding the storm drainage system in that area. Additional sewer system work will begin immediately following Labor Day and end before any significant frost arrives, city officials said.
Then, phases 1 and 2, labeled the “beautification” portion in the blueprints, will tentatively begin next spring.
“If council will approve us to send out that bid and we can move forward,” Assistant City Manager Jennifer Ooton explained at the Thursday meeting. “It would start in March or April and be likely about 4-½ months if we get all the sanitary sewer stuff done this fall.”
However, attempts at striking a middle ground — to where construction, which has already taken a significant financial toll on downtown business owners and their employees, would try to work around peak business hours — proved to be quite the task.
“I would like to see the city do an analysis between the cost of nighttime construction and off-hours construction versus the amount of sales tax revenue that is lost by the businesses not being able to run at their potential,” said Riviera Supper Club and Piano Bar owner Jonathon Gorst.
“Somewhere in the middle there, if there is a way for us to find the amount that makes sense to spend on nighttime construction that saves the businesses the extreme inconvenience and loss of business happening right now as a result of the current Seventh Street construction, I think that would be very helpful,” Gorst said.
According to Gorst, a retail store last week was unable to provide any of its hourly employees work for a period of time because they could not open their front door. The only access door could not be opened because of the ongoing construction, he said.
He said the retail store in question also had several other occasions where it had to cut their employees’ hours short because of the ongoing work.
“A retail hourly employee depending on that paycheck … what are they going to do?”
The noise alone at times makes having a conversation over lunch on a Seventh Street restaurant patio difficult, according to Gorst.
“The daytime business is most vulnerable at this point because the construction is going on right there,” he said.
“This is not directly my concern because I am not open for lunch, but I do hold great concern for all of the neighboring businesses, because any loss to downtown really affects all of us.”
Gorst also indicated there’s a “trickle down” effect when tipped employees are impacted.
“Their revenue goes down and the cost of living does not go down in our city, so they are in a hard place, and this is a really tough time,” he said.
Concerns were also raised about the port-a-potty toilets that were placed in several locations around the downtown area. The toilets were a compromise, given the cost and time it would take to order a trailer-type of restroom unit.
Some downtown business owners asked for some type of screening to be placed around the port-a-potties. Eventually, the city’s beautification plans call for permanent new public restrooms along Seventh Street.
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Marti Barbour was selected almost 20 years ago as the first recipient of a Habitat For Humanity house in the Roaring Fork Valley. She paid off her mortgage in June and recalled the dire times her family faced and the help that Habitat provided.