Council formally adopts confluence plan | PostIndependent.com

Council formally adopts confluence plan

Don’t look for any new construction to begin in Glenwood Springs’ confluence area anytime soon, but the city at least now has a workable plan and a strategy for redeveloping the place where the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers come together west of downtown.

City Council on Thursday formally approved the city’s Confluence Redevelopment Plan, following a timeout of sorts while several critical steps were accomplished to help bring the plan to fruition.

The confluence planning has been several years in the making under the guidance of Glenwood-based urban planning and economic development consultants Community Builders, which was charged with refining the former 2003 concept plan for the area.

After the project was put on hold at the end of 2013, the city worked to eventually complete a permanent Eighth Street connection to Midland Avenue. That crucial link now serves as part of the Grand Avenue bridge detour, and still needs to go through some legal hurdles involving the railroad crossing.

In the ensuing years, voters also approved a land swap with the Roaring Fork School District to take ownership of the Vogelaar Park property in exchange for land that became part of the new Glenwood Springs Elementary School redevelopment.

City voters last year also approved the renewal of the special Acquisitions and Improvements sales tax, which will provide funding to carry out the public parts of the confluence plan.

Negotiations also continue with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the Union Pacific Railroad on a plan to accommodate the railroad crossing for the old Rio Grande line held by RFTA, which could someday be reused for a commuter rail system.

The redevelopment plan itself talks a lot about what Community Builders Executive Director Clark Anderson refers to as “placemaking.” Key to that are several “opportunities and challenges,” according to the plan.

Those include:

• Connecting the main part of downtown to the riverfronts.

• Activating the west end of Seventh and Eighth streets.

• Finding a balance between public space and private development alongside the Roaring Fork River at the city’s former sewer plant site.

• Soliciting and working with a developer to build housing on the Vogelaar Park parcel at an “appropriate density.”

• Dealing with parking needs in the area.

The plan leaves somewhat open-ended the city-owned Roaring Fork riverfront area, where a separate EPA-grant-funded Area Wide plan is weighing the old sewer plant property. That area is considered a “brownfield” where significant demolition of the old plant infrastructure still needs to take place.

“It’s a lot more open-ended than most of these kinds of plans that we develop,” Anderson said after the council meeting. “It does recognize that the city needs to work out a site plan, which doesn’t make sense until you know who you’re going to work with to develop that area.”

Redevelopment of Vogelaar Park also calls for issuing an request for proposals from developers to build a mix of housing while retaining some parkland and open space on the site.

The Confluence Plan includes four examples of how the 6.1-acre park could be designed.

To better connect the area between Seventh and Eighth Street, the plan also calls for a new north-south connection just west of City Hall, called Defiance Avenue.

“This is a great plan that involved a lot of thought and detail planning,” Councilor Shelley Kaup said as council voted 6-0 to approve the plan. “It’s a good framework to move forward, without being super specific about what will be in each section.”

On a related note, council on Thursday also approved an application for a federal TIGER grant in the amount of $2.3 million to help complete the Eighth Street connection work. If successful, the city would provide $1 million in matching funds.