DDA starts work on next downtown improvements
Glenwood Springs’ Downtown Development Authority is embarking on the next round of design planning for downtown-area improvements, building on the work done last year that included a major sidewalk expansion on the south side of Seventh Street for outdoor dining.
The DDA awarded two design contracts this week, including one for Aspen-based BlueGreen Studio to further develop concepts for the north side of Seventh and in the 700 block of Cooper Avenue, as well as under the planned new Grand Avenue Bridge and in the “wing” areas on either side of the bridge between Seventh and Eighth streets.
That portion of the design work will also look at possible landscaping features at the north landing point for the new Highway 82 bridge near Sixth and Laurel streets.
“The idea is to look at further enhancements in some of these areas beyond what [the Colorado Department of Transportation] is providing with their bridge design,” said Leslie Bethel, executive director for the DDA.
Bridge project officials are now reviewing public comments as part of the formal Grand Avenue Bridge Environmental Assessment, and are expected to make a decision this spring whether to proceed with the estimated $110 million to $115 million highway and pedestrian bridge replacement in Glenwood Springs.
“A portion of what we’re doing now is intended to complement the new bridge, but it’s also about greater downtown enhancement,” Bethel said.
A second contract was also awarded during a special DDA board meeting on Monday to Esse Design of Basalt to create design options for some type of downtown entryway monument. That could involve an archway or column type of structure over Grand Avenue, or on the north side of the bridge with some type of signage, Bethel said.
At this point, it’s all just concept planning, similar to the early design work leading up to the streetscape improvements that were completed last year along Seventh Street, in the 800 block of Cooper Avenue and near the city’s parking garage at Ninth and Cooper.
How far it all goes will be largely determined by public input once the concept designs are completed, Bethel said. At that point, there would be a series of public open house meetings to gather input and help the DDA and the city decide whether to proceed to the design development phase with any of the specific projects, she said.
The process is designed so that the DDA can decide at different stages whether to spend more money to take things to the next step, DDA board chairman Charlie Willman said during the Monday meeting.
“We’re just trying to build on what we accomplished last year,” Willman said.
The DDA has included $380,000 for project planning and possible construction this year as part of its $610,463 budget for 2015. However, it’s not certain if anything will actually get built this year, DDA officials said.
Much will depend on the concept design work and ultimately the status of the bridge project, Bethel said.
One possible exception could be to take the pedestrian “promenade” area on the north side of Seventh Street to the design development phase. Concepts for that area were included as part of the work that was done last year.
Downtown-area resident and DDA critic Lisa Newman urged caution at the Monday meeting, and recently before City Council as well, questioning whether the new work is duplicating last year’s efforts.
“It seems like you’re spending a lot of money that you already spent for the same work last year,” Newman said.
She also urged the DDA not to fast-track the new round of downtown improvements without gathering ample public support for the various projects.
Bethel said that’s certainly part of the process.
“If we get to a point in the design and the community wants to do something else, then we can put it off,” she said. “There is a lot of flexibility to it based on community input.”
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