Glenwood Springs’ Area-Wide planning effort ‘moves forward’ | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood Springs’ Area-Wide planning effort ‘moves forward’

Participants at a Wednesday evening workshop at the CMC Morgridge Commons came to help guide Glenwood Springs' EPA Area-Wide "Moving Forward Together" planning project.

A major planning effort that aims to transform downtown Glenwood Springs on either side of the Colorado River following completion of the new Grand Avenue bridge is informed by some telling market statistics.

On the housing front, the rental market is getting tighter and more expensive, according to data from the Colorado Division of Housing that's being factored into the city's EPA Area-Wide "Moving Forward Together" planning project.

In the past four years, the rental vacancy rate in Glenwood Springs has hovered around 2 to 3 percent — down from more than 10 percent as recently as 2013 — while average rents have gone up around $200 a month during that time.

Likewise, there's very little available on the for-sale housing market, whether it's condos and townhomes or single-family houses. Prices there are ever ticking upwards and, bottom line, there's just not much available, according to the statistics.

At the same time, Glenwood Springs is expected to grow by around 100 households per year in the near future.

"The Glenwood Springs housing market is experiencing strong demand in all property types and, with continued population growth, is expected to support new resident housing development into the foreseeable future," according to a progress report in the ongoing planning effort given by consultants Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates at two special meetings this week.

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On the commercial front, Glenwood Springs could benefit from more lodging, goods and services such as sporting goods and a movie theater, and generally more variety in the retail market, according to a recent community survey that was done as part of the project.

That opens up an opportunity to increase square footage for certain types of business categories where purchases are now leaving the area, consultant Mark Keener said during a Wednesday evening presentation.

And, because of Glenwood's strong tourism base, there's an opportunity to provide more options for visitors, he said.

The Wednesday workshop meeting was attended by about 75 residents who wanted a say in how the plan will ultimately tie together four key areas in Glenwood's central core.

The broader planning effort focuses on four specific redevelopment projects. Those include the Confluence Plan, the Seventh Street Beautification project, the Sixth Street Corridor Master Plan and the Two Rivers Park area.

It centers around three "brownfield" sites that are located within that larger planning area, which were key to obtaining an EPA Area-Wide grant to do the study.

Those include the city's former sewer plant at the west end of Seventh Street, the Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance and office facility near Two Rivers Park, and the privately owned former Holly Quarry site located north of U.S. 6 and 24, below the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Participants were asked to weigh in on specific types of land uses and where they should be directed; from housing, commercial and mixed-use development to various types of parks and open spaces that can serve as public gathering places.

A couple of specific areas of focus have consistently generated a lot of public interest. One is the city-owned former sewer plant, which fronts the Roaring Fork River near the confluence with the Colorado River, and which could become a mix of public park space and potential private riverfront development.

The other is the city's newly acquired "landing" area at the north end of the new pedestrian bridge along Sixth Street, where the former Grand Avenue bridge landed. The Sixth Street Master Plan has envisioned a public "gateway park" in that area, but the city has recently solicited ideas from private developers for that parcel, as well.

Input from the Area-Wide planning meetings is intended to help inform what will eventually become of those and other sites within the planning area. Another community workshop meeting will take place in March, followed by a draft plan to be presented in May. A final plan is expected by September.