Glenwood Springs City Council candidates address confluence-area vision
On the issues
Who: Glenwood Springs candidates for City Council At-Large and Ward 3
What: A weeklong series with the candidates in the April 2 city election addressing the Post Independent’s questions.
Today: What is your vision for Glenwood Springs’ confluence area redevelopment?
Tuesday: Specifically, what should be done with the parcel of land where the former Grand Avenue Bridge touched down adjacent to Sixth Street?
Wednesday: What is your position on the new 3/4-cent sales tax for citywide street construction and repairs, and why?
Thursday: What can City Council do to help people who work in Glenwood Springs also afford to live in Glenwood Springs?
Friday: How should the issue of short-term vacation rentals be handled in Glenwood Springs?
Redevelopment of the river confluence area west of downtown Glenwood Springs has been a topic of conversation and master planning for city leaders and planners at least since the early 2000s.
The area in question lies south and east of the river confluence where the Roaring Fork meets the Colorado River, and includes the west Seventh and Eighth street corridors and some key city-owned parcels. Among them is the former sewer treatment plant property on Seventh Street and the Vogelaar Park area along Eighth Street.
We asked the candidates for two contested seats in the April 2 City Council election about their visions for this area. Here’s what they had to say.
What is your vision for Glenwood Springs’ confluence area redevelopment?
The confluence area should create a place that we are proud of — a place that we will want to visit from anywhere in the city or just enjoy when passing by.
To do that, I agree with City Council that the area should contain mixed use. The area can provide commercial space that helps activate the area, as well as a variety of housing options for different income types. I would also like to see public open spaces — places to gather or, sit and think — included in the mixed use.
Redevelopment of the area should also have connectivity and circulation as a goal. That means making access to and away from the confluence area pedestrian and bicycle friendly. People should be encouraged, both physically and visually, to connect the confluence area with downtown, the surrounding neighborhoods, the Rio Grande Trail and the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers.
Physical access would include not only sidewalks but parking and transit solutions, like a small complex or transit exchange, that would also encourage walkability. Visual access would include trees, public art and buildings that reflect the Glenwood Springs mountain-town aesthetic.
For too long, this area where the Colorado River and Roaring Fork rivers meet has been ignored as a great asset for this community. There are many opportunities for this unique area. However, we have to be cautious not to “over develop” it.
The Confluence Redevelopment Plan is a lengthy, lengthy document and I encourage citizens to review it at the City’s website. There are some interesting ideas in the plans and proposals, but it envisions a major expansion and construction. My concerns include the limited transportation and infrastructure currently there.
This is already one of the most congested areas of Glenwood Springs, and additional housing and businesses will make that worse. I understand the plan is to essentially expand the downtown on Eighth and Seventh, including the site of the former sewage plant. This is fine, but we have to keep in mind traffic and parking, which is obviously already a major issue downtown and beyond. If parking is now such an issue that we have to charge people who already live downtown, which I vehemently oppose, how much more impact will a major expansion downtown have?
Whatever we do I would like to see a good mix of residential and commercial with parks and open space expanded. I would also oppose anything that would affect the recreational uses in that area, including rafting and fishing.
The Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers are the defining features of our town, and the confluence is an awe-inspiring site of beauty — or at least it should be. It was neglected for years when it was the site of the city’s sewer treatment facility, but now we have an opportunity to showcase its beauty.
My overall criteria for the future use of this land are that it:
1. Connect people to the rivers … physically and spiritually;
2. Be primarily a pedestrian place; and,
3. Any development that occurs be compatible with the city’s historic character.
As our citizens think collectively about the future use of this site, I suggest we look at other towns that have developed land along their river. Salida and Buena Vista are two towns that come to mind. We should not simply copy what they have done, but there are some principles that they followed that we should keep in mind as we develop our confluence area.
I am open to different ideas, and I look forward to participating with all our citizens in design decisions. There are, however, two design features I would oppose because they are inconsistent with my overall criteria. First, I will oppose a development that does not feature adequate recreational open space. I don’t want to see every square foot of that site covered with a building. Second, I will oppose a development that features traffic and parking garages that infringe on riverfront pedestrian and recreation space.
Ward 3 candidates
I believe the confluence redevelopment offers an opportunity to address some of the affordable housing concerns Glenwood is currently facing. A development that incorporates affordable housing, possibly with some commercial space, and doesn’t skimp on parking is something I’d be very interested in seeing.
I did have an opportunity to look over the proposed plans. The one thing that came to mind is, what could we build that the whole world would come to see?
The plan at this time is a place marker and not a finished proposal. I do not see anything in the present plan any different from seeing any other plan that touts affordable housing, hotels, parking lots and places to eat pizza and shop.
I believe we already have done a tremendous job with the DDA putting thoughtful consideration into the downtown. Is moving attention from the historic downtown to build a shiny new object that is great for a while and cools off the downtown business success the best and greatest use?
We have two things the whole world wants to see. The largest hot springs in the world, and the Glenwood Caverns on the hill. I believe we will come up with a creative proposal that rivals these as something so unique it stands on its own to become the third.
I don’t support the idea of bringing more restaurants to compete with what we already have, nor hotels into the immediate river area. I think all the parking should be done underground, integrate solar, and we should take the utmost care in citizen input and not bending to a developer’s will.
The EPA Brownfields Plan and the 2017 Confluence Plan have created a vision for development of this area. The Confluence area (12.2 acres) is the last large area located adjacent to and in the heart of Glenwood’s historic downtown area, and its development is one of most important decisions the new City Council will face.
The development must fit within Glenwood’s vision of a small town livable community. I envision a mixture of residential, office and retail uses, as well as maintaining civic and open space areas along the Roaring Fork River. Any development must include a direct connection for bikes to traverse from the Rio Grande and LOVA Trails to Seventh Street, and in the long range to a new bridge over the Colorado River to the Glenwood Canyon bike path, thereby placing Glenwood at the epicenter for residents and visitors alike to travel these important bikeways.
Workforce housing in the confluence is critical to reduce traffic impacts while providing housing for those who want to live and work in Glenwood Springs. The long-term future of Glenwood is dependent upon attracting young professionals.
Extending retail uses along the Seventh Street corridor helps provide a walkable neighborhood. Council’s decision to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a master developer will give the city the tools necessary to control the development of this area and to negotiate with developers with a full understanding of the costs and benefits potential developers face.
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The three incumbents are declared, and challengers have until Jan. 25 to gather nominating signatures to run for Glenwood Springs City Council April 6.