Glenwood Springs confluence planning may include restaurants on the Roaring Fork
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Green space isn’t the only thing that could attract people to enjoy the riverfront sections of Glenwood Springs’ confluence area.
An auto-free, pedestrian-oriented, riverwalk-style commercial district with shops and restaurants overlooking the Roaring Fork River could also enhance the area, Glenwood Springs City Council members said during a Thursday work session with confluence planners.
“To make all of that a park along the river is not necessarily the highest and best use,” Councilman Mike Gamba pointed out during the discussion. “I think we have a great opportunity to incorporate some of that riverfront into additional retail and restaurant space.”
A conceptual plan for the confluence area now envisions mostly park space and trails along the east bank of the Roaring Fork River on either side of the Eighth Street bridge, where a new street connection is being planned.
Councilor Todd Leahy agreed that the riverfront could serve to enhance the economic potential of the confluence area.
“I think we want to activate that riverfront with as many people as possible,” Leahy said of the effort by the Sonoran Institute, the Downtown Development Authority and the city to update the 10-year-old confluence development master plan.
“It can be an area that’s not impacted by automobiles, in a town that has an awful lot of impact from automobiles,” he said.
Likewise, the Roaring Fork riverfront could also serve as an alternative location for a civic center of some sort, such as a performing arts theater or convention center.
Currently, the conceptual plan depicts a civic building within the triangle area that’s created by the railroad wye, just west of the city’s new wastewater pump station.
That location is also envisioned for multiple levels of public parking that would serve as the foundation for a building. But the site also backs up against the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad, and may not be an ideal spot for a public events center, especially a performing arts theater, council members pointed out.
The city’s performing arts center committee has recently been focusing on the Glenwood Springs Community Center site at Midland Avenue and Wulfsohn Road for an attached performing arts center on the east side of the building. The plan there would also enclose the existing open-air ice rink to serve as an exhibit hall/convention center for larger events.
But the renewed focus on the confluence area, situated west of Pitkin Avenue between Seventh and 11th streets, has resurrected discussions about a future theater/convention center there instead.
Participants in a multi-day design charrette in late May expressed an interest in some type of civic center for the confluence area, said Clark Anderson of the Sonoran Institute, which is taking the lead on the planning project.
He said he plans to meet with the performing arts center committee to present the work to date on the confluence plan and get its input.
The confluence plan update is being funded by a partnership between the city, the DDA and the Sonoran Institute, with grant funding from the Gates Family Foundation. An action plan is expected to be presented to the city and DDA in August or September, Anderson said.
One near-term project that the city is already working on is the long-envisioned Eighth Street connection from the point where it now ends at Vogelaar Park west of City Hall to the bridge across the Roaring Fork River.
Negotiations with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the Union Pacific Railroad to come up with a plan to somehow cross under or over the railroad “wye” spur that runs through that area are under way.
City Council members also said Thursday that they’re not necessarily against higher-density housing on what’s now Vogelaar Park. That piece of property is owned by the Roaring Fork School District and is part of the Glenwood Springs Elementary School campus, though the city has a use agreement for the baseball field.
The confluence plan suggests a land swap with the school district for city-owned land to the south of the GSES along School Street, where a public works shop and the city’s recycling center are now located.
Others who have weighed in on the confluence plan, including school district officials, have indicated that the suggested density for the Vogelaar site, at about 500 residential units, may be a bit much.
But a mix of housing types is important for a vital downtown area and fits the “urban dweller” lifestyle of many young families, Councilor Stephen Bershenyi said.
A lot of younger people choose not to have cars, or at least not use them as much, and want to be downtown where they can walk and bike to where they need to go, he said.
High-density, apartment-style housing, if that’s what eventually gets developed in the confluence, “is about getting the design and form right,” Anderson said.
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Imagine Glenwood and The City of Glenwood Springs is slated to host a virtual town hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11.