Plans begin for 6th Street’s ‘whole new neighborhood’

Glenwood Springs' Sixth Street corridor on the north side of the Colorado River is being studied for redevelopment options after the new Grand Avenue bridge is built, which will remove Highway 82 traffic from the two-block section between Pine and Laurel streets.
Chelsea Self | Post Independent

A key reason behind the decision to realign the new Grand Avenue bridge, taking Highway 82 off of Sixth Street, was the potential gem it could unearth on the north side of the Colorado River by way of redevelopment.

Since January, a project steering committee made up of north Glenwood Springs property and business owners, along with city planners and hired consultants, have been meeting to begin developing a Sixth Street corridor master plan.

Taking in the roughly mile-long stretch from East Sixth Street near the Yampah Vapor Caves, past the historic Hot Springs and Hotel Colorado district to the vicinity of Devereux Road and Traver Trail, the study aims to refine ideas around four main areas:

• Future land-use and redevelopment opportunities.

• Improved vehicle and pedestrian connections.

• Streetscape improvements.

• Park/plaza design for what will become a new public gathering place where the existing highway bridge now lands.

“There are a lot of exciting opportunities that will present themselves when the new bridge is done, and the reason for the study is to get ahead of the game when it is done,” said Gretchen Ricehill, senior planner for the city.

Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Leslie Bethel has also been part of the discussions, and said the Sixth Street corridor is an important extension of the downtown area.

“With the decrease in the number of cars that will be passing through that area, it really becomes a whole new neighborhood,” Bethel said. “One of the ideas behind the new alignment of the bridge was that it would give that area a whole new identity and open up a lot of possibilities.”

The new highway bridge, once completed, will curve west from Grand Avenue in the main part of downtown directly to the Interstate 70 Exit 116 interchange near the intersection of Sixth and Laurel. A roundabout at that intersection will serve as a new gateway into the northern sections of Glenwood, including the Hot Springs resort district.

Staying in its current alignment will be the new pedestrian bridge that is now under construction, which will continue to connect the main part of downtown with the Sixth Street area.

The city has a $217,000 contract with Denver-based StudioInsite to come up with concept designs for some of the redevelopment that is envisioned for the area.

Much of its work has been focused on developing a design for the roughly 100-by-100-foot area where the north bridge landing is now located that will become a new park. The city and Hot Springs Pool owners are still working on an agreement to determine the exact size of that park, but some of the concept designs are expected to be unveiled at an upcoming public open house.

In the meantime, the steering committee has also requested that an economic study of the larger north Glenwood area be done as a way to better determine what type of private redevelopment might occur, including more housing, office and retail uses and additional hotel and restaurant development.

Rezoning, possibly involving a new “overlay” zone district for the area, may also be considered, addressing such things as building design and heights, setbacks and parking requirements.

“Redevelopment discussions also involve finding possible locations for structured parking, which could require that the city partner with private property owners,” Ricehill notes in a memo to Glenwood Springs City Council for a followup discussion during tonight’s regular council meeting.

Steering committee member and architect David Hauter spoke to the need for an economic study at a recent council meeting.

“There really are no large areas for Glenwood to expand into, and this particular area was largely left out of the 2011 comprehensive plan,” Hauter said.

It’s a section of town that’s ripe for redevelopment of some of the “blighted areas,” he said, especially in light of the bridge project.

“It may not be our most viable economic engine as it is now,” Hauter said, citing the need for better transportation options, more housing and better connectivity to the main part of town.

One major future connection that has entered the discussion is a bridge extending from Devereux Road across the river from Two Rivers Park over the Union Pacific’s main line railroad tracks to Midland Avenue. That link, connecting the north part of town to the Glenwood Springs Community Center and the Glenwood Meadows shopping center, is included in the city’s recently updated long-range transportation plan.

Coupled with the potential redevelopment of the area at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers, the broader plan envisions a “triangle” of connectivity between the main downtown/confluence area, the Sixth Street corridor and the Meadows.

City Council tonight will consider an extension of the city’s current contract with StudioInsite until Aug. 15. Ricehill said the option of adding an “economic and market assessment” to the contract for an additional cost will also be discussed.

The consultants are required under the current contract to schedule two more public outreach events, such as an open house, and to have additional workshop meetings with City Council, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the steering committee.

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