Public, DDA digging into new downtown designs
Asked to describe the downtown Glenwood Springs of tomorrow in one word, participants at a design planning session Thursday got creative.
“Alive,” “cool,” “hip,” “fun,” “diverse,” “inviting,” “compelling,” “historic” and even “heaven” were among the words written down on sticky notes at the Downtown Development Authority open house in the Glenwood Springs Library community room.
The DDA, working with a team of design consultants, is in the process of planning for more public improvements in the coming years, following the success of last year’s sidewalk expansion along the south side of Seventh Street for new outdoor dining areas.
The latest work focuses on the park promenade area on the north side of Seventh Street by the soon-to-be-replaced pedestrian bridge, areas on either side of the planned new Grand Avenue bridge, and Cooper Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets.
Cooper Avenue, in particular, has “amazing potential,” according to a DDA purpose statement that was part of the display at the open house, which came in follow-up to a brainstorming session two weeks ago.
“Downtown is regaining its footing, and we know it can be even more vibrant and successful,” according to the statement. “The areas around the new bridge will change dramatically once it is complete, and we want to have improvements in place or under way when this happens.”
State highway officials are in the final stages of designing the new Highway 82 bridge. As planned, it will follow a new alignment from Grand Avenue on the south to a reconfigured intersection at the I-70 interchange that is to include a roundabout at Sixth and Laurel. Construction is expected to start later this year, or in early 2016.
In the meantime, the DDA has entered into $107,000 worth of contracts with two Roaring Fork Valley-based firms, Bluegreen Inc. and Esse Design, to do the schematic design work for the targeted areas and, in the case of Esse, to design and recommend a location for a monument feature of some sort for the downtown area.
The design team also includes studioINSITE and Boundaries Unlimited, which designed the various improvements that were done last year.
“What we’ve seen is that public investment leads to private investment in these areas,” said Leslie Bethel, executive director for the DDA, pointing to new private development that has or is taking place along Seventh Street and on the west side of Grand Avenue in the 700 block.
The same thing could happen in the 700 block of Cooper with streetscape improvements and possibly some reconfigured parking there, she said.
Three options for Cooper were presented Thursday, including one that would eliminate the angle parking in favor of parallel parking on both sides of the street, and another that would turn that stretch into a northbound one-way street with angle parking on the east side only.
The third option would maintain the current parking configuration with angle parking on the east side of the street and parallel parking on the west, but with new landscaping, sitting areas and corner “bulb-outs” to ease pedestrian crossing.
Business owners in that block advised during the session that any new design would need to keep the logistics of truck deliveries and trash pickup in mind.
Likewise, three options were presented for redevelopment of the Seventh Street promenade area next to the railroad tracks, where the sheltered gazebo and sunken patio area are now located.
They include an active gathering area with cafe tables and a larger lawn space; a more passive “people watching” space with linear benches, trees and a water feature; and something more elaborate with a music feature, fountain and children’s play area.
Design work on the north side of the planned new bridge is focused on the space in the middle of the roundabout, as well as the grassy or landscaped areas coming off of I-70 onto the bridge and/or Sixth Street, which is to include a pedestrian underpass.
Several people commented at the open house that “wayfinding” signs pointing motorists to Sixth or into the main downtown area will be crucial to make that area functional.
The schematic design process is expected to wrap up sometime in April, and the work will be presented to City Council soon after that to determine whether to proceed to the full design phase for what’s estimated to be a $2.5 million construction project when the time comes.
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