Vagrancy concerns aired over 6th Street plan
A draft master plan to revamp the Sixth Street corridor after the new Grand Avenue bridge is built lays out a vision for what could become a largely pedestrian-oriented mix of public spaces and private commercial and residential redevelopment.
But some Glenwood Springs City Council members are concerned that a small park area that’s being planned where the existing highway bridge lands north of the Colorado River and Interstate 70 could inadvertently promote the type of vagrancy issues the city has been working to avoid in recent years.
“I am concerned about the south end of the park in particular,” Councilor Todd Leahy said during a Sept. 15 work session with the specially appointed Sixth Street steering committee and consultants who have been working on the master plan.
That’s where the committee and paid designers have envisioned a plaza-type space with a performance stage, sculptures and other artwork, a children’s play area, a stair-step seating area and lots of landscaping.
Ideally, it would be a place for people to sit and relax, let their children play, and maybe take in special events such as music or theater that would be planned for the area.
But it could also become the kind of space that attracts undesired activity, such as panhandling and possibly illegal behavior, Leahy and others forewarned.
“I would hate to plan for bad behavior, but it is out there,” Leahy said. “And that area in particular concerns me.”
Those concerns can be addressed through the design itself, not only of the park but of the surrounding area, design consultant Cheney Bostic of Denver-based Studio Insite said in her presentation to council.
For instance, mid-rise balcony style residential development on the upper floors of new buildings can create a perception that there is a natural, ongoing public surveillance of the area, she said.
Controlling access to the area, regularly programming public spaces, having adequate nighttime lighting, and routine maintenance of parks and public streetscapes also goes a long way, Bostic suggested.
The old bridge landing was always envisioned for a park, steering committee chairman David Hauter said.
“Open space is an important public amenity, and it’s hard to come by,” he said. “We really felt like this has to be a meaningful space, and the first option we arrived at was the one we came back to, which was the park.”
Options looking at the potential of allowing private development on part of what will become city property, or possibly a public facility of some sort, were also explored.
“But we felt that would take away from space that could be a really nice park,” Hauter said. “Eventually, there is going to be a population of people there that isn’t there today, and the park will take on even more meaning.”
The Sixth Street Master Plan is to be released for public inspection next Monday, and will be available for public comments through October.
A final plan is to be presented to City Council in November, and formal adoption is expected soon after the first of the new year.
The nine-month-long planning process working with the steering committee has involved several public meetings and open house displays.
Among the goals is to create a natural link between the historic hot springs and hotel district along Sixth Street with the main part of downtown south of the river linked by the soon-to-be-completed new pedestrian bridge.
The planning effort also extended west along Sixth Street to the Glenwood Caverns tram on Devereux Road, tying in Two Rivers Park, the confluence area that is also being planned for eventual redevelopment, and possibly a bridge link on Devereux to the Glenwood Springs Community Center and Glenwood Meadows shopping center.
Along Sixth Street itself, between Pine and Laurel streets, while existing commercial buildings will likely remain for a period of time, eventually the plan envisions redevelopment of those areas.
That could include mixed-used commercial and residential development, the steering committee suggested, although the area would have to be rezoned to accomplish that.
Given the pedestrian-oriented streetscape design, parking would likely need to be on the fringes somewhere, possibly involving a public-private partnership to build a multi-level parking structure, the committee recommended. Transit would also need to service the area on a regular basis, it recommended.
Other suggestions include a roundabout at the intersection of Sixth, Devereux and Traver Trail, and possibly pursuing city ownership of the U.S. 6 & 24 corridor west from that point which is still owned and maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“There are a lot of good ideas and some really good work in here, and I love the streetscape plan,” Leahy said of the master plan. “I do appreciate the work of the committee, and I think we have some things left to talk about.”
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A crew from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center last week cut disks of wood from trees downed by a powerful avalanche that thundered off Garrett Peak in March 2019. The samples will aid research by dendrochronologists into the epic avalanche cycle.