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Mulling over the pedestrian mall

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Later this month City Council plans to make a final decision on whether to close the Grand Avenue wing street to vehicles and convert it to a pedestrian mall.

There are many issues facing the area and even more opinions on what to do with it.

To get an idea of residents’ and business owners’ views on the topic, council directed the city’s staff to send out certified letters to business and property owners in the 700 to 900 blocks of Grand, Cooper and Colorado avenues.



This effort, council hopes, will result in a full sampling of opinions on whether the wing street should stay open or be closed and turned into a pedestrian area.

The letter was not available on Friday.



The project, which could cost $450,000, would also include building a new and wider bicycle and pedestrian ramp coming off the south end of the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge.

It would close off the east-side wing street and create a pedestrian mall with decorative concrete and brick, similar to what was done on the west side of the Grand Avenue Bridge.

It’s being contemplated as the city braces for a major Colorado Department of Transportation repaving project along the length of Grand Avenue, set for the summer of 2004.

Downtown officials said since Grand Avenue would already be torn up and contractors will already be on site, it would be a great time to make the change.

Parking

First on most people’s lips, whether they’re for the project or against it, is the lack of parking downtown. If the wing street is closed, seven more spaces in the heart of downtown will be lost. Even when replacement spaces are built, they’ll be at least a block away.

MaryAnn Sullivan, owner of Night and Dance in the King Mall, said the city should add more parking in the downtown core before taking away the wing street parking.

Sullivan suggested that the city could designate the vacant lot at the former location of Boyd’s Bail Bonds, at the corner of 7th Street and Colorado Avenue, as tourist parking and place a neon parking sign at the south end of the Grand Avenue Bridge to let people know where it’s located.

“That would give us 15 or 20 spaces,” she said.

As far as the project as a whole, Sullivan said she sees both sides and is undecided on where she stands.

“I’m apprehensive, I’m on the fence,” she said.

“If they do it and keep it clean and help with parking, I’ll be for it. Everybody likes a vibrant downtown. So let’s take advantage of it,” Sullivan said.

Doc Holliday’s owner Martha Yoder adamantly opposes closing off the wing street.

“The DDA said 80 percent of the people are for it. But what about the people who it will really affect? It’s going to be a filthy hole,” Yoder said. “And the parking, there’s no parking at all.”

Yoder said she thinks no matter what anyone says, the city will move forward with the project.

“We can talk until we’re blue,” she said. “Why can’t we just scrub it up and put some lights down there and paint it?”

Yoder’s bar manager, Anita Barnett, agrees.

“First of all, if you close that off, if people don’t have a place to park, they’re going to keep going. Before doing this, we need a parking garage.”

Sharon Wright, owner of Narcissus hair salon on Grand Avenue, said she supports the project as long as it’s done right.

“But I don’t think they’re doing anything right,” she said. “They’re taking away all the parking and I sure don’t think they’re listening to a lot of people.

“I think they should have a whole plan in place before they do anything and start piecemealing everything.”

And although the parking will eventually be replaced with other lots, Wright said she’s concerned about her employees, “a bunch of 20-year-old girls walking past the bars and under the bridge to the City Hall parking areas.”

Cleanliness, vagrancy problems

Daily Bread owner David Souders said he’s also in favor of the idea and said if everyone who complains about the lack of upkeep would help keep the west pedestrian area clean, there would be no problems.

“It’s not up to the city. We own the businesses and the buildings and it’s up to us and the other business owners to keep it up,” Souders said.

He also likes the idea of having a transit stop under the bridge.

Confetti Designs saleswoman Susanna Clark Smith said she favors the wing street closure because it would look nice and would make walking and bicycling easier for tourists.

“I think it would be a nice addition there,” she said.

The owner and employees at the new mountainestates.com real estate showroom said they would like to see the wing street closed and have the place beautified.

“Every person who works in this building is for closing it and making it beautiful,” said Teresa Monger, office manager for the real estate company.

Monger said she saw a man in a wheelchair almost get run down by a truck while crossing the wing street.

“They closed the other side and I think they should close this side, too,” she said.

The owner of the company, Mark Hall, agreed that the street should be closed.

“We’re one of the nicer places on the street, so that’s one of the reasons we’re hoping they do it.

“We’re concerned whether the city really has any money to do this,” he added.

But if the area is closed off, Hall said, he wants to see it kept neat and clean.

“What they have on the other side isn’t the cleanest place in the world,” he said. “I just think if you’re going to do it, do it right.”

Pedestrian and vehicle access and effects on business

David Stover, owner of Glenwood Shoe Service, is afraid cutting off traffic in front of his shop will hurt his business.

“I’ve been here for 28 years. It will definitely affect my business,” he said.

Stover said he opposes the closure because it will preclude people from driving up and quickly dropping off their shoes for repair.

He suggested placing the pedestrian ramp on the west side of the Grand Avenue Bridge.

“To me, it’s good access to 7th Street,” Stover said. “Of the businesses here, everyone’s against it. It eliminates more parking.”

Stover said he already gets a lot of walk-by traffic from tourists.

“I don’t see this becoming a downtown Aspen with all the malls. We’ve got a major highway up above. You’re sitting there having coffee and a truck rumbles by and drops a load of gravel on you.”

Also, he said slush and water come spraying over the railing during the winter.

Just up the street, Market at Summit Canyon owner Ryan Davis said he’d like to see the wing street closed.

“I think it opens things up for a lot of new possibilities,” he said.

Davis pointed out that many of the people he sees parking in the spaces in front of the shops are owners of downtown businesses.

“There would be less traffic,” he said. “It would just make a lot more sense.”

West side businesses favor closure

Across Grand Avenue, the west wing street was closed about 10 years ago. And according to the Downtown Development Authority’s statistics, most of the businesses on that side are in favor of closing the east wing street.

“Everybody at this store really would like to see it happen,” Book Train manager Mary Brickner said. “It could be really nice. I think it’ll look more even with this side, too, and it would be a more inviting entrance to town.”

“We see a car smash into that bridge at least once or twice a month,” she added.

Martha’s Vineyard Gallery owner Randy Corry said he has no problem with the project.

“Since they did this side, I like it,” he said. “I’m not saying it improved my business, I’m just saying it’s nicer and friendlier for the tourists.”

Corry also said there are numerous accidents at the entrance to the wing street.

“How come there haven’t been more accidents, I don’t know. I think it’s really unsafe and the numbers might not show it. I watch it every day and I’m amazed that someone hasn’t been killed over there,” Corry said.

But David and Cece Zumwinkle, who own Juicy Lucy’s on 7th Street, said they oppose the closure because police wouldn’t have a direct route to 7th Street from Grand Avenue.

“Our main concern is security down here,” David Zumwinkle said.

“At night people are hanging out at the little kiosk over there and they scare the tourists,” he said, referring to the shelter in the 7th Street Esplanade. “Then late at night when the bars get out . They do a fair amount of vandalism.”

Zumwinkle said it’s bad now, but closing the wing street would make it worse.

“The police use that wing street to get down to the bars on (7th) street. They won’t be able to respond as quickly, and it would give vandals an escape route,” he said.

“I just think eventually it’s just going to be another hangout for vagrants so they can get out of the sun,” he said.

“It remains to be seen if tourists want to hang out under a bridge. It’s got to be patrolled and it’s got to be clean and attractive.”

Solutions?

John Simmons, director of the Downtown Development Authority, said the DDA board and members are doing all they can to solve the problems occurring around the wing street area and under the bridge.

“There are distinct problems down in that area,” he said. “Safety, cleanliness, parking – these are all issues that have to be addressed,” he said.

To help keep the area clean, the DDA is looking at buying a mini street sweeper that also has street washing capabilities.

“If we continue with the status quo and do things the way we’ve always done them, decline would probably be inevitable,” Simmons said.

“One of the responses to (vagrancy and vandalism) is that the amenities of the area can actually push that away,” he said. “If we upgraded the area, it would invite the general public to use the area more. . I think we can help that area through an aggressive cleaning program and by beautifying it.”

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

gmasse@postindependent.com


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