Ped mall expansion plan on the wing |

Ped mall expansion plan on the wing

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Peppo Nino Dining Room owner Tony Rosa said he feels left out of the loop on proposed plans to close the east Grand Avenue wing street.

Downtown Development Authority officials counter that if Rosa – or anyone else – feels left out, that’s because the public process needed to make the change is just starting.

The wing street veers off Grand Avenue just below the Grand Avenue Bridge, giving motorists an outlet to 7th Street.

The west wing street was closed and converted to a pedestrian mall in 1996, but controversy at the time led city officials to leave the east wing street open to traffic.

But a proposal to closing the street to vehicle traffic and making it a pedestrian area has resurfaced.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” Rosa said. “I just get tired of the city just trying to slide anything in.”

Rosa added that closing the street would block access for police and emergency crews, it would take away much needed parking spaces and it would close off the east-west alley.

The proposal is being contemplated as the city braces for a major Colorado Department of Transportation repaving project 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 good time to make such a change.

“At this point, it’s a conceptual design,” DDA director John Simmons said. “I don’t see the benefit of the DDA trying to slide anything through. That would be shooting ourselves in the foot.”

The conceptual design for the proposal was on display during CDOT open houses Feb. 5 and 6 at City Hall.

Simmons said closure of the east wing street is simply a continuation of the west side project.

“The original plan was to do both sides, so it’s kind of viewed as a half-finished project,” Simmons said.

Rosa argued that the pedestrian area on the west side of the bridge is dirty, unkempt and a general failure, so any plans for the east side should be abandoned.

Tom McCorkle, a local resident and former police officer in Glenwood Springs, said he also opposes closing the street.

“I think it would be disastrous,” he said. “You’ll lose eight parking spaces, which are a premium, just because they think it will look pretty.”

McCorkle also said he thinks the DDA and city officials are trying to keep negative public comment to a minimum by not consulting downtown business owners about the closure.

“It’s never been what they thought it would be when they first built it,” McCorkle said of the pedestrian area on the west side of the bridge. “I think it’s dirty politics. The way they’re going about it, it’s really sneaky.”

DDA Board Chairman David Osborne and Vice Chairman David Hauter defended the DDA action.

“We’ve actually contacted all the businesses,” Osborne said. “If they haven’t been contacted yet, they will be very shortly.”

Osborne said he envisions the street becoming a nice, park-like area. New lighting, more trees and plants, more trash receptacles and other improvements will bring activity and vibrancy to the downtown core, he said.

“The pedestrian atmosphere is so nice,” he said.

The DDA board plans to vote Wednesday on whether to approve the concept of closing the street and making it a pedestrian area.

Hauter said if the project is to be done, timing it to coincide with the repaving of Grand Avenue is the way to go.

“We could add to it using their contractor,” he said. “It would save huge money.”

Hauter countered McCorkle’s and Rosa’s allegations that the DDA is keeping the project a secret.

“Nobody should construe that the (DDA) board is doing anything sneaky,” he said.

Sharon Wright, owner of Narcissus Hair Salon at 726 Grand Ave., said she’s not opposed to closing the wing street off to traffic, but if it happens, she wants to see the area kept up better than it has been in the past.

“They promised they were going to take care of it and make it look like a little park,” she said of the west side pedestrian area. “They didn’t and it’s filthy. If they’re going to do that and make it a little pedestrian mall, they should take care of it.”

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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