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Plans for old police station downsized

Dennis Webb

An architect has come back from the drawing board with a downsized plan for a four-story residential and office building at Glenwood Springs’ former police station.The new plan would retain four stories but limit the building’s height to 40 feet, which is currently allowed under the zoning for the property, at 823 Blake Ave.”It’s going to be a much better fit to the neighborhood,” said Jeff Johnson, the architect on the project.The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission turned down an application for a special use permit that would have allowed the building to be 43 feet high, or 47 feet, counting a parapet on top.Residents living near the site complained that the building would have been too high and out of character with the neighborhood. They said it would have blocked mountain views and left some homes in the building’s shadow during the coldest winter months.Johnson said even the new proposal probably won’t satisfy residents’ concerns about issues such as shade. There are some inherent conflicts between the city’s zoning and its downtown design guidelines, he believes.The city wants to keep local businesses in the city’s core and promote infill growth, both of which the proposal would accomplish, Johnson said. But the city’s downtown design guidelines seek to have buildings blend in with the surrounding neighborhood.”They haven’t gotten around that yet,” Blake Avenue resident Greg Durrett said.He said the proposed building still is inappropriate for the neighborhood, and the only change is that developers no longer need a special use permit. Durrett said he doesn’t think neighbors want the two-story building to become any higher.Like Johnson, Durrett sees conflicts in some of the city’s policies, and city community development director Andrew McGregor doesn’t dispute that.”In some respects we’re sending mixed signals,” he said.The city wants to preserve historic neighborhoods, but also promote building taller structures downtown as a means of controlling sprawl, he said.”It really becomes a design challenge,” he said.McGregor understands Blake Avenue residents’ desires for a buffer zone between them and tall buildings. He said city officials wrestled with that issue when coming up with design guidelines, but felt the potential for conflict was limited because it existed only on one block of Blake Avenue.He said he thinks the city is getting better at figuring out what kinds of designs fit in for downtown neighborhoods.One challenge for the former police station is trying to work with a pre-existing building, McGregor said.”You’re kind of dealt a hand and you can only draw a few cards,” he said.Johnson said the new proposal addresses neighbors’ concerns in part by reducing the square footage on the fourth floor, and incorporating brick and stucco to blend better with other buildings. He said he is seeking to incorporate a Mission Bay, San Francisco style of Victorian design on the building’s residential levels.The original plan was to have a fourth-floor residence, and a third floor that could be used for residential or office space. Now, the intention is to have one residence that includes both the third floor and a penthouse component with some patio space on the top floor, Johnson said.Attorney Dan Kerst and businessman Don Click, both of Glenwood Springs, bought the property. Johnson described the two as “community-minded.””They don’t plan on building and running,” he said.Kerst hopes to live in the property, and also to do right by the people who may be his future neighbors.”We’re sensitive,” he said. “We got the feedback at the P&Z meeting and are trying to respond in a way that’s sensitive to concerns but trying to recognize economic realities.”He said the economics of the plan were tenuous to begin with, and are even more so now that there will be less office space. But he said isn’t arguing with the P&Z decision.”It’s regroup time, and that’s how you learn,” he said.With the redesign, the only planning review the building is subject to will be by city staff for conformity with downtown design standards, McGregor said. These administrative decisions are appealable to a city board.However, Johnson noted that a 40-foot building is a “use by right” on Click and Kerst’s property.”They’re just exercising their use by right,” he said.Said Durrett, “People across the street have some rights, too.”He said lack of parking is yet another concern in the neighborhood.Johnson and Kerst said they are open to more input from residents as they proceed with their plan.Whatever occurs on the property, “it will significantly improve that building,” Kerst said.Durrett called the old police station “an ugly building to start with.”Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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