Post Independent opinion: Don’t risk downtown vitality with all-day parking shuffle
Downtown Glenwood Springs is a peaceful place right now, but that tranquility is about to be busted open by groundbreakings in two adjacent blocks along Cooper Avenue.
Construction is set to start in late March or early April on the $12 million library, parking garage, office and classroom structure in the 800 block of Cooper, to be shared by the Glenwood Springs Branch Library and Colorado Mountain College.
At the same time, the city of Glenwood Springs will start work on a $4 million, two-story parking structure on the existing parking lot in the 900 block of Cooper.
These projects will ultimately bring a generous infusion of new parking spaces to the east side of downtown: a net gain of 112 parking spaces, from today’s 181 spaces to 293 spaces.
But while these projects are under way, there will be very little close-in, all-day parking in the area.
It’s a scenario that raises great anxiety for downtown merchants, who are worried about losing customer parking spaces.
The fear is that the scores of people working in offices in the downtown core, such the CMC administration building, the White River National Forest headquarters, and other stores and offices – including the Post Independent – will start using the two-hour parking spots in the area.
Of course, this means workers will be playing the two-hour parking shuffle game to stay ahead of the vigilant Glenwood Springs parking enforcement officer.
But using two-hour parking spaces in this way is playing a much more hazardous game.
If two-hour parking spaces are filled by drivers who are working downtown all day, the spaces won’t be open for shoppers to park nearby and pop in and out of shops, restaurants or offices.
Over time, shoppers will figure out that parking downtown has become really difficult and will target their spending elsewhere.
Downtown merchants will already have to overcome shopper aversion to the noise and mess of these construction projects happening nearby. If parking also becomes a hassle, merchants could see their walk-in traffic drop dramatically.
And in this economy, that could mean some of those merchants won’t be there when the dust clears at the end of the year.
The bottom line is this: Those of us who work downtown all day need to stay out of the two-hour parking spaces, park a few blocks away and enjoy a short walk, or come downtown on the bus, on a bicycle or on foot. Employers must reinforce this message with their workers.
The economic health of downtown depends in no small measure on available parking. To keep downtown Glenwood Springs a great area to work, shop and dine, let’s not clutter the close-in parking spots with all-day vehicles.
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