Redesign concepts for downtown sidewalks, Grand Avenue envisioned
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A new Grand Avenue Bridge could open up some opportunities for a major makeover of the public space in the downtown area between Seventh and Eighth streets.
As state and local transportation planners work on a new bridge design, the Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has been busy developing a series of redesign concepts for downtown sidewalks and side streets.
The DDA’s “Urban Design Studies” were presented at a recent open house co-sponsored by the DDA and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Included among the conceptual sketches done by urban designer Jim Leggitt of Denver-based StudioINSITE are several ideas for possibly redesigning the 700 block of Grand Avenue and surrounding areas.
The first block of the downtown area stands to be the most impacted once the new bridge is built, likely starting in 2015.
One reason the existing bridge needs to be replaced is because it is too narrow, which means the platform for the new bridge will need to be several feet wider than it is now.
The planned bridge replacement is also intended to gain more clearance as the bridge passes over the railroad tracks and Seventh Street. That means the bridge will likely land closer to the Eighth Street intersection than it does now, further obscuring some businesses in the 700 block area below the bridge.
But, according to the DDA study, it also creates some unique opportunities for redesigning what’s now the wing street and small parking area between northbound Grand and Seventh, and the pedestrian plaza that runs up the west side of Grand next to the bridge.
Potential improvements in that area could include:
• A more functional, better-lit pedestrian plaza beneath and up both sides of the bridge in the 700 block of Grand.
• Wider sidewalks and more space for outdoor dining areas, both along Grand next to the bridge and in the 300 block of Seventh Street; sometimes referred to as “restaurant row.”
• A barrier of some sort to separate Grand Avenue traffic from pedestrians and storefronts.
• Landscaped medians separating the traffic lanes at the south end of the bridge, as a way to control speeds and create a more appealing entry to downtown Glenwood Springs.
• Possible commercial space for lease underneath the bridge, such as a snack stand or mobile food vendors.
One significant change contemplated in the DDA’s redesign concept study would include the possible elimination of the traffic signal at Eighth and Grand.
Vehicles on Grand would have a continuous right-of-way from the bridge to the Ninth and Grand intersection. Vehicles could only make right turns on and off Grand Avenue at Eighth.
Under that scenario, the intersection at Ninth and Grand would become the primary, full movement intersection for the central downtown area.
The change would also include removing the pedestrian crosswalks across Grand Avenue at Eighth. Instead, pedestrians would be directed to a Grand Avenue crossing beneath the bridge.
Eliminating the crosswalk at Eighth would give pedestrians an extra half-block walk to get from one side of Grand Avenue to the other in that block.
Another recent DDA effort, which comes into play with the redesign concepts, has focused on designs to improve several downtown alleys to make them more appealing and pedestrian-friendly.
The new walkway under the bridge would also link to the alleyways that extend from Grand Avenue west to Colorado Avenue, next to the Silver Club building, and on the east side to Cooper Avenue.
Removing the traffic signal at Eighth also ties in with a possible scenario under the proposed Highway 82 Access Control Plan. The access plan is currently being reviewed by CDOT and city of Glenwood Springs officials.
One downtown business owner in the 700 block of Grand said he likes the redesign ideas for the area in concept, but wonders how it would work in reality.
“Once they raise the height of the bridge, that’s all I’m looking at outside our front window,” Rob Rightmire, owner of The Springs and Doc Holliday’s, said following last week’s open house.
Rightmire said he does like some of the traffic-calming features included in the DDA sketches.
“Downtown Glenwood Springs starts as soon as you cross that bridge,” Rightmire said. “I know a lot of people have talked about getting Highway 82 out of the center of town, but I don’t really see that as a big deal.
“If people were going the speed limit, that’s not a problem and it actually benefits the downtown businesses,” he said.
“I think Glenwood Springs is really turning the corner and headed toward growth,” Rightmire added. “But my main concern is that we don’t bury that first block of downtown with the bridge.”
Local architect David Hauter, who has been active with CDOT’s Grand Avenue Bridge stakeholders group, said he likes the DDA’s downtown concepts.
“The possibility of using the alley as a pedestrian connection is pretty exciting,” Hauter said. “And that whole area under the bridge, because it would be higher, has a lot of potential for a more pedestrian-friendly design.”
The bridge project itself is slated to receive up to $59 million under the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund. But any other associated redevelopment projects, such as the downtown redesign or possible redevelopment along Sixth Street north of the new bridge, would have to be funded separately.
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