Some question whether 7th Street should reopen to vehicles after beautification
Question concerning promised ‘festival street’ picks up steam in Glenwood
After spending nearly $2.3 million on Seventh Street beautification, the question of whether or not the billed “festival street” should reopen to vehicles has surfaced.
“In my opinion the answer is absolutely no,” Councilor Steve Davis said. “The area along restaurant row is shaping up to be a beautiful amenity for the citizens and visitors in Glenwood.”
Aside from emergency and special-event vendor vehicle access, Davis envisions a pedestrian-oriented, family-friendly area free of cars along Seventh between Colorado and Cooper avenues.
“There would be no design or detail changes [needed] to close this area to traffic,” Davis said of the ongoing work, which contractor Gould Construction expects to complete sometime in August.
Councilor Rick Voorhees, like Davis, also favored having Seventh Street closed to traffic once the project was finished.
“We’ve spent much time and energy making it a place to spend relaxing time as a regional festival street and an expanded restaurant row. Allowing private automobiles and motorcycles only detracts from that,” Voorhees said.
Voorhees contended that the connection from Eighth Street to Midland Avenue had alleviated past concerns about connectivity in the downtown core. As a result, eliminating traffic on Seventh Street would be reasonable, he said.
“I favor closing it,” Voorhees said.
Not yet on City Council when the project’s first three phases of work were awarded, Councilor Paula Stepp called the design “beautiful,” but believes too much money was spent on it.
In January, City Council awarded Gould Construction the project’s first three phases of work. Phase 1, which included sanitary sewer work, carried with it a price tag of $655,116. The additional two “beautification” phases, combined, cost approximately $1.6 million.
“Colored cement would have worked better for a driving surface and maintenance, especially when you start snow plowing [Seventh] Street,” Stepp said.
Her concern about maintenance costs has Stepp leaning on the side of keeping the two-block stretch of Seventh Street closed to traffic, too.
“I realize the inconvenience, but I believe it will save us maintenance costs in the long run if we don’t allow driving,” Stepp said.
Several downtown business owners either could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday or declined to comment on the record about whether they thought that Seventh Street should reopen to vehicle traffic.
Mayor Jonathan Godes and Councilor Charlie Willman both wanted to hear from those downtown businesses before commenting either for or against the question at hand.
“I do know that there is much conversation in the community on this topic currently, and it is not something that the current council has had a discussion on yet,” Godes said. “What we don’t want to do is open it up to vehicular use upon completion, and then shut that use down a year later after the community has adjusted their travel patterns.”
One travel pattern that concerned Willman, should Seventh Street reopen to vehicles, was the potential for increased traffic on Blake Avenue. Seventh connects to Blake to on the northeast side of downtown, near the Hotel Denver and the Amtrak train station.
“Any continued closure would have to be a council decision after getting input from Seventh Street businesses and those on Cooper,” Willman said. “I would be happy to engage in that discussion, including ways to limit increased traffic on Blake if traffic increases after Seventh [Street] is opened.”
Councilor Tony Hershey and Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup both favored reopening Seventh Street to vehicles, with possible closures on weekends.
“It needs to reopen for deliveries at the very least,” Hershey said. “I am open to a limited closure on weekends … but otherwise it should be open.”
Kaup, also citing delivery accessibility as a key component to the conversation believed the street should “open as planned.”
“Seventh Street is an important connection for locals to navigate across town, for local deliveries and access. I do not think the street should be closed full time,” Kaup said.
“… Open the street as planned, be very strict on speeds and yielding to pedestrians and bicycles, and give it some time for the downtown to return to normal operations — parking and traffic flow — before making any hasty decision on full, permanent street closures.”
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.