Burg guest column: Getting the Glenwood Confluence right
Following three major plans for the confluence area in the past two decades, plus the removal of the city’s old sewage treatment plant, Glenwood Springs is considering entering into a partnership with one of three highly qualified teams to bring this once-in-a-century opportunity into reality.
Throughout this long journey, there has been a common thread of preserving the area along the river’s edge as a public park.
As we proceed, there are two critical interrelated principles, one pertaining to defensible open space and one pertaining to financial responsibility.
Defensible Open Space
There is a strong, long-standing recognition that defensible open space is critical to the success of public open spaces. Simply put, it is very important to have housing adjacent to these spaces.
Residents overlooking parks provide 24-hour surveillance, which inhibits bad behavior. And they can make calls to police if needed.
Of course, there are many details involved: the scale of the open space, the scale of the housing, the precise relationship between housing and public space, the design of semi-private open space, such as balconies and courtyards, the relationship to existing neighborhoods, and architectural compatibility.
A lack of attention to this basic principle and its details is an invitation to unappealing or even dangerous open space. Paying attention will enable us all to fully enjoy beautiful parks along our riverfront.
With the recent rejection of the Fix-Our-Streets sales tax, there is increased scrutiny regarding virtually all city expenditures. There clearly is a need to catch up with neglected basic infrastructure needs and to provide basic services.
Yet, it is also important to maintain a strategic view of how the city can prudently proceed with its vision, and how it can increase revenue. We need to catch up, but we also need to expend effort in moving forward. As with most things in life, moderation and balance will serve us best.
These two principles — defensible space and fiscal responsibility — complement each other.
Housing lining the parks, along with other uses, will significantly add to the city’s tax base and increase revenue. Viable and attractive open spaces not only provide great amenities for Glenwood residents, they increase our community’s attraction for tourists who contribute significantly to our economy. More visitors in our open spaces, along with adjacent residents, increase safety for everyone.
The addition of housing in the confluence area also meets a housing need and provides downtown vitality, while minimizing vehicular traffic. It’s a win/win.
These basic principles are simple enough. Bringing them to fruition will be a long and challenging process. It will require active and constructive partnership between the city, its master developer, the Downtown Development Authority, RFTA, residents and businesses. The potential rewards are great.
Glenwood Springs is on the cusp of an enormous opportunity. We should proceed with knowledge, care and a spirit of community partnership.
John Burg is a resident of Glenwood Springs as well as a retired city planner with 40 years of experience in Minneapolis and Sarasota, Florida, in which he was in the lead role of urban design and downtown development.
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