DDA column: Reflections on a world-class downtown | PostIndependent.com

DDA column: Reflections on a world-class downtown

Leslie Bethel

It's very rare to have the opportunity to help a community in realizing its vision for a vibrant downtown. For me, this has been a highlight of my career and a chapter that will always be in my heart. As my time as director for the Downtown Development Authority comes to an end, I would like to reflect on some of the milestones we accomplished together.

1999: The Downtown Plan identified the major potential of the confluence and the Eighth Street connection, which began the process to move the sewage treatment plant and open up the land for a new downtown neighborhood. The Downtown Plan also set out options for a Downtown Development Authority boundary, and the rest is history.

2003 and 2007: Redevelopment Strategies for the Confluence Area studied the viability of eliminating a Highway 82 bypass in favor of opening up the confluence land for development. Studies for development capacity of the confluence site began.

2011: The Glenwood Springs Comprehensive Plan emphasized the need for future growth to be accommodated by growing inward and upward (i.e., infill and redevelopment projects). The Comprehensive Plan identified the confluence area as one of the primary opportunities for future growth in the city and as an opportunity to expand the downtown horizontally, enhancing the economic vitality of Glenwood's central business district.

2012: The DDA partnered with Garfield County to construct the Seventh Street Pocket Park as a unique outdoor public space. The county provided the land and paid for materials and the DDA provided design, project coordination and sweat-equity in labor.

2012-2013: DDA partnered with Colorado Mountain College, Garfield County Public Library District, Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and the city of Glenwood Springs to create our first two downtown structured parking areas, keep the new library downtown instead of going to Glenwood Meadows, develop an outdoor community plaza and consolidate the main CMC offices downtown. This move kept more workers downtown, and contributes to the downtown as the civic core of the city and added to downtown vitality.

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2014: The Seventh Street sidewalk widening was a game changer for downtown vitality, funded through a grant from the county with matching funds from the DDA. Following phase I of the Seventh Street improvements, private businesses in the area invested in new amenities and upgrades. After project completion, the tax base for the area increased close to 30 percent. This is a shining example proving that public investments spark private improvements.

2014-2018: The Sixth Street area, with the new Grand Avenue Bridge alignment, has been strategized for an enhanced downtown main street neighborhood. Studies, plans and construction-related drawings are being developed. The 2017 adopted 6th Street Plan creates both a vision and action plan for the North Glenwood neighborhood. It serves as a blueprint for both public and private investment. The first construction will be in 2019 beginning with the Sixth Street roundabout in the spring.

2017: Confluence Redevelopment Plan provides strategies for redevelopment of the confluence area. The plan built on the recommendations from previous planning efforts and explored a fresh approach to the implementation framework and identified strategies for moving redevelopment efforts forward.

2012-2018: The DDA's involvement in Grand Avenue Bridge project planning and design ensured a look and feel that is uniquely Glenwood Springs. These design details are seen in the barrier wall design, pedestrian bridge overlooks, the bridge piers, the addition of rose flagstone, black iron railings and more. Ahead of the bridge design we came up with details for Seventh Street that set the standard of quality for the bridge. This early effort included the iron fence design, the mix of rose flagstone and red brick that was carried through the project. The Eighth Street connection was also constructed in conjunction with the new Grand Avenue Bridge project. This connection was made possible in part due to confluence planning and a key land parcel that now serves as a terrific upgrade to the accessibility of the west side of downtown Glenwood.

2018: Area-Wide Planning, Glenwood: Moving Forward Together creates a strategy to tie together the Confluence Redevelopment, Sixth Street Corridor Master Plan, Seventh Street Beautification project and Two Rivers Park. This grant will be used to develop an implementation plan to revitalize the brownfields located along the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers in the city's core.

2018: Seventh Street Beautification Project will be going out to bid this fall, with construction commencing early spring. The under-bridge area will have additional improvements this winter into spring 2019 including under-bridge fountains and creative lighting.

From idea to napkin-drawings and planning and through construction, these projects and initiatives have helped to reinvigorate downtown, strengthen it as a destination and revitalize a key asset for the city of Glenwood Springs.

The revenues of the special DDA tax-funded district have helped place strategic improvements throughout downtown. Big projects, paired with ongoing programs like the DDA Façade Grant, downtown beautification and alley revitalization strategy shape and improve our downtown.

Always Moving Forward

We're in a good place, and the board and the city are consistently looking to provide the highest and best experience for this community. There is still more work to be done to meet the ever-changing needs of the community. I encourage you to continue to stay engaged.

Thank you all those who are currently or have served on the DDA board. The board has benefited from the coming together of community leaders and industry professionals who with open-minds and collaborative spirits enabled the DDA to lead downtown development.

Lastly, thank you, Glenwood, for the honor of serving you. The people of Glenwood and our surrounding communities make this place special. I appreciate the character, insight, kindness and entrepreneurial spirit that fosters our iconic downtown and invigorates our welcoming and forward-thinking community.

Leslie Bethel is retiring after nearly a decade as executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. Follow the DDA on Instagram (@downtownglenwoodsprings) and Facebook.