Glenwood Springs DDA column: Polishing one of downtown’s gems with Cooper Avenue improvements |

Glenwood Springs DDA column: Polishing one of downtown’s gems with Cooper Avenue improvements

By Jillian Sutherland
Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority
Jillian Sutherland is executive director of the Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority.

Restaurant Row on Seventh Street really has it all: outdoor dining, wide and comfortable sidewalks, places to sit in the shade, and beautiful trees. Yet, just around the corner on Cooper Avenue, many of these amenities that make a block such an attractive place to stroll and shop aren’t available. The businesses located there are feeling the impact.

Kevin Brady, co-owner of Cooper Wine & Spirits, tells it like this: “The businesses that line Cooper Avenue are diverse, charming and committed to success. However, the aesthetic of the street has long been neglected. Creating a space cohesive to our other downtown areas would offer more opportunities for shoppers to flow throughout the Glenwood downtown core, and help Cooper shops to flourish.”

Chrissy Lee-Manes, co-owner of Homsted, agrees. “The Cooper Avenue district is a hugely under-developed and underutilized portion of Glenwood Springs,” she said. “Investment and redesign of Cooper Avenue would be an easy and effective way to increase the size and vibrancy of our downtown core.”

Feedback like this from local business owners is why the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board has prioritized improving Cooper Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets. The special tax increment financing (TIF) funded district has hired design firm Studio Seed to help explore options alongside the community. The idea is to create a distinct character for Cooper Avenue and strengthen its connection to the activity on Seventh Street.

We demand a lot from our downtown streets and seek to strike a balance between providing convenient parking, crucial space for truck deliveries, and also adding the amenities necessary for a safe and comfortable walking environment. With a limited amount of right-of-way space, tradeoffs between these elements are often necessary.

To begin to navigate priorities, the DDA held a brainstorm session with Cooper Avenue business owners this past March. Kevin Brady, who also serves on the DDA Board, summarized the outcome: “The conclusion was to work together to create an inviting, creative street and sidewalk space to draw shoppers and increase shop visibility.”

Up to three potential design options for an enhanced Cooper Avenue will be available for the public to view and provide feedback at Morgridge Commons, 815 Cooper Ave., on Tuesday, May 9 between 8:30-10:30 a.m. or between 4-6 p.m. Anyone from the community is invited to pop in and take 15 minutes to provide feedback to the DDA.

Once a consensus has been reached on the preferred design for Cooper Avenue, the DDA will work with the City on the engineering necessary to create a shovel-ready project. Grant funding can then be pursued for eventual construction. The DDA also hopes to identify temporary, less-costly improvements that can be implemented in the short-term.

One of the other nearby improvements the DDA continues to pursue is creating active alley connections for pedestrians. The DDA recently partnered with the City to complete a required utilities study to move this project forward. The City has since submitted a grant to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to fix the storm drainage in the alley that connects Bethel Plaza to Cooper Avenue and the alleys behind the Hotel Denver.

The City should learn about a decision on that grant by the end of summer. If successful, the work would hopefully be completed before the 2024 summer tourist season. 

“Improving that alley connection is really critical for Cooper Avenue,” Hole in the Wall Tattoo Owner and DDA Board Member Shelley La Due Fishbein said. “Our business used to be located on the other side of that alley, and it’s a real missed opportunity to not have folks walking through there.”

The DDA also intends to implement aesthetic improvements to the alleys over the long-term, creating a strong connection for pedestrians from the Garfield County Courthouse all the way over to Blake Avenue. While the full vision will take a long time to achieve, the DDA is working hard to break it down into bite-sized chunks that incrementally improves our downtown year after year. 

Jillian Sutherland is the Executive Director of the Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority. She and her family are proud to have called Glenwood Springs “home” for over a decade. Comments regarding downtown are always welcome at

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