Guest opinion: A&I tax ensures Sixth Street potential |

Guest opinion: A&I tax ensures Sixth Street potential

David Hauter

The Ute Indians originally inhabited this area for centuries, regarding this place with its hot water from the natural mineral water springs and underground steam vapor as being sacred. In the 1880s, settlers arrived with tents and built a town in 10 years.

The Hotel Colorado courtyard was connected to the Hot Springs Pool and bathhouse by a stone bridge and stairs. To enhance the facilities, 5,000 cottonwood trees were planted, and our community began to attract tourists to a remote place of sophistication and relaxation. The original resort property included playgrounds, a duck pond, a swan pond, reflecting pools, fountains and a promenade walk around the Hot Springs Pool.

Glenwood Springs today embodies much of the same vision of its founding citizens

It has been about 129 years since the railroad reached the Hotel Colorado and Hot Springs, and Glenwood Springs became one of the first towns in the world to have electric lights. The first automobiles traveling through the Glenwood Canyon from Denver to Glenwood Springs didn’t come until 15 years after railroad service was established.

This rich history brings me to the way I think about opportunities of the emerging Sixth Street Corridor Master Plan. Things have changed beyond the imagination of those early days. Our challenges are different. The numbers show Colorado’s population growth rate is twice the national average and it is estimated the overall Colorado population will double by 2040. By 2030 Colorado’s 65-plus population will be three times the size it was in 2000. It is obvious that all that growth will take a toll on our infrastructure as well as on our water and other natural resources.

With every challenge, there is opportunity. I believe there is a great opportunity for Glenwood to respond to the challenges on Sixth Street with a pedestrian-orientated neighborhood, an interconnected bike and trail system, attractive landscaping, parks and open spaces.

Envision a neighborhood that will encourage people to get out of their cars and use other means of transportation. Picture a narrow local street with retail shops at street level and housing above adjacent to wide sidewalks, designated bike lanes, parks and open space connected to our river trail system. Imagine new buildings that have affordable housing for people to live and work and for tourists to congregate and people to meet in sidewalk cafes between interesting stores in an environment enriched with landscaping and convenient parking. This can be accomplished with public-private partnerships to address complex issues, including shared parking structures.

A new public park is being planned for the north terminus of the new pedestrian bridge at the crossroads of the pedestrian and bicycle routes connecting the Glenwood Canyon and Rio Grande trails to downtown Glenwood Springs. The “Preferred Park” concept, as depicted by the design consultants, is large enough to host small special events that will be critically important to the future character of the area and an important historical link to its past. It is a flexible space that can easily expand onto the street during events. The park design is an essential part of the overall Sixth Street Corridor Master Plan that is being called the “Gateway to Glenwood Springs.” It is supported by the Sixth Street Steering Committee and provides an attractive framework for private investment by property owners who border the park.

New buildings on the park’s edge west edge should be oriented to face the park as opposed to any structures being built within the park. This will energize the park and present an opening for additional internal sidewalks, café seating and open space on private property. The new buildings bordering the park on private property will provide the “eyes on the park” to observe activity and help maintain a healthy environment. The area proposed for the public park is the same size as the Hotel Colorado courtyard.

A concern has been raised regarding the potential use of the park by the homeless. It has been suggested that the size of the park be reduced, which would result in open space that is too small. The park needs to be designed to serve a neighborhood population in north Glenwood that will be much larger than it is today.

The city instead should work toward completing the “Preferred Park” design and to incorporate site lighting, furniture and materials that combine discreet security, beautiful design with land forms, materials and other enhancements that encourage good behavior and active use such as a small stage and water feature. The issue of the homeless population is complex and the city has a responsibility to develop a policy of respect, and must work toward a non-threatening approach and an unobtrusive presence to address it.

The Acquisitions and Improvements tax has been an essential funding source for helping community projects get built since the 1980s. Let’s keep it going to help with the streetscaping and other improvements on the Sixth Street corridor to ensure it becomes the “Gateway to Glenwood Springs.” It is important to vote yes on both 2H & 2I.

David Hauter is a Glenwood Springs architect.

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