Guest opinion: New bridge a gateway to future
In January, construction begins on the much-anticipated new vehicular Grand Avenue bridge and the new pedestrian bridge that together create a new gateway to the Roaring Fork Valley. As the director of the Downtown Development Authority and an urban designer with 35 years of experience, I am not a stranger to complex projects, having spent seven years designing and building Coors Field in Denver.
The DDA and the Glenwood Springs City Council have been working on ideas and sketches beginning with very early discussions five years ago. Three years ago when council asked the DDA to prioritize its projects for the next few years, there was no hesitation in identifying the Grand Avenue bridge and its related needs as our top priority.
Helping to stabilize and strengthen the DDA District is our mission and purpose. And personally, I am excited to see our thoughts and dreams started as discussions and drawings years ago actually begin to take physical form.
Alongside the Colorado Department of Transportation’s staff and design team, the Project Leadership Team (PLT), the Issues Task Force (ITF), and city staff, the DDA hired consultants to support the design effort to have this bridge grow out of the context of the downtown.
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What details could be added so the scale of the bridge would fit with our downtown? How could the materials and the colors found in our downtown today, integrate into the design … brick, flagstone, ironwork … reds, browns and blacks? The team carefully considered every detail to ensure these bridges would create a gateway to be proud of.
The final design integrates all of that — and more.
The pedestrian bridge will have overlooks where we can pause and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. There are clay tile roof structures much like our beloved train station. A brick-clad elevator tower on Seventh Street will welcome residents and visitors alike in to our downtown.
All of the bridge’s piers, both the pedestrian and the vehicular bridges, are covered with flagstone, as are most of the site walls, as well as some of the bridge side walls. Columns, lighting and banners will complement the bridge barrier walls to add detail and scale. Iron railings with a beautiful historic pattern will adorn both bridges.
Deliberate thought and study has gone into making these bridges truly structures that have grown out of the form, materials and colors of Glenwood Springs. They will be beautiful bridges, notable landmarks to be treasured for years to come.
As I think back on Coors Field in Denver, there are many similarities, as it, too, is a building that reflects its context, much like our Gateway Bridge will. The brick, the color, the details, all come together to make it the memorable place it is.
A neighborhood has come alive around Coors Field much like what we have planned for our Gateway Bridge — planning a new neighborhood in North Glenwood to revitalize Sixth Street and an extension of our downtown in the confluence as Eighth Street makes its logical connection.
We are already seeing new investment coming into our downtown in anticipation of the years to come. There is new investment on Sixth Street, on Grand Avenue and throughout our downtown core. No, we are not yet there, but we are planting the seeds for a balanced and vibrant downtown.
The DDA, in support of City Council, will continue to work on the details making sure care is taken to make this an amazing addition for Glenwood Springs. The challenge for our community will be patience. Just as it was for Lower Downtown Denver, patience will be needed, as our daily lives change, as we are inconvenienced by the construction. Let’s keep the end goal in mind as we weather the next two years.
This bridge truly is a Gateway Bridge, a gateway to our future, a future of new opportunities — opportunities to enhance the history and the environment of our unique and beautiful downtown and diverse Roaring Fork Valley.
Leslie Bethel is executive director of the Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority.
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