Guest opinion: After the Grand Avenue bridge
The new bridge emerged after many years of struggling with the notion of a highway bypass around downtown. It has reshaped our strategic thinking.
In the short term, we need to identify the key sites for public space that will support the future with higher-density, mixed-use neighborhoods. In the long term, it will absolutely require strong partnerships to be fostered between business leaders, downtown property owners, and all government entities to build the big projects like underground parking facilities.
If Glenwood Springs is forward-looking it will develop new policies addressing energy efficiency, recycling and green space, relative to development within the limitations of the valley.
The city has scheduled a presentation on Jan. 9 in City Council Chambers, and will follow up the next day with an interactive public meeting on Jan. 10 at the Morgridge Commons in the Glenwood Springs Library regarding the current planning effort called “Glenwood Moving Forward Together.”
At the last public open house, participants were asked to place dots next to statements to indicate where their support was regarding the Confluence Plan and Sixth Street Corridor Master Plan projects, and the Seventh Street Beautification Project ideas. At the Jan. 9 meeting, we will learn what the consultant’s findings are from the public input received to date.
I have some thoughts for consideration:
1. Yes, to the Gateway Public Park shown on the “6th Street Corridor Masterplan” as the preferred design located at the north terminus of the pedestrian bridge. This is destined to become a bright, vibrant, busy, essential public space that should be owned and maintained by the city. The maintenance and monitoring of this public space should be welcomed by the city to ensure its success.
2. Yes, to maximizing the riverfront as a public space but the extent of potential development in the confluence area of dense housing, commercial use, and traffic is a point of contention. Primarily, we are the gatekeeper of this gift of the confluence. First, let us respect the natural ecology and the natural environment of the confluence of the rivers.
3. Yes, to activating the area called the Sixth Street Corridor but extend the planning effort to Storm King Road and the deteriorating Glenwood Springs Mall area. It is a two-mile connection that needs to be part of the discussion in the “Moving Forward Together” planning effort. Transit oriented affordable housing is possible in West Glenwood and will continue to be the home to businesses, residential and lodging. It has many advantages not found elsewhere, and is getting no attention. It is a potential home for a performing arts center.
4. Yes, to constructing underground parking structures and new streets with bike lanes and landscaping. Long-term focus needs to be on the public/private parking structures and bridges and how to fund the big costly projects needed. This strategic thinking needs a boost.
For instance, the new Grand Avenue bridge alignment has made it apparent that a central parking structure is needed between Pine and Laurel streets, and it is a natural fit. A two-story parking structure accessed from the Hot Springs Pool lot below the Sixth Street level could easily provide for 400 parking stalls, all of which would be hidden. The roof of the parking structure would be a platform to build on, aligned with Sixth Street and the gateway park. Underground parking is fundamental to residential housing and visitors if the envisioned Historic North Glenwood Springs Village is ever to be developed.
Where are the discussions needed to develop policies, long-term funding and adapt zoning to address the infrastructure required to make it happen?
The community will benefit from the bridge project’s wide-ranging potential when the public and private sectors come together. I hope our leaders will not just give a perfunctory nod to public input and take the time to listen with a renewed curiosity towards developing an even bigger and broader vision for the future of Glenwood Springs.
David Hauter is past chair of the Sixth Street Corridor Masterplan steering committee and resident of North Glenwood Springs.