City leaders say future is bright | AspenTimes.com

City leaders say future is bright

Bobby MagillGlenwood Springs correspondent

Town managers in the Roaring Fork Valley are optimistic the future holds tremendous prosperity, as sales tax revenue completes its rebound from the recession that followed 9/11. The valley’s five town managers voiced their confidence Tuesday at the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce Annual Business Conference. While Aspen City Manger Steve Barwick said Aspen has recovered from the recession and only a flu pandemic could throw a wrench in the area’s nonstop growth, Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker and Glenwood Springs City Manager Jeff Hecksel were slightly more reserved in their outlooks for the towns. Hecksel said retail sales have returned just this year to the heights they reached before Sept. 11, 2001. But with nearly 500,000 square feet of retail space being developed at Glenwood Meadows and other parts of town, Glenwood’s retail future “looks pretty darn good,” he said.Retail receipts in Glenwood totaled about $290 million in 2004, he said, while receipts in 2005 are expected to top $310 million. Hecksel said receipts in Glenwood will probably peak at $400 million in 2008. In addition to skyrocketing retail projections, Hecksel said, the city can brag about the regional services it provides, including Valley View Hospital, one of the top small hospitals in the nation. The service industry in town is growing, with an additional 110 hotel rooms opening soon, he said. Finally, he said, recreation is growing in the area, with the Denver and Rio Grande, and Grand Valley trails expected to be significant tourist draws. Construction on the first segment of a recreation trail that could eventually lead to Rifle will begin next year, while the city is hoping to create a master plan for recreation in South Canyon. The only worry on the horizon for Glenwood, Hecksel said, is the sale of Sunlight Mountain Resort. “The city will be watching and seeing what happens with that sale,” he said.In Carbondale, Baker said, the town has seen retail sales revenue soar 16 percent above projections for 2005, while the town is setting some priorities to deal with more people moving in. Among those are a new recreation center, a kayaking course on the Roaring Fork River near Highway 133 and the conversion of the old Carbondale Elementary School into a base for local nonprofit organizations. “Everyone believes we should deal with growth,” Baker said, adding that the Town Center mixed-use development project “gives us an idea of where our future is.”

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