A new vision for West Glenwood? | AspenTimes.com

A new vision for West Glenwood?

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Head down Highway 6 in West Glenwood, and you’ll see a testament to the century of the automobile.

Hotels, gas stations, restaurants and a shopping mall all await visitors, with plenty of parking out front. Many were built in the 1950s and ’60s, and stand as a reminder of a time when gas was cheap and global warming wasn’t even a figment of Al Gore’s imagination.

It’s a new century now, and there’s a new thinking that questions the appropriateness of so much auto-oriented development. With buildings aging and many properties starting to come up for redevelopment in West Glenwood, Glenwood Springs officials are looking to provide more balance between the needs of motorists and those of pedestrians, not to mention people seeking a place to live.

In doing so, the city is hoping for some outside help. It has applied for help from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Growth Implementation Assistance team in creating a new vision for the western part of town.

The goal is to come up with a vision in keeping with the comprehensive plan for the city as a whole, which emphasizes things such as preserving small-town character.

“The idea of a compact, walkable city with a small-town atmosphere is being severely tested, and arguably no place else is it being more severely tested than along the U.S. 6 corridor,” the city says in its application to the EPA.

“Rather than continue with the established automobile related development pattern, the city is committed to implementing the community vision of a compact urban environment with tree-lined walkable streets, dynamic commercial development, and a diverse inventory of housing types, all within a unique natural setting.”

The EPA team would help the city and other partners such as Garfield County seek public input into the redevelopment of the Highway 6 corridor and suggest policy changes. Gretchen Ricehill, a city planner, said the city expects to get an answer on its application in later May.

The EPA team picks only about three to five communities per year, so the selection process is highly competitive. However, Ricehill said those which aren’t picked are encouraged to reapply the following year.

The project area could run from Donegan Road clear to the start of South Canyon, and involve not just property along Highway 6 but neighboring areas as well.

Much of the development on Highway 6 occurred before Interstate 70 had replaced it as the main east-west thoroughfare through the area. At that time, the area also wasn’t part of the city, which later annexed much of it.

The development was characterized by single-story buildings with lots of parking, at a time when land wasn’t at such a premium in Glenwood. City planners say that’s not a smart way to develop today. They would like redevelopment occur in a way that some residential units are mixed in, to deal with a housing shortage that is driven by a land shortage.

Planners also hope to reduce dependency on cars and encourage walking by providing more bus shelters, more crosswalks, more shade trees along sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly elements.

The city spent $1.2 million installing sidewalk pavers, trees and decorative streetlights along the Highway 6 corridor in the 1990s.

“Although significantly improving the look of the corridor, unfortunately this improvement project did not result in a friendlier pedestrian environment,” the city wrote in its grant application.

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