Avoiding peak times seen as key to Glenwood shopping
Convincing area consumers that Glenwood Springs is not a complete traffic jam 24/7 and correcting misinformation quickly are two ways to reinforce the “open for business” message Glenwood merchants are trying desperately to maintain.
In particular, the best time to get to and from Glenwood businesses is to plan trips during off-peak hours and against the peak flow of traffic, said those attending a downtown business focus group meeting Wednesday.
“If you can come to Glenwood and do your shopping errands between 9 and 1 or on the weekends, really, it’s not a problem,” Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson observed during the meeting.
“That’s something that as business owners you really need to push,” offered the chief, who has been spending a big chunk of his days manning traffic control at the key bridge detour intersection of Eighth Street and Grand Avenue.
The monthly meeting of downtown business owners and property owners was moved to City Hall to accommodate an expected larger crowd of participants amid concerns about lost business nearly a month into the 95-day Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour.
Though not as heavily attended as anticipated, there was no shortage of ideas about how to stay on message.
“This is very much about working together and getting our voices aligned,” said Kathleen Wanatowicz, public information manager for the project.
Half the battle is dispelling some of the misconceptions and misinformation, she said.
True, traffic is bad during the peak morning and evening commuter times starting as early as 5:30 a.m. on some weekdays heading into Glenwood Springs from the west, settling down around 8:30 a.m., and picking up again in the opposite direction starting around 2 p.m. on given days.
Traffic is still heavy during the middle part of the day and during certain times on weekends, but not with the long backups that occur during those peak commuter times, Wanatowicz and others at the meeting pointed out.
That’s the message that businesses, with the help of project officials, the city, the chamber and other groups, should be relaying to customers.
Those passing through on Interstate 70 also need to know that exit 116 remains open during the bridge closure, providing access to businesses in the Hot Springs district.
Confusion persists that the exit has been closed, and in some cases that I-70 through Glenwood has been closed altogether, which has never been the case since the bridge closed and the Midland Avenue/exit 114 detour went into effect Aug. 14.
The other thing to remind people, Wanatowicz added, is that Friday marks the end of the first month of the three-month bridge closure and the progress that’s been made so far.
A key target is people living upvalley from Glenwood Springs who may be avoiding Glenwood altogether until the new bridge is opened in late November.
Just as Aspen and other Roaring Fork Valley communities south of Glenwood rely on downvalley workers, “We count on your retail,” Wanatowicz said, reiterating that Glenwood businesses are still accessible, especially during those off-peak times.
In addition, pedestrian access is open to all of the more than 30 shops and restaurants located near the bridge construction zone, and more than 500 free parking spots are available in the downtown area during the construction.
The bridge project team also has placed purple “bread crumb” signs around the downtown area to help lead pedestrians to storefronts.
Likewise, businesses at the Glenwood Meadows shopping center, which also have reported lagging sales during the bridge closure, are more easily accessible on weekends and during off-peak times on weekdays, one business representative from the Meadows said.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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