Glenwood to spruce up its downtown |

Glenwood to spruce up its downtown

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Steve Swanson walks into work in downtown Glenwood Springs and regularly picks up beer bottles and cigarette butts. Just the other day, he found a diaper stuffed into an urn.

“I think it’s time for the city and the business owners and the people of the community to partner together and wake up the downtown,” Swanson said at last Thursday’s City Council meeting.

Swanson has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for about 30 years, and he purchased Good Health on Glenwood’s Cooper Avenue in July. His mornings could improve with the city’s plans to improve its downtown. Discussion last week highlighted the desire of city officials and the business community to clean up and beautify the downtown core. But it also brought out concerns.

“There is a nasty pigeon problem downtown,” said Cheryl Guay, owner of Jewels and Gems. “It is a flying nasty mess down there right now.”

“I’m puzzled, frankly, Swanson added. “There are things that can be done quickly, right away, and should be done, that are common sense. There are no trash cans on Cooper Avenue. Not a single one.

“It’s ridiculous. It makes no sense,” he said. “Our block is the only block in downtown that doesn’t have the nice street lamps. There are none there.”

Swanson said he’s astonished to see vacancies on every downtown block, in what really is a robust community.

“Flowers, benches, trash receptacles ” these are things that shouldn’t have to go to the City Council,” he said.

Counsel members expressed support for improvements and pursuing the funding for them. Mayor Bruce Christensen said downtown seems to have been ignored because some envision moving Highway 82 off of Grand Avenue as the solution to downtown.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s years away, what will we have left if we do nothing in the interim?” he said.

But the city has a few tricks up its sleeve aimed at revitalizing downtown. There’s the plan to redevelop Seventh Street. A preliminary plan calls for more lighting to be added on Seventh Street between Colorado Avenue and Blake Avenue, similar to lights on Larimer Square in Denver. The wing street at Seventh Street and Grand Avenue would remain open, but would be designed so that it could be shut down easily in the future.

The area that sinks down toward the Colorado River from an overlook pavilion near the train station would be raised up to street level. The pavilion would be removed and an interactive lighted water feature is planned to go in along with boulders to sit on, benches and grass. The existing public restroom under the Grand Avenue bridge on Seventh Street would be demolished and a new one built across the street. The redevelopment plan also calls for something to be done about pigeons roosting under the bridge. Lighting would also go in under the bridge, and the bridge could be painted to look more attractive.

Also in the works is updating and coordinating all of the street furnishings ” benches, trash receptacles, bike racks and flower planters, said senior planner Gretchen Ricehill. A design group proposes building planters out of native stone and flagstone that could double as places to sit. The street furnishing effort would extend up Cooper Avenue and Grand Avenue as well.

Plans for Seventh Street, still subject to change and City Council approval, also call for a sidewalk on the south side of Seventh Street to be widened from about eight or 10 feet to about 23 feet. Curbs would be rounded to create a more plaza-like feel, but no parking spaces would be removed, Ricehill said.

Ricehill hopes Seventh Street plans can go before the City Council in late May. Construction would likely be phased in over time.

The city also announced Thursday it’s working on plans for a five-story structure with a 31,000-square-foot footprint on Colorado Avenue across from the courthouse. The multi-use building would include three stories of residential and worker housing above two stories of parking plus 1,700 square feet of retail space. That city hopes it’ll bring people downtown and provide some much-needed parking and workforce housing. Of 52 residential units, there are 20 worker housing units proposed and 26 free-market units, plus six more-expensive penthouse units.

Moving the wastewater treatment plant away from downtown and redeveloping the confluence area southeast of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers is also tentatively planned to begin by 2012.

Christensen said the five-story Colorado Avenue project, work on Seventh Street and improvements to Cooper Avenue could revitalize a U-shaped segment in the downtown core.

“Downtown is not just an economic area,” Councilman Dave Sturges said Thursday. “It’s the place of this community.”