Is it parking or pedestrians? | AspenTimes.com

Is it parking or pedestrians?

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondent

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

Aspen, CO ColoradoGLENWOOD SPRINGS Renovating 7th Street to make it a pedestrian and tourism focal point in Glenwood Springs might be a good first place to spend newly available funds on downtown improvements, consultants say.Pursuing parking – a long-discussed use for those funds – could be pricey, the representatives of Aspen-based Design Workshop also say.In a draft downtown streetscape manual prepared for the city, the consultants recommend redesigning 7th Street to give it a more plaza-like feeling that is pedestrian-oriented, but still allows automobile traffic. Curbs would be taken out and bollards, or posts, could denote traffic lanes. But they also would be removable so the street could be used for special events.

“It can be closed off at times and it feels like cars have never been there,” Design Workshop associate Rebecca Leonard said during a recent City Council downtown workshop.”Our advice would not be to make it a pedestrian-only mall,” said Steven Spears, also a company associate.He said only two downtown pedestrian malls in Colorado – in Denver and Boulder – work well.

“People want to be in downtown, but they want to drive and be in downtown in that way,” he said.For that reason, the consultants aren’t calling for the closure of the eastern wing street adjacent to the Grand Avenue Bridge, the way the western wing street was closed years ago and turned into a pedestrian area. Spears said he thinks motorized access to 7th Street is important – something the eastern wing street provides.The draft streetscape manual also makes recommendations for improving Centennial Park, boosting general downtown aesthetics through the use of everything from benches to public art to water features such as fountains, and adding to the appeal of residential downtown areas and the downtown commercial district along 6th Street.

It is being presented just as a years-long legal battle ends over the city’s planned use of tax increment financing (TIF) to fund capital improvements downtown. Garfield County and Colorado Mountain College had sued over the plan, under which all growth in property tax base over 25 years will go to the city’s Downtown Development Authority, at the expense of other tax-collecting entities.The city prevailed in the case in Colorado Supreme Court last year. But it only recently reached an agreement with the county over the legal language for releasing nearly $600,000 that has been generated by the tax to date. A judge has signed the agreement allowing the county Treasurer’s Office to hand over the funds.Now comes the question of what to do with the money. City officials long have discussed the possibility of building a parking garage downtown, but recent estimates make that appear to be cost-prohibitive, at least using TIF funds alone.