Old Library . . . new ideas

Glenwood’s downtown is an award winner!

Last Thursday,  Downtown Colorado Inc. announced that the Downtown Development Authority was one of four winners of “Best Group Effort” Award for Downtown Excellence.  What a wonderful accolade for Leslie Bethel and the DDA and the City of Glenwood!  The energy and momentum for Glenwood, not only downtown, is exciting.  When my family and I went to dinner last Friday at the Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, the downtown streets were alive with people of all ages enjoying the evening and bringing strength to Glenwood’s economy. 

Problem in Paradise

Old Glenwood Springs Library

Vacant former Glenwood Springs Library Building at 9th and Blake.

However, empty buildings and storefronts in the downtown area present a problem.  They can become unsightly due to lack of maintenance and they present a less than vibrant image.  Glenwood is fortunate to have less empty space than many small towns, but what does exist  still presents a problem.

Front entrance to old library building

Last Thursday evening, City Council had the second reading of an ordinance authorizing the sale of the vacant library building at 9th and Blake and referring the question to voters in November.  Although the city has not committed to putting the building up for sale, the discussion continues as to what should be done with this building.  I commend City Council for asking the question, and, according to the Post Independent, many ideas were presented at the June 5 Council meeting including a senior center, a new museum, or a concept similar to Carbondale’s Third Street Center.  Others suggested a joint use by several non-profits for meeting space, office space and programing needs.  Use by the Salvation Army was put forth as well.  The Salvation Army made a second request for use of the building for, as I understand, offices and a distribution center at the July 17 City Council meeting.  

Careful Consideration

Determining the best use for this building or parcel should be done thoughtfully and deliberately.

It might be wise for City Council to use the City’s Comprehensive Plan as guidance in this matter. The  Comp Plan was the fruition of many meetings with stakeholders in the community as well as citizen charrettes and brainstorming sessions, and I believe, distills the wishes and values of the community. 

Comp_Plan_CoverrThe Comp Plan lists nine goals:

1. Promote long-term, sustainable, diverse economic development

2. Maintain Glenwood Springs as the regional tourism, retail, commercial and governmental center of Garfield County

3. Preserve the small town character while maintaining the livability of Glenwood Springs and increasing the vibrancy and commercial success of the Downtown

4. Address transportation needs and provide multiple convenient travel choices

5. Direct development to locations and building forms that are cost-effective to serve

6. Provide housing for the entire community

7. Support social diversity

8. Preserve cultural resources

9. Preserve natural resources

Historic Residential Area near old library 9th & Blake

Historic neighborhood surrounding former library building.

The area at 9th and Blake is a difficult, transitional area as part of the downtown area and the surrounding  historical residential area. The use of that building could have a tremendous impact on the downtown and those neighborhoods nearby. 

Best Use?

The use of the building by the Salvation Army, Lift Up, Feed My Sheep or a host of other similar groups may be altruistic, but it does not  fit with the goals identified in the Comp Plan. However, some non-profit uses could fit well into this area  Downtown Glenwood Springs has the momentum to make Glenwood into even more of a destination resort than ever.  The use of the old library building must be weighed very carefully. Even a temporary use of the wrong kind could be an enormous mistake.  Once a use is in place, it can be very difficult to change.

Blake and 9th looking south

Looking south on Blake from the corner of 9th and Blake

The RIGHT non-profit could be a perfect addition to that area.   Whatever the use of that building or parcel, it must contribute to the vitality and economic development of the downtown and insure that Glenwood Springs is a regional hub for tourism and retail.  It should also fit the small town character that so many want preserved. Maybe . . . just maybe . . . the best use for that building has not even been envisioned yet.  Glenwood Springs folks are a creative bunch – so perhaps it is time to get even more creative.

I urge City Council to act very carefully if they choose to keep and lease this building. Any use is going to have a tremendous long-range impact. Let’s find a use that moves Glenwood’s economy forward. I agree that the Salvation Army needs a new home, but not this building.