Empty storefronts dot downtown Glenwood Springs | VailDaily.com

Empty storefronts dot downtown Glenwood Springs

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Available retail space appears to be abundant in downtown Glenwood Springs.

Currently, there are six vacant spaces between 7th and 10th streets on Grand Avenue, one that is the future addition to Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse on 7th Street between Grand and Cooper avenues.

Another office space building sits empty on Cooper Avenue. At the corner of Cooper Avenue and 8th Street, a vacant building has a sign that reads: “Treadz shoe store coming soon.”

Of the vacant properties, three others have businesses scheduled to open in the near future, including Rib City on 7th Street, while two existing businesses will close soon. Peppo Nino’s Restaurant is for sale and the future of the property is unknown.

The downtown atmosphere isn’t as bleak as it may appear at first glance, according to Glenwood Springs Community Development Department Andrew McGregor.

“The good news is that three years later [after the opening of Glenwood Meadows] the downtown has not been adversely impacted by the Meadows,” McGregor said. “And there is still a number of businesses that are thriving.”

But members of the Downtown Business Association (DBA) and Nancy Page, manager of the Main Street Gallery on Grand Avenue, say the morale of some downtown business owners could be better.

“It’s pretty low,” Page said. “That’s not in terms of overall feelings of downtown, but in the past we’ve had 20 or 30 people attend some of the DBA meetings whereas lately it’s been about 10 or 12.”

Page said part of the problem is less interest from store owners who spend most of their time working at the business and it’s just more work to be involved with the DBA. She said the city of Glenwood could have better spent money on downtown development.

“There was a lot of money that could have gone to help downtown,” Page said. “But instead the city spends the money on feasibility studies and things like that.”

Longtime business owner Joan Chaffin, owner of The Mountain Peddler on Grand Avenue, said that in her opinion, there is a lot that has changed on Grand Avenue. In the nearly 30 years she’s been in business, she said she thinks Highway 82 took the charm out of downtown.

“Look at downtown Carbondale, it’s got a lot of charm,” Chaffin said. “You can walk across the street and all the businesses are exciting little businesses, it’s got a lot of charm. It will be difficult for downtown Glenwood to have that type of charm with Highway 82 running through it.”

Despite issues like lack of parking, traffic and the vacant spaces, Chaffin pointed out that downtown Glenwood still has a lot of positive aspects.

McGregor agreed that downtown is not in as bad of shape as it may appear.

“We don’t want to have any vacant storefront space if at all possible,” McGregor said. “But to say that the vacancies are indicative of an unhealthy downtown is a big leap.”

David Daniels, owner of the old Top Drawer Office Supply Store on Grand Avenue, said his store has been vacant for about a month but he’s received several interested renters for the property.

“I think it’s a great town and it’s got a lot of good retail space,” Daniels said. “And I think it will continue to do so.”

McGregor listed a number of positive improvements happening downtown starting with several of the “older buildings” being renovated.

There also are plans to do some streetscaping, street maintenance and sidewalks, and a proposed mix-use development at 7th Street and Colorado Avenue that could include more parking, one additional retail space and affordable housing units.

McGregor said downtown businesses face the same obstacles other businesses in the valley face. He listed the difficulty of finding employees, competitive wages, traffic, lack of parking, and high rents as contributing factors for the vacancies. But he said there is still potential in the downtown market.

“When people see the vacant storefronts, they think something is wrong,” McGregor said. “We just need to work together as a city organization and businesses to continue to invest in downtown to continue to appeal to the tourist population.”

He said the city of Glenwood plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in downtown improvements in the next few years, hopefully helping some of the vacant stores fill up.

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