Supporting Housing Solutions: Garfield County Commission Throws Weight Behind Glenwood Springs’ Grant Bid at Vogelaar Park
What was once a historic green oasis in Glenwood Springs is now poised to undergo a transformative journey into the realm of workforce housing, and the path hasn’t been without its challenges. The city of Glenwood Springs has set its sights on converting the Vogelaar Park property, located at the intersection of Eighth and School streets, into a vital hub of 100-150 workforce housing units.
Marking a pivotal step forward, the Garfield County commissioners rallied behind this vision on Monday, offering their endorsement through a supportive letter. This gesture signifies Glenwood Springs’ endeavor to secure a substantial More Housing Now and Land Use Initiative Grant from the Department of Local Affairs, dedicated to fueling the project’s progress.
The commission’s vote on the matter concluded with a 2-1 majority, with Commission Chair John Martin casting the sole dissenting vote.
Glenwood Springs City Manager Beverli Marshall, in presenting the project to the commissioners, shared the city’s strategy of utilizing approximately 3-3.5 acres of the Vogelaar Park property. This parcel, acquired by the city in a land exchange with the Roaring Fork School District back in May 2016, represents a slice of the 4.7-acre Vogelaar Park.
The initiative takes its roots from the city’s Confluence Area Redevelopment Plan, ratified in September 2017. Marshall conveyed the city’s intention to create a diverse array of housing sizes, recognizing the need for various options to cater to a wide spectrum of residents. The vision encompasses townhomes, fourplexes, and other formats, ensuring suitability for individuals in varying stages of life.
However, the journey to this transformative endeavor has not been devoid of complexities. The Vogelaar Park, a green space adjacent to Glenwood Springs Elementary School, was dedicated to public outdoor recreation for 37 years until 2016. The year marked a turning point when the city and the school district concluded a land swap, releasing a portion of the park for potential housing development. This shift was necessitated by a federal Land and Water Conservation grant that mandated park protection in 1980 when the Roaring Fork School District upgraded Vogelaar Park.
Navigating this transformation has not been without its share of debates. Commissioner John Martin voiced concerns about diverting a portion of the park into housing, echoing the sentiments of those who seek long-awaited improvements in the community. He noted the division that this initiative could potentially spark among community members.
However, Glenwood Springs faces a pressing need for affordable housing units, with an estimated deficit of 1,300 units as per its most recent housing study. Commissioner Mike Samson raised apprehensions about the city’s infrastructure’s capacity to accommodate additional residents resulting from the new workforce housing project.
City Manager Beverli Marshall, however, countered these concerns by emphasizing that the new units would serve existing Garfield County residents. These are individuals who already commute from neighboring communities to work within Glenwood Springs.
The envisioned transformation is not lacking in support. Funding from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant is projected to fuel the project’s preliminary design plans, a feasibility study for geothermal energy integration, environmental assessments, and the engineering and design work for the development of energy-efficient workforce housing. Furthermore, Glenwood Springs is actively pursuing additional funding avenues, including Colorado’s Strong Communities Grant Program and the resources derived from its involvement with the State Affordable Housing Fund.
Looking ahead, the vision for the Vogelaar Park workforce housing project remains robust. The contemplation of underground parking, coupled with the potential removal of the former YouthZone building on-site, underscores the commitment to optimizing the space.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky championed the letter of support, highlighting its significance in the planning efforts and environmental assessments that lie ahead. He reiterated the county’s role in supporting the city’s progress on this transformative journey.