Heritage Plaza Event Space conceived
Source D. Ohmans
Date 15/04/22/17:26
A good fit

A FINAL DESIGN PLAN for the next phases of the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk shows how all of the pieces would fit as additions occur over the next decade or more.

Included in the final design is a riverwalk channel extension that runs under both Santa Fe Avenue and Interstate 25 and a slight rerouting of Santa Fe Avenue to allow room for an aquatics center.

The "curving" of Santa Fe Avenue in the area of the riverwalk would not take place until the later phases of the expansion, possibly a decade or later from now, riverwalk executives say.

The final schematic was released last week based on input received from a two-day workshop in late September that brought together all of the riverwalk's design partners.

Participants included Design Studios West, Matrix Design Group, OLC Architecture, the Urban Renewal Authority of Pueblo and Pueblo city and county planning department staff.

The experts also reviewed the proposal's technical feasibility and projected costs, all of which fell in line with Pueblo's preliminary expectations, riverwalk executives said.

The plan's release comes as Pueblo continues its push to secure one of several tourism grants the state Office of Economic Development plans to award starting in the spring.

The final design will govern the riverwalk's future development regardless of whether the city is awarded a state grant, Pueblo leaders say, but the state aid would allow the project to begin right away.

"We're trying to be proactive and set ourselves up so we can move as quickly as possible" in the event Pueblo is awarded a grant, riverwalk director Jim Munch said.

With the final design now in place, "We know what it's going to cost and what the alignment is going to be so we're ready to move forward," he said.

In its bid for one of the state grants, Pueblo proposes to phase in $115 million in additions and improvements on the riverwalk funded by a mix of private and public sources.

The additions would include an expanded Pueblo Convention Center, a first-of-its-kind PBR University arena and bull riding school, a regional aquatics center and indoor water park and additional hotels, stores and offices.

The state's contribution would amount to about $33 million in future state sales taxes collected from the increased visitor traffic generated by the riverwalk additions.

A half-dozen other cities around the state also are bidding for one of the grants, including the city of Aurora, which proposes a large hotel convention center site near Denver International Airport.

Pueblo's proposal is considered among the most "shovel ready" of all of the proposals, particularly now with the final design in place and approved by many of the state's top land-use experts.

Meanwhile, an outside economist hired by the city gives the proposal high marks for its potential to boost out-of-state tourism into Colorado, the major goal of the state tourism grants.

The final design isn't much different than the preliminary design released earlier this year as part of the city's application for a state tourism grant.

One newer feature is a large grassy public events area on part of the land now occupied by the city's vacant former police building. The addition was made at the request of many riverwalk patrons.

The final schematic also shows the best route for an extension of the riverwalk's boat channel, as recommended by the participating design experts.

The experts, along with state highway planners, also confirmed that extending the channel under Santa Fe Avenue and Interstate 25 is feasible from a technical aspect, riverwalk executives say.

The proposed path is slightly lower than Santa Fe Avenue and a roadway bridge similar to the existing Grand Avenue riverwalk bridge would be put in place, Munch said.

Under this next phase, the city's goal is to complete the boat channel's expansion in the core riverwalk area and also get the channel extended past Santa Fe Avenue and I-25, Munch said.

Long term, the city's goal is to keep extending the channel in order to tie the riverwalk into the area of the Runyon lake and sports complex and Fountain Creek, he said.

Elsewhere, the design experts helped the city decide how to best fit the project's proposed aquatics center, contributing to the recommendation for the curving of Santa Fe Avenue.

The proposal envisions Pueblo needing to acquire the property where the Ferguson Enterprises building supply center at 175 S. Santa Fe Ave. operates.

A message left with Ferguson Enterprises' regional office in Denver this week was not returned. Over the years, the city and Ferguson executives have held some informal talks about the property.

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