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Bus hub idea drives critics


A plan to move the city's downtown bus terminal several blocks to the south has alarmed nearby business owners who say the impact of big belching buses would lower property values, and negatively impact or displace at least 18 businesses.

The site, at the corner of Nevada and Pueblo avenues just cattycorner from the Pioneers Museum, is one of three that the city is considering for its new public bus hub. The city's current terminal on the 100 block of north Nevada is "dingy, undersized, and no longer meeting the city's needs," said Transit Services manager Sherre Ritenour.

But neighbors are not pleased.

"A bus terminal is a terrible fit for this neighborhood," said Randal Kiemneck of RMK Design Associates at 321-323 South Nevada. "It would be like putting an elephant into a birdcage."

After years of decline and semi-blight, this neighborhood on the southernmost edge of downtown is starting to flourish. A number of small businesses have moved in and established businesses are expanding.

Leanne Groff, executive director of Smokebrush Theater at 235 South Nevada, said her acting company would probably have to find a new home if the terminal is moved into the neighborhood.

"The building was constructed as a church in the first decade of [the] last century," she said. "It was remodeled into a theater eight years ago, but it was cost-prohibitive to soundproof it. Traffic noise during performances is already a problem. There's no way we could handle the noise of 12 to 18 buses pulling onto Pueblo Avenue every half hour."

Ritenour identified two other possible sites the city is considering for the transit hub, including the corner of Cascade Avenue and Vermijo Street and the corner of Nevada Avenue and Vermijo Street. However, the city already owns the Pueblo Avenue property, making it more desirable than the other two spots.

"Moving there makes the best sense from a strictly business perspective," Ritenour said.

However, if the hub is relocated there, its administrative offices and a 22-bus parking lot would displace every business except one in the triangle-shaped area that is bordered by Nevada Avenue, Costilla Street and the northeast side of Pueblo Avenue.

Ritenour, like Kiemnec, believes that relocating to the Cascade Avenue site makes better logistic and aesthetic sense. There, the terminal would be in proximity to the voter-approved Confluence Park, the proposed convention center and trolley terminal, and possibly the new Sky Sox Stadium.

Kiemnec fears the city has already made "a business decision" to move the terminal to Pueblo Avenue, but Ritenour insists the decision remains very much on the table.

"The property owners have made some very compelling points," she said. "Construction won't take place until 2003 or 2004, so we have lots of time to think this through, get all the input we can and work out a solution that the majority will buy into."

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