From the very beginning, Colorado Boulevard was all about the car.
Pasadena residents so loved their Ford Model Ts that in 1915 the city was said to have the highest rate of automobile ownership in the world. Colorado was a leg in the famed Route 66 and evolved along with the car culture, with roadside businesses giving way to bigger department stores and eventually to shopping centers.
But these days, officials want to tame the famed street.
Pasadena is considering plans to narrow portions of Colorado by as much as two lanes and use that space to widen sidewalks and create tiny parks with seating and greenery. The proposal has generated wide support among some city leaders and is expected to go before the City Council soon.
To the west in Eagle Rock, officials have removed two lanes of traffic and used the space for three miles of bicycle lanes and new crosswalks and are discussing the addition of parklets, landscaped traffic medians and sidewalk extensions.
The effort to put Colorado on what some planners call a street “diet” reflects a transformation that began a decade ago. Once largely a retail strip, the boulevard, especially in Pasadena, has seen an influx of apartment and condominium complexes, with more than 1,000 residential units added along Colorado since 2003 and an additional 2,000 within three blocks.
And more is on the way, including several hotels. A 175-room hotel has been proposed for the site of the empty Macy's at the Paseo Colorado and 500 hotel rooms on two sites previously used as a Ford dealership at Colorado and Hill Avenue. Also in the works is a $75-million to $100-million renovation of the 155-room, 1920s-era Constance Hotel at Colorado and Mentor Avenue.
City leaders say that with this development, Colorado needs to better balance the car and the pedestrian.
"Pasadena is pursuing a broader concept of what streets are about," said Mayor Bill Bogaard. "They're not simply for moving cars as fast as you can. Streets are corridors of society and community."
Colorado is one of a growing number of busy boulevards across Southern California and the country that are being reevaluated as cities try to become more pedestrian and bike-friendly.