Steamboat Springs Wanting to correct what they call past mistakes, members of the Mountain Business Association see the creation of a taxing district as a big step toward solutions.
"We've been languishing because nobody knows what to do with us," said Noreen Moore, a member of the MBA board of directors who once served as board president. "So now the merchants are getting together and saying, 'We need to do something here.'"
Specifically, members of the MBA are getting together in hopes of forming a business improvement district that would raise funds to go to better the commercial area at the base of the ski area. The MBA has already hired the Leland Group to prepare an analysis of how transportation improvements would change the mountain area.
"We're going to have to correct mistakes that were made 20 years ago. The Ski Town Square pedestrian path is a mess. You have to go through what we call the 'Great Wall of Sheraton' that impedes people," Moore said. "There's also the underground pass at Burgess Creek, which we would love to have see the light.
"There were decisions made 20 to 30 years ago that in hindsight have not served to make the base area as productive and attractive as it should be. Being that we need to compete with newer resorts, how will we improve what we've got here?"
Last week, Doug Terry of Terry Sports approached the City Council to explain the MBA's proposed courses of action.
"I think it's great that the merchants are doing something proactive," Councilman Paul Strong said. "Everyone's thought for a long time that something has to be done at the base area, but no one was claiming responsibility. It's a funding issue. And this is partly where DDA failed us."
Strong was referring to a Downtown Development Authority that would have used a portion of future property tax growth to pay for improvements to the base area. The DDA was resoundingly defeated at the ballot box last November.
Strong said he would like the city to partner with the MBA in forming a business improvement district.
"I'm pretty sure the city will support this. It's something the city's been wanting to do, but because the city budget is so tight, it hasn't been able to provide the necessary funding," he said.
A property tax increase approved by the affected voters would fund the improvement district. The MBA will draw a map that identifies the boundaries of the district.
Those details have yet to be finalized by the MBA.
Moore admitted that forming an improvement district will be a difficult task.
"We have to raise the importance of forming a business district," said Moore, the general manager of East West Resorts in Steamboat Springs.
"We don't want to be Vail, but we want to be good. I want the base area to be perceived as a main street. It contributes an awful lot of money to this city, and it needs attention. I'm not a retailer, I'm in lodging, and I can say those poor (retailers) have been left out of the loop of public support for a long time," she said.
As the ski industry struggles with flat numbers and ways to improve its future bottom line, some may wonder why public dollars should be invested in base area improvements.
"The reality of it is, as Stephanie Reineke (of the Internet service provider SpringSips) explained at the Economic Summit, that air is still important," Moore said, referring to Steamboat's attractive natural environment. "And that's what we need to bring in the techies that so many at the summit agreed this city needs. There are a lot of future reasons for revitalization of the base. People need to not be so shortsighted. We need to utilize our assets, and improve them for future changes."
To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org