Wednesday, October 11, 2000
Members of the Mountain Business Association were in a mood to celebrate Wednesday morning, so they planted a pair of large candles in their coffee cake before beginning their monthly meeting at the Tugboat Grill and Pub.
"I figured it was either a birthday or a wake," Tugboat owner Larry Lamb quipped. He was mistaken. The candles were in recognition of City Council's vote at its Oct. 3 budget retreat to dedicate $50,000 in the capital budget to further study of a new bus turnaround in the lower end of Ski Time Square. Merchants there believe a new turnaround in a new location could improve their bottom line.
"People for the first time will walk through the stores to get to the Christie (ski area) base," MBA President Doug Terry said. "This will help our members revitalize their businesses."
Ski Time Square is at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area with the two Christie chairlifts at its upper end. The square is lined with retail shops and restaurants, but business owners say the fact that city buses drive all the way to the current turnaround before dropping off their passengers doesn't help them. It means people beginning and ending their skiing day aren't compelled to stop and browse in shops along the way.
Terry said relocation of the bus turnaround would create a situation for Ski Time Square merchants that would be similar to Bridge Street at the entrance to the Lionshead shopping district in Vail. Other ski towns that encourage skiers to walk past shops and restaurants on their way to the slopes include the Beaver Run development at Keystone and Copper Mountain, Terry said.
One of the elements of the city's Mountain Town Plan, completed in the spring of 1999, was a new transit turnaround at the lower end of Ski Time Square. It was envisioned in the plan at approximately the point where an unused checkpoint building now stands next to a sunken courtyard covered in brick pavers. The checkpoint, which was never staffed, is a relic of a previous failed attempt to create a pedestrian environment in Ski Time Square.
During original discussions on the Mountain Town Plan, city Transit Director George Krawzoff said the new turnaround would be desirable because of the increasing congestion his bus drivers have to contend with in order to make their way up and down Ski Time Square. The Mountain Town Plan identified the area near the checkpoint building and courtyard as offering the most available public right of way in which to turn buses around.
Terry is optimistic construction on the new turnaround could begin by next spring, but city Public Works Director Jim Weber said he doesn't see how that is possible. For one thing, the money needed to build the turnaround isn't in next year's budget.
"What City Council has agreed to do is to complete a study slated for fiscal year 2001," Weber said. "A complete study would be followed by Planning Commission and City Council review including public hearings."
Weber said the study being undertaken next year will take another look at different options to relocating the bus turnaround. The next step would be to create more detailed engineering and construction drawings that could be used to come up with reliable cost estimates.
Mountain Business Association member Erich Esswein said he understood that the study authorized by the city would begin by determining if the lower turnaround is the right plan, then move on to engineering work and finally a construction plan.
Ultimately, Weber said the city's five-year capital improvement plan calls for a combination of public and private money to actually build the turnaround.
The Mountain Business Association is working independently of the city with Leyland Consulting Group of Denver on making Ski Time Square and surrounding areas more effective as shopping districts. The association also has engaged local planning consultant Chuck Donley to create site drawings of what the turnaround might look like. Based on those drawings, Connell Resources has submitted a "very preliminary" budget of $73,000 to complete the construction.
Weber said he's not persuaded those documents are detailed enough to provide an accurate cost estimate.
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