Roberta Elkins never placed a "For Sale" sign on her lawn. But when City Council President Kevin Bennett walked out of City Hall after a meeting in 1996, he looked across the street at the old Elkins Power Plant and the empty plot of land next to it and saw Centennial Hall.
The construction on the building would not begin for another three years and the property, as Elkins can attest, was not even for sale at the time.
But standing outside an overcrowded City Hall built for 19 people that was being made to accommodate 44, Bennett realized the city's future as far as public space and perhaps office space could well begin with this old building.
He did not know at the time that the power plant had, in 1900, allowed Steamboat to incorporate as a city or that the city would later be able to obtain grants to fix up the old building without violating its integrity as an historic structure.
And not everyone saw the space like Bennett.
Architect Nan Anderson, in fact, thought the building looked like it might be better equipped to hold cars than people.
"When we first looked at the power plant we thought, 'hmm, that's a nice garage,'" Anderson said.
The "garage" Anderson ended up designing would be 13,057 square feet and can hold at least four simultaneous meetings and at least 15 city employees, not to mention the city cafe, which will be leased out once the city settles into its new space.
And, though Bennett's vision is not quite as compelling as Bugsy Siegel's vision of what would become Las Vegas in a miraculous mirage in the middle of the Nevada desert, the idea took firm hold in a city without a real meeting space.
"So it began with that vision of creating a home. I did not anticipate it being as large or as comprehensive or as wonderful as it is. I originally envisioned mainly a meeting hall," Bennett said. "Something other than a room with bullet proof glass and a parking lot."
Bennett was referring to the Public Safety Building's meeting room, which, when it hosts a large enough meeting, causes the crowd to have to spill out into the hallway, or, in some cases, the parking lot.
"That was just a very cold place," said Gloria Gossard, who was an initial member of the Centennial Committee. "And I don't mean from a heating standpoint."
In the year 2000, a total of approximately 1,000 community meetings were held in one of three spaces: the Public Safety Building, Olympian Hall, and the Steamboat Springs Community Center.
The four meeting rooms in Centennial Hall are already getting booked though August and the city has begun to prioritize which groups can use the rooms if there is a conflict.
Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said she envisioned a space the community could be proud of, a "third place" where the community could feel welcome and could discuss the major issues that affect Steamboat Springs.
The idea of the third place, she said, pushed her to make sure the building is comfortable and welcoming to the residents of Steamboat.
"Most people in their lives have two places and they used to have three," Stettner said. "The first place of course is where you live, where your family is, where you eat and sleep and you rest. The second place, for adults it's where you work, for children its where you go to school. But it's very formal and structured. And then the third place is where community happens, and community happens in the public places, it happens where people gather informally and visit and share their ideas and concerns."
One way the city is attempting to draw people in and make them want to stay in the building through five-hour council meetings is by making the environment a visually dynamic one. One touch Bennett said he felt was especially unique was the installation of a culvert, normally placed in the ground and used to transport water under a road, around some wiring in the luxurious Crawford Room in the old power plant. Rick Gliniecki, the project supervisor for Fox Construction, said the construction workers had used an acid corrosion process to make the spiraling culvert appear old and rusted.
"The little idiosyncrasies. I love it," said Intergovernmental Services Department Director Linda Kakela, who hangs grant projects on a row of old screws that were initially used to post accounts in the power plant.
To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.