Good News lot sells at last

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— It has been almost nine years since a building stood at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Fifth Street.

The lot has remained unsold, empty and unprofitable. It stands vacant, a jarring reminder to the day in 1994 when a gas leak caused an explosion that destroyed the Good News Building. The ashes from that explosion and subsequent fire have long blown away, and the lot has since been used for selling Christmas trees in the winter and snow cones in the summer.

But that could all change soon.

On Jan. 3 -- exactly one month shy of the nine-year anniversary of the explosion -- Mike Parra purchased the lot and has plans to develop a two-story retail and residential building.

Parra's real estate agent, Tom Valicenti, said Parra is working with the city planning department and plans to develop a building that retains Steamboat's Old Town character.

It is the first sign of a plan since the Good News Building blew up on Feb. 3, 1994.

The noontime explosion killed none of the 50 people inside, but it injured 22 people and displaced eight businesses.

Coldwell Banker's Peggy Garrett, who had the exclusive listing on the property, said that the 700-square-foot lot had been under contract on several occasions over the years but never sold.

But this winter, Garrett had two buyers vying for the property. Parra purchased it for $420,000.

Parra's main objective in purchasing the Fifth Street lot is providing a place for Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare, Valicenti said. Parra doesn't own Ski and Bike Kare -- now located in a shop on 11th Street -- he just volunteers there.

A retired car dealer from Dallas, Parra loves to ski and bike and decided, after moving to Steamboat, to take on a real estate venture in his extra time.

Plans are to have the Ski and Bike Kare shop expanded and to have more retail stores in the front. Living space is planned for the second floor.

Valicenti stressed plans are still preliminary but expects the building to be two stories and roughly 10,000 square feet. He anticipates construction to start early this fall and be completed by next spring.

Parra is working with Eric Smith and Associates, a Boulder-based architectural firm with an office in Steamboat.

After the Good News Building exploded, owner Barry Goldfarb had one year to build on the lot to keep the city parking requirements in place. Because he was still handling legal issues, he could not build in that time frame. That meant any new building had to meet the specifications of the new city code.

Garrett said another stalling point could have been the price.

"It is a desirable area," Garrett said. "They thought the property was worth more than what a lot of offers were coming in at."

Both Garrett and Valicenti anticipate plans for developing the lot will be welcomed by the city with the promise of brining in much-needed sales tax revenue.

At the time the building blew up, eight businesses occupied the Good News Building: Panache Stained Glass-works and Entryways, Steamboat Photography Studio, Morrison and Associates, Good News Sports, Front Page, Classified Hair, Paradise Grill and Saloon, and Fifth Street Cafe.

The Good News explosion made national news. A leaking natural gas line was filling the basement of the two-story building and by 12:14 p.m. on Feb. 3, 1994, those fumes ignited and caused an explosion that rocked the entire area.

In a Steamboat Pilot article printed a year after the explosion, Elly Nicholson, who was working in the hair saloon she owned on the second floor, described the blast.

"Everything got sucked out, like it was really windy," she said. "We got blown up into the air, then we were downstairs.

"Everything was just kind of dark, and there was wood and debris piled all over us. We were pretty much trapped, and then the fire started coming up through the floor and I started screaming."

The explosion blew out windows and the second floor collapsed into the first.

Bystanders helped pull people from the debris before fire engulfed the building.

That afternoon, the downtown area, from Third to 13th streets and Yampa to Oak streets, was evacuated.

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