Ski and Bike Kare plans new home

Building will occupy former Good News lot

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— The downtown commercial lot at Lincoln Avenue and Fifth Street has stood empty ever since the old Good News Building was consumed in a fiery natural gas explosion on Feb. 3, 1994.

The partners in Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare hope to begin bringing new commercial life to the vacant lot late this summer.

Harry Martin and Mike Parra will go before city Planning Commission on July 24 to present their plans for a 11,980-square-foot, two-story building that would contain a mix of retail, office and residential space.

Martin said Ski and Bike Kare would occupy the 5,000-square-foot space that fronts Lincoln Avenue, with room for two more commercial tenants fronting on Fifth Street. A residential condominium on the second floor over the store closest to the alley already is spoken for.

Elevation drawings and material boards for the proposed building promise a structure that is reminiscent of some of the historic red brick buildings between Seventh and Ninth streets on Lincoln Avenue. Architectural details include a parapet on the Lincoln Avenue frontage, stone headers over windows on the front of the building and arched brick headers on the Fifth Street elevation. The developers are also suggesting a mural on the east elevation, closest to the parking lot of the Alpiner Lodge.

Parra said he believes that when Ski and Bike Kare moves from its present location on Eleventh Street onto Old Town Steamboat's main commercial street, it will be able to increase its business by attracting more vacationers.

"Harry's got a strong local customer base -- I mean super loyal," Parra said. "I just know we can capitalize on that if we get on main street. I don't see it as too risky."

Parra was Martin's employee before he became his partner. He and his brother sold an automobile dealership in the Dallas area before Parra moved to Steamboat to get his fill of skiing. But his is not the type of personality that tolerates idle time. The semi-retired auto dealer went to work selling and tuning skis and bicycles.

"I sold my business, and I was just skiing for two years," Parra said. "I'm kind of hyper. I started working for Harry, and I was like a kid in a candy store. This is more fun than the car business."

Parra's sale of the car dealership fit into a trend that has seen publicly held national chains pay handsomely to acquire privately held dealerships in major U.S. cities. Although Parra was an employee in a Steamboat ski shop, he was also in a position to help finance the new building for his boss.

Martin and Parra found their personalities were a good match and they resolved to become partners. The two men spent a year looking for a site for a new building that would allow Ski and Bike Kare to grow. Parra said he and Martin considered a mountain location, but ultimately decided to remain downtown where they felt the potential for year-round business was greater.

Architect Lee Fischer of Eric Smith Associates said his design is meant to evoke the style and materials of some of the most historically significant buildings on Lincoln Avenue.

"Since the project is located in downtown Steamboat, we propose to use materials that evoke a very traditional Old Town look with brick veneer and a stone veneer base," Fischer wrote in a memo to planning staff. The east side of the building also will have pigmented concrete block with brick accents, and there is some clapboard siding proposed on the outside of the residential unit.

City planner Jonathan Spence said he was impressed with the qualities reflected in the proposed building.

"The application seems to definitely reflect the standards in the code as well as a high level of construction," Spence said. "It's exciting to see a proposal for a building of this scale and quality."

Martin said his current space, including storage, is 3,000 square feet. The additional 2,000 square feet in the new building will allow him to expand his lines. He would like to expand into cross country ski equipment and significantly increase the inventory of telemark skiing equipment.

Ski and Bike Kare also would begin displaying high-end technical outdoor clothing, he said. The ski repair and rental departments would be located on the second floor of the new building.

Parra said they are making progress on attracting solid tenants for the two commercial spaces on the Fifth Street side of the building.

TCD of Steamboat Springs will be the general contractor on the project. If necessary city permits are obtained and a building permit can be pulled in time, Parra would like to begin construction as soon as August. The goal is to relocate to the new building in time for bicycling season next spring.

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