River Walk to offer mix of residential, commercial


— A new development has the potential to transform a residential neighborhood in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs and provide new commercial energy at the east end of Yampa Street.

The project, which is just beginning the city planning process, also would displace 39 households in the Westland Trailer Park.

River Walk, the new development, would be built on 3.5 acres between Third and Fourth streets on an extension of Yampa Avenue along the north bank of the Yampa River, just upstream from the Fifth Street Bridge. The existing streetscape is actually a private road within the trailer park.

The "mixed-use" project would create approximately 50 residential units -- about 30 apartments including live/work units and 17 larger townhomes on the north bank of the Yampa River. The plan calls for retail and commercial spaces wrapping around the corner of Fourth Street.

Tentative architecture for the project by Charles Cunniffe and Associates reflects a departure from some of the period buildings on nearby Lincoln Avenue, while retaining elements of other buildings in the downtown area.

"We wanted to make certain that what we did was special," Realtor Jim Cook said. "We want to create something that's going to be fun. I don't want to replicate old buildings."

Cook is acting as the representative for a client who has put the trailer park under contract. He has declined to name the purchasers. Westland has been owned for 35 years by a business entity known as the Steamboat 70. Managing partner James Osbourn is in Lakewood.

Cook said he is not indifferent to the fate of the mobile home owners and tenants in Westland and has been working since May to develop alternatives for them. One possibility is a right of first refusal in a new trailer park that Cook said is being pursued by another developer. Residents there might be able to own their lots, he said. Cook added he also is trying to develop a small, single-family housing project in the nearby Brooklyn neighborhood.

Inevitably, Cook acknowledges, current owners in Westland will take a hit because the age of their homes means they cannot be moved. At the very least, Cook said his developers will absorb the cost of any necessary trailer demolitions and consider relocation assistance that could amount to a check commensurate with the cost of moving the trailers.

Cook said he is conforming with a city ordinance passed in July 2001 and intended to give mobile home residents a modicum of protection. However he said the ordinance does little more than require him to file reports and show some diligence toward locating housing alternatives.

"I don't think it goes far enough with what we want to do," for the Westland residents, Cook said. "I've been in regular contact with the residents, and I've urged them not to wait until the 11th month. We want to give them viable options."

Independent of the issues for Westland residents, Cook's proposal has components that would benefit the broader public and the potential to establish new levels of cooperation between the development community and city government, Cook said.

Most visible would be 600 feet of public trail access along the river, which doesn't presently exist. However, Cook seems more enthused about plans to uncover a section of Spring Creek that has been buried for decades.

"The most exciting thing is the ability to daylight Spring Creek," Cook said. He also proposes a public trail access leading from the dead end at Third Street, down the newly exposed creek into River Walk.

Spring Creek currently disappears from view where it flows under Lincoln Avenue between the post office and Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association. It doesn't reappear until just before it flows into the Yampa.

"I wanted to make sure we have a sense of a view corridor from Lincoln down to the water there," Cook said. "There's the potential to have some cascading along the creek."

In order to achieve his development plan, Cook will ask the city to vacate short extensions of Third and Fourth streets within Westland. However, he also is proposing that the private road within Westland become a public thoroughfare, albeit not built to city standards. In order to answer city concerns about maintenance, snow and trash removal, Cook proposes the new River Walk homeowners association would arrange for those services independently and pay for them.

River Walk can be divided into three primary components, including the 17 townhomes that will be spread along the river next to the public trail. The current configuration of the Westland internal road would be altered to create space for the "Riverside Building" which would include four to five condos plus 8,400 square feet of commercial space. Finally, the "Alley Side Building," the most massive of the structures, would create 26 to 30 loft style apartments three stories above the alley grade. It would include covered parking decks. In addition, the building would include about 3,300 square feet of commercial space.

Cook said he and the purchasers selected Charles Cunniffe and Associates for the project from proposals by five local firms. Surprisingly, he said, they all came up with similar solutions for the site.

"The concept for River Walk is to create a high density residential environment in a less intense commercial/retail extension of the central business district," the developers wrote in a summary addressed to the city planning department.

Cook said the 17 townhomes are intended to provide an urban living experience in a mountain town. Each River Walk townhome will be between 2,300 to 2,500 square feet in size with attached two-car garages. They would share a landscaped driveway/courtyard. Townhome elevations along the river will feature large windows to permit a full view of the water. The developers propose that all walkways and drives within this part of the development have a heated snow-melt system.

The Riverside Building will create a handful of residential units over a commercial building intended to embrace the river frontage, Cook said, in much the same way the Yacht Club and Yampa Blue do.

"People will congregate where there is water," he said.

The Alley Side Building would contain a certain percentage of deed restricted residential units targeting people who make 80 percent of the local median income, Cook said. He believes the resulting diversity of residents' socioeconomic status will represent an attraction for a certain segment of higher income buyers.

"That's what makes a city," Cook said. The spaces within the building are intended to be flexible, allowing people with a variety of professions to create live/work arrangements.

Cook is interested in widening the alley between the north side of his building and the south side of neighboring commercial buildings such as Soda Creek Mercantile. He believes the project could represent the beginning of redeveloping Steamboat's alleyways to make them attractive to pedestrians. Toward that end, he has an interest in burying utilities in the alley adjacent to the development.

River Walk is scheduled for its initial public hearing on Dec. 11.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.