Parking partners

City, Main Street Project look to tackle space issues together

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— The board of Steamboat Springs Main Street Project asked for a more visible relationship with city government, and City Manager Paul Hughes was eager to comply.

The board agreed last week to accept Hughes' recommendation and undertake an evaluation of downtown parking issues and make recommendations by Oct. 1.

The Main Street Board is a group of business and civic leaders seeking to revitalize the city's downtown shopping district. The group is following a set of tried and true guidelines that have been embraced by hundreds of cities across America. Officially, the effort has been dubbed Main Street Steamboat Springs.

Hughes and City Councilwoman Nancy Kramer are both members of the Main Street board, which adopted a set of goals this week.

One of the goals was to "create a strong and visible partnership with the city of Steamboat Springs that is supportive and positive to ensure success of the public/private partnership and cement Main Street as the 'go-to' group for historic downtown Steamboat Springs."

Hughes and other members of Main Street Steamboat Springs were in the audience at the Steamboat Grand on June 24 when a downtown planning consultant told an audience here that parking is critical to any efforts to reinvigorate urban districts.

"Pedestrians are people who have found a place to park," said Brad Segal, president of Progressive Urban Management Associates. "We talk about creating a pedestrian environment. But the reality is, parking is still the big deal. You're not going to get past parking."

Segal was talking to a gathering during the annual convention of the Colorado Municipal League that included city government officials from all over the state.

Hughes told the Main Street Board that his concerns about downtown parking policy recently came to mind when the city created a new business classification in order to approve a change of use for the new Peak Fitness Center location at the corner of 11th Street and Lincoln Avenue. Although the downgraded parking requirements that resulted may have been appropriate for the fitness center, he is concerned about the way they came about. Hughes believes the future of downtown parking in Steamboat must include more creative management of existing spaces.

"Parking philosophy shouldn't be piece by piece in response to whining," Hughes said. "Parking is not a matter of the number of spaces, it's a matter of the management of what you have. We do need some more (parking spaces) but we need to manage them better."

Board members who were present at the meeting adopted Hughes' motion and gave the task of investigating parking regulations to Kramer's Main Street Design Committee.

Kramer said she expects the incidence of downtown business employees parking in prime customer parking spaces to become a significant part of the discussion. A parking survey undertaken by the city in 2000 revealed that up to 70 percent of downtown parking spaces are occupied by employees. Main Street consultant Kent Burnes recently told the board that nationally, estimates are that each prime downtown parking space occupied by an employee can add up to thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Board member Mike Forney said he believes it's important that local business owners be involved in parking solutions. When a group of business leaders first met in the summer of 2003 to explore the possibility of establishing a Main Street Project, Hughes embraced the concept. He said he saw it as an opportunity for downtown initiatives to come from the business community to city government, instead of vice versa. With this week's development, that expectation could be coming to fruition.


-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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