City mulls older building assessments

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Historic assessments would be required for all buildings 50 years old or older before they could be demolished or substantially remodeled, if the city approves a new proposal.

Steamboat Springs City Manager Paul Hughes said he has worked with City Planning Director Steve Stamey and City Director of Intergovernmental Services Linda Kakela on the proposal, which would allow the City Council to require historic structure assessments for older buildings planned for demolition or remodeling.

A historic structure assessment, which would consider the building's historic value and condition, would be part of the development planning process, Hughes said.

"It is not all that expensive, and everyone would be happy," he said. "You would know that the (building) is still structurally sound and could be renovated, or if it is a loser."

A historic structure assessment would include an extensive history about the building's architecture, construction and use, Kakela said. The assessment would evaluate whether the building has architectural elements that are reflective of a certain era in the community. It also would look at the condition of the structure and examine its foundation, building envelop, exterior walls and roof.

"A typical engineering assessment might look at those things, but not in the same context that a historic structure assessment would look at it," Kakela said. "The architects and engineers specialize in the restoring, rehabilitation and adaptive use of historic old buildings."

A historic structure assessment, which can be done for about $10,000, would be for informational purposes, Kakela said. No regulations are associated with the assessment.

Currently, the Historic Pres------ervation Advisory Com--mission reviews all applications for demolition or substantial remodels of buildings 50 years or older.

The commission can recommend a historic structure assessment. It also has the ability to impose a 90-day "cooling off" period for buildings that are proposed to be demolished. The time gives owners a chance to explore other options, Kakela said.

"The historic assessment is not the end all be all," Kakela said. "What it does is provide information for informed decisions for the owner, the city and the community."

Kakela said the city still has to decide how to determine what buildings have the historic and architectural merit to warrant a historic structure assessment.

"I don't know how we go about determining that. We truly haven't gotten to that point," Kakela said. "Not every building over 50 years old is going to have the historic merit."

The city's look into historic structure assessments come at a time when changes have been proposed for two older Steamboat buildings.

The Steamboat Springs School District demolished the Seventh Street Playhouse, which once was the old hospital, because it was considered unsafe and a fire hazard. The demolition raised some residents' concerns about the fate of the adjacent former high school building.

Kakela said her office has encouraged the school district to have a historic structure assessment done on the building. The city could help secure grants for the assessment and for free, complete a nomination to place the building on the state or national historic registry.

Concerns also were raised about developer Jim Cook's proposal to demolish the Harbor Hotel, which sits at Lincoln Avenue and Seventh Street. Kakela said the developer paid to have a historical assessment done on the building.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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