Wildhorse developer responds to critics

Ward hints at mall's new tenants

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Wildhorse Marketplace developer Whitney Ward said he has increased the number of trees he will plant to screen views of the Gart Sports building from U.S. Highway 40.

Landscaping on the project was scheduled to begin this week as trees were to begin arriving by truck on Friday, Ward said. At Thursday's Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting, commissioners invited Ward to talk about community reaction to the architecture of the building. Ward acknowledged that public reaction has been mixed, but he said he has asked people to reserve judgment until the commercial center is complete and landscaping is in place.

"I think it is an overall attractive building for the type of building it is," Ward said.

The sporting goods store opened last fall. Commissioners cited a variety of architectural details they are unhappy with now that the building is complete.

The laundry list of disappointments included the unusual texture on the stucco, the color of the stucco and false windows on the upper story of the building, which are backed only by black-painted walls.

Those windows do very little to enhance the look of the building at night, assistant city planning director Tim McHarg said.

In future projects, he said, backlighting the false windows probably would make them more effective.

Commissioner Steve Lewis said the shallow depth of gables built to break up the boxy roofline give them a false look. They reduce the effectiveness of the gables, he said.

Commissioner Tracy Barnett expressed distaste for the patchy look of the stucco on the building.

Ward said he thinks the corrugated steel on his buildings is softening with the anticipated corrosion from the "aluminum" appearance it had when it was first installed.

On another front, Ward said he is nearing leases with additional tenants. He is working with a small jewelry store and with a new floral shop that would be run by a local businessperson.

Negotiations also are taking place with a "high-end linen store" -- he did not provide the name of the store.

Ward said an independent restaurant operator who had announced plans to take a space at the entrance to the center has canceled those plans.

Ward continues to seek a tenant for a larger, free-standing restaurant space that is part of the approval for the first phase of Wildhorse Marketplace. Some of the restaurant operators he has contacted about the site regard Steamboat as a small market, and are "struggling" with a decision to open here, Ward added.

Ward won unanimous approval from the Planning Commission this week for his plans to add a six-screen movie theater to his commercial center. He said the addition of entertainment to the center would add vibrancy and help generate customers for two stores that are getting ready to open -- Amanti Coffee and Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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