Harbor plan praised, criticized

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City planning commissioners liked some elements of the Harbor Hotel redevelopment project they saw Thursday night.

But, in general, they said they thought it was too big and perhaps should not span an alleyway.

Applicant GCP-Steamboat is proposing to replace the Harbor Hotel with a 118,951-square-foot building that would include 16 retail or restaurant units, with stores along Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street. There would be 26 residential condominium units, 79 parking spaces on two underground levels and nine surface parking spaces. The project also includes an element of the building spanning a city alleyway.

Realtor Jim Cook, who is working with the project, made a presentation to city planning commissioners Thursday night as part of the pre-application process. During a pre-application, commissioners share their thoughts but do not make formal decisions.

Cook said the project "pushes the envelope."

"That's what it's supposed to do," he said.

Some of the commissioners gave the basic concept approval.

"I think it's a good project for downtown," Commissioner Steve Lewis said.

Commissioner Tracy Barnett said it was better than the previous versions she'd seen.

"The first was atrocious," she said.

A majority of the commissioners said they were concerned about the mass and scale of the proposed building. Several suggested the alleyway element be eliminated or reduced to alleviate this concern.

"It does still seem too massive to me," Barnett said.

Commissioner Dana Stopher said she wondered whether the building would be the type of place that Steamboat residents would want to visit.

"It seems so out of character somehow. It's just too big," she said.

Commissioner Dick Curtis said the proposed building looked massive and that he was concerned it would block key views.

"There is a wonderful view of historic Howelsen Hill there," Curtis said. "When this building is constructed, that view is going to go away."

The proposed building design includes setbacks and facades meant to make the one building appear to be several different buildings. That way, Cook said, retailers can pick their own look for their shops. Commissioners said they liked the architectural theme of different buildings, but they warned that the plan might sound better than it would look.

Stopher warned the applicants against a similar 1970s look that is overdone. Commissioner Scott Myller was worried about an overdone look, as well.

"If not done really well, it might look contrived," Myller said.

The project drew comments from several residents and businesspeople.

Mark Steinke, an attorney representing the Residences of Old Town, which is next to the proposed project, said the owners of the Residences had several concerns, including the mass of the building, the alleyway connector and the elimination of residents' window views.

Myller was among the commissioners who asked the applicants to respect that view and move back from the Residences more.

"At least give them another 10 feet," Myller said.

Former City Council member Arianthe Stettner stood up to say that the Harbor Hotel contains too much historic significance to be torn down.

The hotel is at Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue, which is considered one of the most important intersections in the city.

Cook said restoring the hotel is not a possibility.

"We have exhausted the possibilities relative to the restoration of this," he said.

Commission chairwoman Kathi Meyer said she hoped the developers would include the word "Harbor" in the building's name.

"Give the visitors and the public the reminder of this history," Meyer said.

Thursday's pre-application hearing was separate from the demolition permit process to raze the Harbor Hotel. GCP-Steamboat applied for the demolition permit. On Aug. 31, the Historic Preservation Commission placed a 90-day waiting period on demolishing the hotel because of the building's historical, architectural and geographic importance.

Before the 90-day period ends, the City Council could set an ordinance that would forbid the building's demolition until a final development plan were approved, according to city legal staff. According to a preliminary agenda, council members are set to decide whether to approve this ordinance Tuesday.

-- To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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