Steamboat Springs The same urban planning firm that recently redesigned pedestrian plazas in Vail Village has the inside track to tackle the transformation of the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
Steamboat Springs' Base Area Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee recommended Friday that the City Council retain Wenk Associates to begin modernizing the ski area base.
The pending contract represents the earliest stages of accomplishing improvements to public facilities, which are expected to spur private sector development in Steamboat's aging base area.
"We want to get them started with this first step with the understanding that if they do a good job, and we're happy, this will be the firm we'll be working with for many years," interim City Manager Wendy DuBord said.
Wenk helped Vail with planning $10 million in improvements that are under construction. They include a series of pedestrian plazas and seating areas that link areas of retail activity. The firm has experience in stream rehabilitation through work on the Riverwalk project in Breckenridge.
Its principals say they understand the link between urban design and economic development.
As a first step in Steamboat, Wenk's team would be asked to plan a new promenade bordering the lowest ski trails. It would study day-lighting of Burgess Creek and a functional sign system to guide visitors through the base of Mount Werner, among other tasks.
Members of the advisory committee said the proposal from Wenk stood out from seven others submitted for the project. City Planner Suzanne Bott said the Wenk proposal was strengthened by the firm's willingness to bring in other firms to consult on key aspects of the plan.
Wenk Project Manager Brent Lloyd the firm Noble Erickson will lend expertise to the development of signage for the base area. The goal is to bring a storytelling quality to the signs that help people find their way around a ski area base. The company's recent work includes bringing out the mining heritage in the area surrounding the new Blackhawk and Central City tramway.
"Developing an authentic destination is critical to the sustained success of the Steamboat Springs base area," Lloyd wrote in a letter to city staff. "By including Noble Erickson on our team, we bring an ability to develop a signature signage master plan that will mirror Steamboat's rich Western heritage."
Public improvements at the base of Mount Werner would be funded by the urban renewal authority, which will capture a percentage of future growth in the property tax base in the ski base. Those funds most likely would be used to back bonds.
Public Works Director Jim Weber presented the advisory committee with a draft of a detailed spreadsheet representing the pace at which different aspects for the planning process might move forward in 2006 and 2007.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond, a member of the advisory committee, praised Weber's efforts.
"This is a great document," Diamond said.
City Council President Ken Brenner, who sat in on the meeting, said he was comfortable with the recommendation of Wenk. However, he asked city staff to go into more depth about the scope of the work at tonight's City Council meeting.
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