Main Street looks ahead

Goals go beyond health of downtown businesses

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Buoyed by the news this week that they had achieved official status, members of Main Street Steamboat Springs set out an ambitious work plan for 2006.

Main Street Board chairman Tom Ptach told those gathered in Centennial Hall on Thursday for the group's annual meeting that the organization has made significant progress in preparing for the future of the community's downtown district.

"Main Street is trying to address the changes going on in our community and specifically how those changes affect our core downtown commercial area," Ptach said.

Barbara Silverman of the Colorado Community Revitalization Association said that Steamboat Springs' status as an official Colorado Main Street program will make it eligible for assistance from a nationwide network of organizations with expertise in the Main Street approach.

The leaders of the Main Street committees promised this week that, in 2006, they will take a fresh look at how Yampa Street should develop, do more to make downtown the recognized cultural center of the community and make downtown more convenient for shoppers. They also set a goal of building the membership base and financial health of Main Street Steamboat Springs.

The Main Street approach to downtown revitalization has been applied in 1,800 communities in 44 states. It was conceived by the National Main Street Center of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to focus on downtown economic development within the context of historic preservation.

Ruth Dombrowski, chairwoman of the Economic Restructuring Committee, said her group's biggest challenge in 2006 is compiling a list of desirable businesses that could be recruited to come to Steamboat when openings occur downtown. The intent is to exert some influence on the mix of different businesses to provide attractive options for resident shoppers and diners, and to promote the health of existing businesses.

"We want to keep storefronts full and open," Dombrowski said.

Dick Ryan, the chairman of the Promotions Committee, said he is actively seeking new members and wants to expand on what the committee has done in the past.

"We want to host events, of course, but we want to go beyond that and promote downtown as the center of culture and community activity," Ryan said.

The Design Committee is working to make the downtown commercial district safer and more convenient for customers, chairwoman Nancy Kramer said. Her members are also interested in taking a fresh look at guidelines for future development on Yampa Street.

In anticipation of summer 2007, when the Colorado Department of Transportation plans a major paving project through downtown on U.S. Highway 40, Kramer said the committee wants to look for opportunity. There is some urgency to determining whether some of the pedestrian circulation goals for the downtown can be blended with the repaving project.

Dan Bonner, chairman of Main Street's finance committee, both lives downtown and owns a business there. He said thanks in part to City Council's willingness to provide Main Street with $60,000 this year the 2006 budget is $121,000. The budget is based on the expectation that the organization will make significant progress toward its goal of increasing membership by 20 percent this year.

Ty Lockhart, co-owner of Main Street's business of the year, F.M. Light & Sons, said he thinks the Main Street program is important to the continuing health of the community.

"Main Street is not just for business," Lockhart said. "It's for maintaining the things that make Steamboat different from Vail and keeping the heart and soul of Steamboat Springs healthy."

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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