A stroll through streetscape

Public given opportunity to help decide on proposed changes

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Chuck Clawson, of Fort Myers Beach, Fla., sits on a bench in downtown Steamboat Springs with his granddaughter, Julia Rabussay, who lives in Phoenix. City Officials and consultants are hosting a public meeting Thursday to discuss downtown streetscape improvements.

— The public has its first chance to help decide about proposed streetscape changes to downtown Steamboat Springs.

City officials and consultants from Britina Design Group, of Arvada, will host a 6 p.m. meeting Thursday at Centennial Hall to gather input about development of the city's Downtown Streetscape Improvements Plan. Jim Weber, the city's director of public works, has said the plan will "address and identify the future character of the downtown commercial district : including Lincoln (Avenue), Yampa Street and Oak Street from Third Street to 13th Street."

Improvements could include more trees; better curbs, benches, bike racks and sidewalks; and new streetlights and trash receptacles. The plan also could suggest locations for a future downtown parking garage, public restrooms and the removal of parking spaces on one side of the street to widen Lincoln Avenue.

Weber said the city's Mountain Town Sub-Area Plan, adopted in 1999, spurred the need for downtown design improvements.

"The sub-area plan was a vision," Weber said. "This process will bring that vision into focus in terms of what we can physically implement."

Britina was hired in May for $439,000. The group has designed downtown streetscapes for Front Range municipalities, including Erie and Arvada, and currently is designing a streetscape for the Western Slope town of Eagle.

Kristin Cypher, Britina's director of business development, said the group has done an extensive study of Steamboat.

"We went through all the documents that have been done by the city to date related to downtown," Cypher said. "We've completed a survey of the entire downtown, including pictures, elevations, inlets - everything we need to design the streetscape from an engineering standpoint."

On Thursday, Britina staff will give a short presentation at Centennial Hall and then ask the public to split into seven groups. Each group will visit one of seven "node" areas, which Cypher described as "places that really bring together critical issues for the downtown streetscape."

Weber said the selected sites include Fifth and Yampa streets, Eighth and Oak streets, and 11th Street at Little Toots Park.

After visiting the sites, Cypher said, the public will be asked to return to Centennial Hall and share suggestions and ideas for improvements.

"It's a fun activity," Cypher said. "It's usually very empowering for the community."

Cypher said in Britina's initial study of Steamboat, needs for more signs advertising downtown attractions - such as Howelsen Hill and the Yampa River - became apparent.

"If you're on Lincoln, the fact that you're a block away from the river and all its opportunities isn't obvious," she said. "I think more than any other community we've ever worked with on a streetscape, Steamboat has incredible potential with their downtown. It's diverse and rich in terms of the experiences that are available to people. I think it's just a matter of bringing those things to life."

Downtown design improvements will be coordinated with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which will conduct asphalt work on Lincoln Avenue in 2009.

Questions regarding downtown design standards should be directed to Weber at 871-8243 or jweber@steamboatsprings.net.

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