Steamboat Springs Steamboat's much-overlooked side streets could be the key to creating a more functional and engaging historic downtown.
That was the message that came through Thursday night at Centennial Hall from representatives of Britina Design Group, who advanced several bold options meant to help link Lincoln Avenue with Yampa and Oak streets. Britina was hired to design the city's Downtown Streetscape Improvement Plan at a cost of $439,000.
"I can't emphasize enough that the best opportunity you have to increase connectivity is the side streets," Britina's Kristin Cypher said.
She was speaking to an audience of about 35 people who came to glimpse design boards detailing two options each for Oak and Yampa streets and Lincoln Avenue. They were encouraged to grab felt tip pens and record their likes and dislikes right on the plans. Public Works Director Jim Weber said the comments would be incorporated into new design alternatives for another round of public meetings in December.
Several representatives of the Colorado Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Lincoln Avenue/U.S. Highway 40, were in attendance and are expected to meet with city officials and the consultants today.
Cypher said Steamboat has the cultural values needed to create an engaging historic downtown, but there are challenges to overcome.
"You have this wonderful triumvirate of early ranching history, hot springs and the ski industry," she said. "There isn't another Colorado town that has these historical underpinnings of skiing."
Lincoln Avenue is a great, if noisy, commercial core, Cypher said. And Yampa Street offers opportunity as a future entertainment district with access to the river. Oak Street is ideal for defining a transition from commercial to residential neighborhoods with a park-like atmosphere. What's lacking, she said, is an obvious way to navigate downtown.
"In reality, it's quite disconnected," Cypher said.
Britina's tentative proposals include the possibility of creating bike lanes down the center of Yampa Street, and making it curve subtly to evoke the adjacent Yampa River. Other options include clearly-defined mid-block pedestrian crossings.
In order to create lively public spaces on the side streets, the consultants are suggesting making Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and 10th streets one-way southbound. That step would capitalize on views of Howelsen Hill and create parking options and the room necessary to make the pedestrian environment more attractive.
On Lincoln Avenue, both options presented would sacrifice a handful of on-street parking spot to create more functional pedestrian plazas.
The plazas would open up room for additional seating - perhaps on rock walls - landscaping, signage and more functional outdoor cafes, Britina's Katie Ross said.
Her colleague, Bob Couri, said the city's 80-foot right-of-way on Oak Street is underutilized and could be brought into play to make a greener, more appealing area of downtown.
"It's too much pavement." Couri said. "You could get a third lane in there."
One option is to create natural greenbelts or swales where storm runoff could be naturally filtered by plantings.
Cypher said in previous public meetings, she and her colleagues clearly heard that the community's core values include maintaining an authentic feel while creating a greener, better interconnected and more pedestrian-friendly downtown. The goal, she said is to tackle critical issues such as making it easier to cross the street and improving signage while honoring those core values.
"We want to make Lincoln Avenue more evocative of Steamboat," Cypher said.