Planning commissioners get first look at Ski Time Square redevelopment

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— The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission wants to see more from developers who plan to replace Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge with a project more than four times as large.

The Atira Group, acting in partnership with Cafritz Interests of Washington, D.C., presented its pre-application for the transformation of the properties to the Planning Commission on Thursday, and commissioners scrutinized the proposal with a rare level of consensus. Cafritz purchased the properties in April and plans to demolish both after the upcoming ski season. The new developments would break ground the next year.

The purpose of the pre-application process is to allow developers to bounce tentative plans and concepts off city personnel and then incorporate the feedback into more formal plans. As such, the Planning Commission took no action on the project, but members made clear their impressions of a proposal that would increase the existing 234,449 square feet of development with 1,035,904 square feet of new development.

Despite that massive increase, Atira proposed to decrease the amount of retail and restaurant space by about 25 percent, from 58,131 square feet to 46,578 square feet. Residential and hotel space would increase significantly, from 134,000 square feet to more than 633,210 square feet. Commissioners expressed some reservations about that mix.

"I'm disappointed there's less commercial in your proposal than currently exists," Commissioner Rich Levy said.

Commissioners also expressed disappointment with the application because it didn't include a relocation of the existing Ski Time Square Drive. The city's Mountain Town Subarea Plan calls for the road to be relocated to the north to allow for a more pedestrian-friendly plaza where the road currently runs, but Atira has been unsuccessful in negotiations with other property owners whose cooperation would be necessary to relocate the road.

"When I see the Ski Time Square Drive in the same place it's always been, that's a real bummer," said Commissioner Scott Myller, noting that the development's attention to pedestrian corridors and open space are just as important as its buildings. "You've designed some buildings, but I think we want to see the places between the buildings."

The mass of the buildings raised concerns as well, especially at the Thunderhead Lodge site. Commissioners were more open to height variances on the north side of the development, where buildings as high as 10 stories are proposed against the steep hillside below Burgess Creek Road.

Commissioners were pleased with the development's incorporation of Burgess Creek into its designs, including a proposed pedestrian walkway along the creek from the north side of the development to the base area. However, the lack of a year-round promenade along the ski area at Thunderhead - a priority of the advisory committee for the base area's urban renewal authority - was deemed unacceptable.

In other action, the Planning Commission unanimously approved a request by the World West company, owners of the Steamboat Pilot & Today, to subdivide its 5.2 acre lot in the 1900 block of Curve Court. City Planner Sid Rivers said the subdivision was based on the request of a potential buyer who wishes to build commercial office space on the resulting 0.9-acre lot at Curve Court and U.S. Highway 40, opposite Cook Chevrolet.

"They have a specific buyer who wants that parcel now," Rivers said.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a development plan and final development plan for a 9,673-square-foot warehouse with employee units and one single-family dwelling. The live-work warehouse is in the Copper Ridge Business Park in the 2500 block of Copper Ridge Drive.

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