360 Village by the numbers
Size 350 acres
Units (residential and commercial) 600 to 650
Parks and recreation space 45 to 65 acres
Open space 100 to 120 acres
Roads and parking 30 to 50 acres
Steamboat Springs The developers of 360 Village are worried about erosion - not on their west of Steamboat Springs property, which they say poses little physical constraints, but of community character.
"We started out asking, what does the town need?" local partner Tony Connell said.
One answer to that question is entertainment, Connell said. On the property Tuesday, he noted the loss of Steamboat entertainment venues to redevelopment and spoke with enthusiasm about a planned amphitheater to be built on an interior ridge of the 350-acre parcel on U.S. Highway 40 just west of the Steamboat II and Silver Spur subdivisions.
"I think there's a huge need for entertainment, whether it's dance or theater or music venues," Connell said.
Another answer, Connell and fellow partner Randall Hannaway said, is housing, particularly the affordable type.
"Quite frankly, our goal is to be focused on the local person," said Hannaway, a Realtor with Colorado Group Realty. "They're leaving in huge groups, and that's dispiriting to me."
The developers also envision higher-end parcels of 1 acre or larger, but Tom Ernst of Catamount Financial said the project will be 60 percent affordable. What "affordable" means, however, is yet to be determined. Ernst, who described himself as the project's "CFO type," said the development's housing program will be determined by the results of an in-depth microanalysis of housing needs being conducted by the city of Steamboat Springs and Yampa Valley Housing Authority.
In their initial submittal to the city, the developers contemplate a number of amenities in addition to the amphitheater, including a chairlift that would transport people from the piazza at its commercial core to the top of a tabletop ridge that offers a panoramic view - hence the name 360 Village - that includes an unobstructed view of Sleeping Giant. As proposed, the chairlift would let off near the project's recreation center and the top of a flume trail.
Hannaway said building these amenities would not hinder the project's ability to contain mostly affordable homes - if the developers get what they want from the city.
"With the density we're hoping to get, it should work," Hannaway said.
High urban densities hinge on whether the city agrees to annex the project into city limits. Planning Services Manager John Eastman has said the project will be a tougher sell than the Steamboat 700 development currently under review. Unlike Steamboat 700, 360 Village is not adjacent to current city limits. State statute requires contiguity for annexation, so the project would require what Eastman called a "flagpole annexation," where the city would first annex rights-of-way along U.S. Highway 40 until it reached the project.
Although legal, Eastman has said that such an annexation may not be appealing because of the implications it has on the extension of city services.
"It's sheer physical proximity," Eastman said Tuesday. "You don't have to analyze much to see that."
Eastman would not comment further on the 360 Village submittal while the city's planning staff is analyzing it and preparing a staff report.
The developers have downplayed proximity concerns. Noting a church, a golf course and subdivisions, they say an urban-type community already exists in the west of Steamboat area.
The project is 1.3 miles from city limits as the crow flies and just more than 2 miles via U.S. 40. Connell said the distance is too petty a concern to prevent the construction of a community need.
"What we're really hoping is that people in this town recognize the need for housing," Connell said. "It's time to put the rubber to the road and get something done."
Ernst acknowledged that the nationwide downturn in the housing market does have an impact on 360 Village. The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price indexes showed a 14 percent decrease in home prices across the country in the first quarter of 2008 from a year earlier. In Steamboat, April's dollar volume of $67.24 million was well off $154 million in April 2007.
"We think there's the demand for all of our units," said Ernst, noting the community's thirst for affordable housing. "The question is, what sort of financing is out there for these people? : The credit side of it is probably the most difficult."
Lenders have tightened their practices since the subprime mortgage fallout that has triggered a decline of the overall national economy. Ernst said lending vehicles such as "stated-income loans" and "full financing" are no longer available. Such loans were given mostly to the type of homebuyers the developers of 360 Village say they are targeting.
"I'm not sure it's there today," Ernst said. "We're going to have programs available for all of those people, we just don't know what it looks like today."
Ernst said 360 Village is lucky to be in its conceptual phases.
"The market will come back sometime," Ernst said.
Kristi Mohrbacher contributed to this story