Steamboat Springs A couple of residents hope to add a "historic" label to a chunk of downtown.
Tracy Barnett, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs manager, and Cami Bunn, vice-chairwoman of the Historic Preservation Commission, are embarking on a campaign to encourage businesses to create a historic district. They're eyeing Lincoln Avenue from Seventh to Ninth streets, Barnett said.
"We're trying to preserve at least the historic character of the center of downtown, the feel that made us an Old West town," she said.
Four buildings in that area are on national or local historic registers, Barnett said. In a historic district, they could receive tax credits, fee waivers and marketing advantages. Buildings that aren't historic would be included in the district but not eligible for the financial perks, Barnett said. They would gain marketing prestige, however, she said.
Concerns about rules
Under city rules, every building owner in those two blocks must want to be part of a historic district. Historic Preservation Coordinator Laureen Schaffer stressed that it would be 100 percent their choice.
"It's eligible, and we're ready to help them if they want to, but we're not designating the property," Schaffer said.
The historical buildings would need to apply with the city for a historic designation, she said. The entire two-block group then would apply to become a district. The Steamboat City Council would make the decision, Shaffer said. The process is free.
Steve Kennedy owns The Homesteader and its building, at 817 Lincoln Ave.
"I'd be interested in looking into it and what all that entails," Kennedy said about a possible historic district. "I'm not that well versed in the pluses and minuses of what a historic district does for you. : I'm interested in hearing anything that can help sustain our town in some manner."
Tod Allen, of Allen's Clothing, at 828 Lincoln Ave., said he was curious but wary. His family owns the building.
"I like the idea of historical districts; I just don't like the idea of imposing it on people," Allen said.
Barnett said she recognized that concern. She and Bunn plan to educate building owners about what it would mean to be part of a district.
"There's a huge issue with property rights. : You have to have owner consent to do anything, to be on the Steamboat Springs register," Barnett said. "And people are just freaked out about the government being involved at all, and it doesn't have the restrictions they seem to think it has."
Under historic preservation rules, owners of the historic buildings can do whatever they like to the interior. Renovations to the faÃ§ade would require approval, and demolition would be prohibited. Nonhistoric buildings would not have to meet any of those requirements, Schaffer said.
"There's rules that apply to them because of their location, the zoning district, so there are design standards they have to follow," she said. "But there aren't any additional standards they have to follow when they become a historic district."
Frank Hogue's family owns the Squire Building, which was built in 1908. It houses Lyon's Corner Drug at Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue. Hogue said he would like more information before deciding whether he supports a historic district.
"Those districts are special," he said. "They're kind of neat. It just depends on how it would affect the overall district down the road."
Jennifer Campbell, one of three Lyon's owners, was enthusiastic about creating a district. She noted that the decision would be Hogue's.
"I think we'd be interested in promoting something like that, for sure," Campbell said.
Shirley Stocks also liked the concept. Stocks owns Wild Horse Gallery on the northwest corner at Lincoln Avenue and Eight Street, in the Routt County National Bank Building. The building is on the Routt County Register of Historic Places.
When she took over the spot, she tried to restore it to its original state. Stocks exposed the tin ceiling, the bank vault and the boardroom.
"I just love historic preservation," Stocks said. "I think it would be a shame to tear down all these historic buildings."
She's also the president of the Steamboat Art Museum, which is across Lincoln Avenue in the city-owned Rehder Building. Museum Operations Director Betsy Chase also enthusiastically supported the idea of a historic district. The Rehder Building went up in 1905.
Part of the museum's mission is to preserve the art and culture of Northwest Colorado, Chase said.
"With us being in this building, it accomplishes that in at least two fields," she said.
The Steamboat Art Museum also has a tin ceiling and the Rehder Building's original floor, Chase said.
"This one's a jewel," she said, "an architectural jewel."