People fill Gondola Square as Lyrics Born performs a free concert Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area. The Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee reported to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Thursday about construction of the new promenade at the base of the ski area but adjourned without making a recommendation about how best to spend the $4.5 million budget it has this summer.

Photo by Matt Stensland

People fill Gondola Square as Lyrics Born performs a free concert Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area. The Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee reported to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Thursday about construction of the new promenade at the base of the ski area but adjourned without making a recommendation about how best to spend the $4.5 million budget it has this summer.

Steamboat promenade recommendation delayed

Advisory group postpones decision about base area project

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— The citizens committee that reports to the Steamboat Springs City Council about the construction of the new promenade at the base of the ski area adjourned after three hours Thursday without making a recommendation about how to get the best project for the $4.5 million it has to spend this summer.

Everyone agrees that two more seasons of work would be needed to build the pathway that would wrap the ski base in a horseshoe shape, as well as bring Burgess Creek out of its subterranean culvert. And they know they are short about $2.7 million of the estimated two-year construction budget of $7.2 million. How best to spend the $4.5 million budget in hand this summer is the dilemma.

“How do we deal with this huge question mark that’s hanging over the table?” Committee member Peter Patten asked his colleagues on the committee.

The Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee deferred the decision to a special meeting set for 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Crawford Room of Centennial Hall.

URAAC heard that Duckels Construction, which completed the first phase of the promenade project last year, was the unanimous choice of a contractor selection committee that interviewed three local firms chosen as finalists.

Committee member David Baldinger Jr. said Duckels’ proposal of $7.2 million was the low bid.

When URAAC members reconvene next week, they’ll try to decide whether to build the promenade from the plaza in front of Torian Plum south to the deck outside Bear River Bar & Grill at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, plus about 120 lineal feet of the daylighted stream. Or, they could recommend going with a less glamorous plan of work that could set the stage for the entire length of stream extending beyond One Steamboat Place, while postponing the shorter stretch of stream indefinitely.

Baldinger said he favors the proposal to daylight a portion of the creek.

“I think building the promenade to the deck at Bear River could create a very nice entrance to Gondola Square,” Baldinger said.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. CEO and President Chris Diamond said he’s concerned that without a completed promenade, the project will have lost its way.

“We wouldn’t have a project, if this is it,” he said. “All we have is $4.5 million. Is this all we’re going to do? I’d scrap the creek and redesign the promenade if we have to.”

Joe Kracum, base area redevelopment coordinator, told the committee members that although the scope of work for this summer still can be adjusted, the firm bid that Duckels submitted was for construction for the trail as far as the Bear River restaurant deck with the abbreviated version of the reconstructed stream.

“Here’s what we can get done,” Kracum said.

Duckels would build the promenade from Slopeside Grill to the top of the Torian Plum parking garage and then complete a set of stairs and a circular ramp descending to the lower elevation of the slope where it passes the Christie Peak Express chairlift and beyond the grade-level eastern entrance to the Sheraton to the corner of Gondola Square. The promenade would have a snowmelt system fed by a boiler room at Torian.

Diamond asked the committee to study the plan to find another $200,000 to build the anticipated second boiler room for the second leg of the promenade. With that flexibility in hand, he said, he would go to Ski Corp. owners Intrawest and Fortress Investment Group to pitch a plan to fund and rebuild a new, larger, terraced version of the Bear River deck. In addition, he proposes tearing up the pavers outside the gondola building to install a snowmelt system at Ski Corp.’s expense, as well as expanding the second boiler room to meet the Ski Corp.’s expanded snowmelt needs.

Diamond said it was premature to give a cost estimate for Ski Corp.’s work plan, but he would like to get it done concurrently with the promenade work to tie the projects together visually. He has yet to gain corporate approval for the expenditure.

Ski Corp. Vice President of Skier Services Jim Schneider, who also serves on the committee, urged his colleagues to consider abandoning the short section of daylighted creek in favor of conducting preliminary grading for the length of the streambed and burying all of the necessary plumbing lines while water and sewer are being relocated along that course anyway.

“Wouldn’t it be better to come back (in 2011 or later) with skid steers and landscaping equipment instead of a second year of backhoes?” he asked.

Time will be of the essence when URAAC convenes Wed­nesday. The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the City Council, acting as the Urban Renewal Authority, by April 6. Construction is scheduled to begin April 16.

In the meantime, Kracum and Baldinger will continue working on an economic white paper intended to convince the City Council that it would be fiscally beneficial to loan the Urban Renewal Authority much of the unfunded $2.7 million in construction budgets. They already estimate that they can dig into that number by reducing the cost of insuring interest rates on their bonds, cutting construction costs and carrying forward unanticipated revenues from the 2009 bond issue.

They hope to make the case that extending the loan would allow the city to begin reaping the sales tax and employment benefits of a completed promenade and creek sooner rather than later.

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