Planning experts coming to discuss Yampa Street redevelopment


Yampa Street overview video, courtesy of Cedar Beauregard

Yampa Street Planning Study from Beauregard, Steamboat Aerials on Vimeo.

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Make your voice heard, and tell the city of Steamboat Springs and the team from the Urban Land Institute what you would do to realize the full potential of Yampa Street. Email suggestions to

— A team of six volunteer urban planners and developers with expertise in Colorado’s resort towns will arrive in Steamboat late this week to begin planning for the city’s long-anticipated goal of transforming Yampa Street.

Since the late 1980s, city officials have been devising plans to turn Yampa Street into a pedestrian-friendly commercial district that improves on the link to the Yampa River and the recreational facilities at nearby Howelsen Hill. Now, a team of planners, developers and engineers is coming from the Colorado Chapter of the Urban Land Institute and bringing with it experience gained on projects from Denver’s Cherry Creek North to the town of Crested Butte.

“This panel was hand-picked,” Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said Monday. “We spent several weeks going down the list of potential candidates for the panel. Every one of our first choices accepted within a couple of hours of being offered.”

They will form what the Urban Land Institute calls a Technical Assistance Panel that will study the potential on Yampa Street and engage business and property owners in a brainstorming session to explore the strategies the city could pursue to reinvigorate Yampa Street.

The team from the Urban Land Institute will go beyond brainstorming, Gibbs said, and return by the end of summer with a written report that will include recommendations on how to fund the improvements and begin the work.

Gibbs said the gestation period for the anticipated changes has now extended beyond 20 years. But this year, with Yampa Valley Electric Association having purchased a new site for its headquarters and the city interested in pursuing a similar path with its police and fire stations on Yampa Street, the potential for new investment along the river looks greater than it did just a year ago.

YVEA has entered into a purchase contract for a 70-acre parcel of land in west Steamboat previously slated for the Overlook Park residential subdivision. YVEA officials have acknowledged they eventually plan to relocate the electric cooperatives headquarters there, freeing up a valuable chunk of downtown real estate that is considered essential to redeveloping Yampa Street.

“What an amazing opportunity,” Gibbs said. “A lot of towns have a river running through them,” but few of them have a park like Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain, complete with ski jumps and mountain bike trails, on the edge of the downtown.

The members of the TAP team include Jim DeFrancia, a part-time Steamboat resident and a principal in the national development firm Lowe Enterprises; Richard Marshall, a Denver expert on streetscape and urban design who has worked with several national parks; John Koval, an executive with Coburn Development who has worked on infill projects in Boulder; Mark Heller, of the Golden Urban Renewal Authority; Anna Jones, an expert on downtown development authorities and improvement districts; and Carlos Hernandez, a transportation engineer.

Team members already understand, Gibbs said, that the community wants to preserve the small cafes and shops in older buildings along the river side of Yampa Street.

“The funky local stuff is important,” Gibbs said. “We wouldn’t want to see local character lost.”

In the midst of a struggling national and local economy, Gibbs said it might strike some as odd timing to contemplate taking on the expense of infrastructure improvements on Yampa Street. However, in terms of sending a signal to the investment community that Steamboat Springs is proactive and looking to the future, the timing is good, he said. Coming up with a plan and putting in the right zoning regulations that take the guesswork out of redevelopment are key to attracting the right investors for Steamboat, Gibbs added.

“I think great communities look for opportunities and ask, ‘What do we need to put in place in order to tell the world we’re ready for investment, we’re moving forward and we’re excited, ourselves,’” Gibbs said.

Based on the constructive comments received at the email address, Gibbs thinks a significant number of community members feel similarly.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email


John Weibel 4 years, 9 months ago

The question I would have is, is how much more retail space is needed downtown? Stores are vacant and maybe, the best option is to try to enhance what is already here - as far as shopping goes. Yampa's rise might be Lincoln's demise, redevelop yampa by making it one way with diagnol parking on the North /east side of the street. Put in a sidewalk on the south/west side of the street and turn the Fire station into a park if that is what you are trying to do. Then let a developer figure out what to do with the YVEA facility and the police facility as the developer that thought that the trailer park should be redeveloped is still sitting on their hands.

The region really needs to focus on figuring out how to create more wealth either via extracting it, ie tourism - though with looming food price increases that is going to slow or energy and that has the potential to harm tourism. We can also create new wealth through invention - location neutral business, or turning sunlight into food or fuel energy and turning that into an engine for development.

Redeveloping Yampa is not going to bring about some shift that is going to bring more tourists here. They are coming and will continue to come. The only thing redeveloping Yampa will do is alleviate some traffic/parking issues for YVEA and city employees. That probably can be done more effectively with better flows of traffic through town via one way streets through town.

My crystal ball still suggests that we are in a muddle through stage of this economic cycle and that the vacant retail space will be fairly hard to absorb and adding more will not help the situation.


mark hartless 4 years, 9 months ago

"Why the transfer of decisions from those with personal [local] experience and a stake in the outcome, to those with neither can be expected to lead to better decisions is a question seldom asked, much less answered

... experts are often called in, not to provide dispassionate analysis for the purpose of decision-making, but to give cover for decisions already made and based on other considerations entirely

... what is often called "planning" is [actually] the forcible SUPRESSION of the plans of [property owners and would-be investors]

Planners are also well aware that their own incomes and careers depend on providing ideas that are saleable to the politicians who employ them, whose goals and methods become the planners goals and methods

...Experts should be on tap, not on top."

--Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society

Why can't those who have a vested interest in Yampa St make their own decisions, on their own dime, in their own time? What business is it of City Hall, or of people who own no property there, or of tourists? Even together all these entities can't possibly know as much as the combined knowledge of all the property owners and investors with a vested interest along Yampa St. And none of the "planners" will suffer if they are wrong, the property owners will. Let those with a vested interest decide to remain there for the same reasons that YVEA choses to leave. It all works out. Leave it alone.


Fred Duckels 4 years, 9 months ago

Along Mark's line of thinking traffic studies in the past produced only predetermined results validating wishes of the a certain group.


Brian Smith 4 years, 9 months ago

Have to say, I am generally up for changes, the new promenade at the ski area, awesome, really needed it. But, I really like the way Yampa is, a bit weird and quirky. Fancy stuff on Lincoln, quirky on Yampa. Would really like to see some focus on parking downtown, couple times I have not been able to find a spot, I just went home. There has to be somewhere a parking garage could be slipped in without being too much of an eye sore.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

Parking is so easy to solve. Just get downtown employees to park at the transit center. Just get city and county employees to park there and have a city shuttle to transit center would free up more spots than a parking garage.

And congratulate on the City Page the businesses successfully getting their staff to park in the transit center.

The amount of parking being used up by downtown business owners and their employees is enough that it is actually hurting their businesses, but none of them think that if they were to park in the transit center that it would make any difference.


rhys jones 4 years, 9 months ago

My two cents (and about what it's worth):

Once YVEA vacates, make that into a multi-level parking structure. Lord knows we need it. Got plenty of everything else.


rhys jones 4 years, 9 months ago

Or the PD. Or both.

I can't WAIT for the day I can say "I remember the day, sonny, when..."

Oh wait. I'm saying that NOW. Senility is progress too, right?


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