Take a stroll down Yampa Street on a Friday summer evening and you can quickly see the potential.
Cyclists stroll down the roadway past a stream of parked cars as crowds mingle along the roaring Yampa River in the backyards of Sunpie’s Bistro and Sweetwater Grill.
Later in the evening, bar revelers can hit up a new falafel stand tucked across a vibrant bar scene.
For the planners of the Yampa Street promenade, there is perhaps no better time than now for the lodging tax dollars to suddenly become available.
Planners from the Urban Land Institute traveled to Steamboat Springs last year and told the city the Yampa River is this mountain resort community’s jewel, and it was time to take dusty and thick plans to improve the roadway off of shelves and finally make them a reality.
Despite decades-old plans that outlined potential improvements, sidewalks and lighting currently are scarce on Yampa Street, and walkers, skateboarders and cyclists don’t have much room to avoid car traffic. A few riverside properties also sit vacant, and they got no bites in a down economy.
The ULI planners’ visit came as city officials devised a plan to sell their downtown police and fire stations, another unwanted presence on the street, and replace them with growing outdoor retailers BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger.
But the plan ultimately did not come to fruition.
The snag hasn’t stopped downtown stakeholders from planning a major makeover of Yampa Street.
Stakeholders on the funky and well-traveled street that also is home to Sunpie’s “Sing-along Sundays," two relatively new and successful bars, a popular gelato spot and some residences are pushing hard for the city to invest alongside business owners in a plan to revitalize the street.
The group of business owners and Realtors want to convert three available parcels of land into small parks with river access and use the new infrastructure to bring more festivals and events to the area.
“At the end of the day, we have an opportunity to have an impact on our visitors’ experience and our tourists by embarking on this project,” Chris Paoli, of Colorado Group Realty, said in early June. “This is something that is seen by everybody. Felt by everybody. Touched by everybody.”
Each park would take on a different theme and purpose, Paoli said.
One is envisioned to hold a stage and accommodate new music festivals. Another could someday host an ice skating rink.
The most critical, and time sensitive, part of the Yampa River promenade project is the purchase of the three parcels of land that would be converted into the parks.
In their proposal, the downtown stakeholders estimated 603 Yampa St. would cost $675,000 to $1 million to purchase, 655 Yampa St. will cost $1.2 million to $1.4 million and a parcel owned by Yampa Valley Electric Association on 10th Street will cost $400,000 to $1 million.
The business owners also someday hope to construct a new bridge from Seventh Street to Howelsen Hill.
Proponents of the plan readily point to Telluride as a mountain resort community that has used downtown amenities to grow its summer tourism above its winter tourism.
“This promenade could extend our shoulder season,” Paoli said. “We’ll have people lingering in an area where they’re going to spend money with our business owners.” ■