Our View: What a difference 2 weeks makes

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Just two weeks have passed since we editorialized in praise of the Yampa Street lodging tax committee’s prioritization of the acquisition of a vacant lot bordering the Yampa River at Seventh and Yampa streets as the first choice for spending $900,000 in lodging tax proceeds.

Steamboat Today editorial board — January to April 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karl Gills, community representative
  • Will Melton, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Although the acquisition of the parcel was not specified in the ballot question approved by voters, we reasoned that, after a long evaluation process in which proponents of Yampa Street often mentioned the park with a sense of urgency, it was what many voters thought they had cast their ballots for. We continue to think that securing more downtown access to the river would provide a significant benefit to tourism.

But now, we are reminded of how much can change in the span of two weeks.

Since March 23, the asking price for the riverfront property has gone up, according to City Council members, from a reported $1.3 million to as much as $1.9 million. One of our first reactions was to question whether an appraisal would support the price, and whether it would provide good value for public funds.

The other piece of information that recently came to light was the news on Monday that Yampa Valley Electric Association is much closer than we realized to selling its historic building on Yampa Street between Ninth and 10th streets. That creates the potential for developing a pocket park on the river at the site where the ambulance barn now sits, opposite YVEA, which suddenly is more appealing.

A park at Seventh and Yampa offers the promise of creating public access in a block where there currently is very little. That site also offers the potential to someday build a new pedestrian bridge linking Yampa Street to Howelsen Hill. However, the prospect of Blue Sage Ventures, the prospective buyer of the YVEA building, redeveloping the property (without demolishing the building) to offer a mix of commercial and residential is one that commands attention.

City Councilman Tony Connell and other council members can be credited for recognizing the implications of this new development.

Credit also is due to YVEA General Manager Diane Johnson and Blue Sage principal Steve Shelesky for sharing their news with the community before the transaction closes.

For being relatively new to the community, Johnson seems to have a firm grasp on the changing dynamic on Yampa Street.

“Yampa Street, even without these latest dreams and visions of the community, has become more of a pedestrian and biking street, and we have garages that back out onto that street,” Johnson told Steamboat Today. “Our use is not compatible for what the community wants for this part of downtown.”

In addition to being far more cost effective, the ambulance barn option offers the opportunity for the public sector to amplify and make the most of private sector development right across the street. The existing pedestrian bridge already is nearby at Ninth Street, and a small parking lot is in place there. Removing a light industrial building to make way for the kinds of businesses that attract tourists and drive sales tax revenues is one of the primary goals of revitalizing the river district.

Assuming the sale of the YVEA building closes, that transaction also would lend credence to the city’s plan to sell its police and fire building to help fund a new police station. That in turn could lead to a new permanent home for the ambulance barn and Routt County Search and Rescue.

YVEA isn’t prepared to leave downtown for about two years, which offers time for City Council and the Yampa Street lodging tax committee to revisit the master plan for Yampa Street and build a budget, which, in addition to the new park, could include nearby pedestrian improvements.

The city hired Britina Design for $439,000 to redesign the streetscapes on Oak and Yampa streets as well as Lincoln Avenue. Those plans were incorporated into the design of pedestrian bump-outs at the corners of side streets of Lincoln Avenue in 2010.

The vision for Yampa street was one of a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly zone that could host festivals.

With the strong potential for the western end of the commercial corridor on Yampa Street to receive a shot of new energy in the not-so-distant future, summer 2014 would be a good time to revisit existing streetscape plans and make the most of our opportunity.

Comments

Fred Duckels 8 months, 2 weeks ago

This might work in that the huge parking lot between 10TH and 11TH could be used for affordable housing so that this group can get their pound of flesh.

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John St Pierre 8 months, 2 weeks ago

How was this a surprise???? all along it was a bailout for property owners on Yampa who cannot their lots or raise the cash to develop them by tying the trails to Yampa vote... So the question now is Ms Town Manager... are you going to allow the town to be blackmailed??? or are you going to follow what everyone wanted in the 1st place the $ be spent on trails..... better still put it back to a vote.....

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Pat West 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The question should be: what part of the Yampa Street River Park is affordable with $300k? They only need 3 answers. One for this year, and two more.

Shall the city of Steamboat Springs be obligated to a multiple-fiscal year obligation by allocating, for the next 10 fiscal years, the revenues from the existing public accommodations tax (tax revenues), on a fiscal year basis, as follows: A) The first $600,000 of tax revenues to be split on a 50 percent-50 percent basis between 1. the development of trails in and around the city in accordance with the Trails Alliance proposal and 2) improvements to Yampa Street in accordance with the Yampa Street River Park proposal, until the total allocation to the improvements on Yampa Street reaches $900,000, thereafter 100 percent of the first $600,000 of tax revenues shall be spent on development of trails; B) the next $60,000 of tax revenues to be split on a 50 percent-50 percent basis between 1. marketing of the tourist-related improvements constructed with tax revenues and 2. reserves for the Haymaker Golf Course capital improvements; and C) any tax revenues in excess of $660,000 may be spent at the discretion of city council on projects authorized by the 1986 public accommodations tax ballot question

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Scott Wedel 8 months, 2 weeks ago

As if the possible Yampa St improvements had a serious impact upon YVEA's plans. This is just another Yampa St improvement because it is now relatively valuable real estate.

YVEA has been talking about their needs for a newer, larger HQ for years. Unlike the city, YVEA has purchased at seemingly great prices two very plausible sites. YVEA has also decided to partner in the remodeling of their building to a first rate building instead of selling it cheaply as a project to a favored buyer.

YVEA is also in a much better position regarding their building than the city because YVEA's building is much newer and the city's public services building is YVEA's older building.

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rhys jones 8 months, 2 weeks ago

YVEA is a business, therefore much smarter than government. That building is destined for the dozer, dinosaur that it is. That property would be better served as a parking structure.

Since when are we in the property business? Who says we need all these extra parks? There isn't enough access to the river already? These are tight times. Let the property values settle where they may, I see no need of easing the market via taxpayer money, nor squeezing private enterprise out of the neighborhood. Venture capital bought in, now let them find their way out.

Spend this money on sidewalks and trails, like it was intended.

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Cresean Sterne 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Just another park to give up to tripple crown for most of the summer..(LOL) But realisticly a parking structure makes great sense. We have had a parking issue forever downtown and talk about metered parking is something I hope we avoid. A 2-3 level parking garage would alleviate some of the stress and it would be centraly located.

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Scott Wedel 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The previous parking study showed that there is plenty of downtown parking for customers and visitors. The problem is all of the business owners and employees that park in prime downtown spots.

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rhys jones 8 months, 2 weeks ago

It doesn't matter whose vehicles they are, they have to go somewhere. Downtown parking has been a problem for decades, especially during special events such as the 4th of July.

Stockbridge never worked out as the park-n-ride originally intended. My guess is because commuters don't want to drive 40 miles or more, to have to catch a bus for the last mile or two in. Then reverse the process to get home.

I just mentioned parking structure in passing; my intent was not to change the focus of this discussion. However, since it seems to have garnered some interest... I DO think a multi-tiered parking structure where YVEA sits now, would go farther toward enhancing both locals' and visitors' experiences, than another silly little park with a few benches or tables. They own that lot across 10th too, right? More potential.

One way or the other, I'll bet that eyesore of a building is TOAST.

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Pat West 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Did you read the story about the YVEA building, it's not up for public debate what YVEA is planning to do with their building, or their huge parking lot. They plan to re develop it with Blue Sky into commercial/residential space, and not demo it. The opinion piece just seems to lean towards turning the SAR/ambulance barn that's across the street, into a pocket park. As it's right over the bridge to Howleson Hill, the extra open space would be nice, but really ther is no pressure to use 2a funds for this as it's already owned by SAR. And who knows its value, will purchase, demo and construction fall under the $900k limit?

Personally I think if you want to solve the parking "problem" downtown the real solution is paid parking, with enforcement to get downtown workers to rethink driving downtown and parking all day in the spaces for shoppers.

http://www.steamboattoday.com/news/2014/mar/31/yampa-valley-electric-getting-closer-selling-its-d/

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rhys jones 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Pat -- I was just thinking outside the box, can't help it, I can't even color within the lines.

That said, I have only two further comments:

The powers of condemnation are vast, and

I revert to my original position: That $900K should go to trails, as it was originally voted and intended.

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Pat West 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I support your original position, but it is not what we voted for.

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Scott Wedel 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Looks to me that the YVEA parking lot across the street gives then far more than required parking. So they can probably propose a development there as well.

I'd be stunned if a multi level parking garage if ever built downtown. First, the ramps between levels take a lot of room and you need a larger parcel so that the ramps are a small portion of the parking area on a level. Otherwise, two level ends up with no more parking than single level parking lot. Second, parking garages are ugly and detrimental to pedestrian oriented commercial districts.

There is no systematic reasons why parking at transit center cannot work. It would seem to just need a commitment of a shuttle and getting business staff to park out there. SB city staff and Routt County staff should be leading the way freeing up their parking for the public and having staff use the transit center.

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