Steamboat Springs The ongoing effort to make Yampa Street a more walkable commercial area is poised to get a boost with news that the largest industrial presence on the street is getting closer to moving out.
Yampa Valley Electric Association announced Monday that it has put its 58-year-old headquarters on Yampa under contract with a developer who wants to repurpose the building into something that would include a mix of retail, residential and commercial spaces.
The development company, Blue Sage Ventures, currently is doing its due diligence by inspecting the building in preparation for a potential sale.
The company also soon will enter the city's planning process.
“YVEA has known for years that this location (on Yampa Street) isn't going to be suitable for us into the future,” YVEA General Manager Diane Johnson said Monday at her downtown office. “The building is aging, and for us, it's just not functional anymore. We've used it to the max we can use it.”
Johnson said progress on YVEA's new headquarters will drive the timing for the eventual sale of the building.
The electric company has identified two properties it owns, one 70-acre parcel near the proposed Steamboat 700 property and another 7-acre parcel off Elk River Road, as feasible building sites. YVEA bought the 70-acre parcel in 2012 for $2.025 million.
But Johnson said there could be other suitable sites.
She added that the other piece to the move is that the utility company doesn't fit in with the visions of Yampa Street that are starting to move forward.
When it was built, the roads around the YVEA headquarters were made of dirt and it wasn't surrounded by the mix of bars, restaurants and recreational stores it is today.
“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,” she said. “Our use is not compatible for what the community wants for this part of downtown.”
Since the building site for YVEA's new headquarters hasn't been settled on yet, Johnson said the optimistic goal is for the company to be out of its current headquarters sometime in the next two years.
She said constructing a new headquarters for YVEA ultimately will allow the rural electric co-op to better serve its customers.
In selecting a developer to potentially sell the building to, Johnson said YVEA thought it was important to find someone who understood the value of the historic building.
Steve Shelesky, the developer who is planning to repurpose the campus, said tearing down the structure isn't part of the plan.
“The vision I'm seeing here at this point is adaptive reuse,” he said. “I think we can be successful. The entire street and all the developments that occur here will really become an asset to downtown, and I think this building will be a part of that story.”
Shelesky, the managing principal of Blue Sage Ventures and a Steamboat resident, said he's already been approached by a number of potential tenants who have interest in the location.
He said the development would be unique because of the plan to offer on-site parking.
“A lot of what we're doing will be an anchor at this end of downtown,” he said.
The potential sale of the headquarters also includes YVEA's parking lot on 10th Street.
Shelesky said he plans to meet with Steamboat's Historic Preservation Commission on April 16 to start talking about the vision for the building.
In the end, he said it should be a 45,000- to 55,000-square-foot project.
“It was a modern building, so we're going to stick with modern industrial architecture,” he said. “It's going to be unique, and I hope it will be well suited to meet the needs and demands of the local business community.”
YVEA building has lots of history in Steamboat
The opening of the YVEA's downtown Steamboat headquarters in 1956 attracted a lot of attention.
Old photos of the opening show a band playing and a big crowd of people standing outside.
Today, the signs of the electric company's growth can be seen.
Some trucks are double or triple parked on the property, and you can still see where the additions to the building had to be constructed to accommodate more workers.
“We've been in it longer than we would have thought,” General Manager Diane Johnson said Monday.
YVEA started out of an old hotel before it moved into the courthouse annex downtown.
The company's expansion to serve the towns of Craig, Hayden and Steamboat in 1952 generated the need for a new building.
The current Steamboat Headquarters on Yampa and 10th streets was dedicated in 1956 and designed by Denver architect Eugene D. Sternberg.
The first addition to the building came in 1964.
For more on the history of the building and YVEA, click here.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10