RiverView: Hundreds of millions of dollars in new downtown Steamboat development | SteamboatToday.com

RiverView: Hundreds of millions of dollars in new downtown Steamboat development

Cohesive downtown do-over

RiverView developers propose to design five different zones within 4.5 acres of downtown Steamboat to be compatible.

— The RiverView project, which holds the potential to transform the eastern entrance to downtown Steamboat Springs along the Yampa River with the development of hundreds of millions of dollars in hotel and residential properties, cleared a significant hurdle April 27.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission voted 6-1 this week in favor of an encompassing rezoning of 4.5 acres of development ground between Lincoln Avenue and the river from Third to Fifth street. No new buildings were approved in the process, but if the Steamboat Spring City Council agrees, the vote means property owners, Green Courte Partners, could pitch five distinct pieces of the broader development, including a new hotel on Lincoln Avenue just west of the iconic Rabbit Ears Motel, to prospective partners.

Those future developers would enjoy a degree of flexibility in the building projects they ultimately propose to the city.

The majority of new buildings would be across the alley and immediately south of the existing Natural Grocers, The Chieftain, Fourth Street Offices and Fifth Street Marketplace buildings.

The rezone, in the form of what the city calls a "planned unit development," or PUD, goes next to public hearings before City Council June 6. It's essentially a blueprint for what could happen there in the future. But if Green Courte gains council's approval for the PUD, infrastructure work could begin this year.

Planning commission members praised both the developers and city planning staff for their collaboration on the application.

"This has been 16 months in the process, but what's come out the other end is a good project Steamboat can be proud of," Planning Commission Charlie MacArthur said. "I don't hold any illusions this parcel will solve low-income or worker housing, but it does create housing supply, and supply is something this community needs." New "supply in any area helps alleviate pressure off the entire market."

Green Courte's Managing Director Mark Scully, who spearheaded the development of downtown properties such as Howelsen Place and Alpenglow a decade ago, said that, ideally, the company would attract development partners interested in taking on the different components of the overall development.

"I'm already talking to hotel partners and developers (for this site) at the front door of downtown," Scully told planning commissioners. "We've owned the site for over 10 years, and it's time to evolve to the next phase of life. … The overall project is probably $300 million to $400 million, so it's a lot of development coming to Steamboat."

In addition to developing a new hotel on Lincoln Avenue, the project envisions a variety of residential products, from townhomes to apartments and low-density homes.

Consulting architect Bill Rangitsch, of Steamboat Architectural Associates, told planning commission the custom zone district would allow the project managers to design, or "sculpt," an entire section of downtown, including public improvements, rather than just a single building.

"It's an opportunity to take a large tract of downtown and, rather than design it as different projects, take five zones and make them work together, with the ability to move square footage around from parcel to parcel and, likewise, parking," Rangitsch said.

He added that the new urban residential development would support existing restaurants and retail businesses downtown.

The developers say they invested $2 million in improvements on the site in 2008, when they were awarded a development permit for the site, which has since lapsed. Those improvements included cost participation in moving sewer lines and building new box culverts to get Spring Creek out of the flood plain where it approaches ad flows under Lincoln Avenue, civil engineer Ryan Spaustat of Landmark Consultants told Planning Commission.

This time around, a partial list of "community enhancements" being offered by the developers includes a public plaza at Fifth and Yampa streets, public gathering spaces at the Third Street Spring Creek outlet and at Fourth Street on the Yampa River, 25 new public parking spaces and a meandering, 4- to 5-foot wide soft service path along the river between Third and Fourth streets and a 0.25-percent real estate transfer fee devoted to stream quality improvements along the downtown stretch of the Yampa.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1