Downtown Steamboat group pursues tax dollars to encourage alley revitalization
August 13, 2017
A Steamboat Springs resident who helped give downtown a facelift by building modern retail and residential developments thinks there is still more work to be done.
Jim Cook, who helped build the Howelsen Place and Alpenglow buildings, has been eyeing the downtown alleys, and he sees two acres of untapped potential for gathering areas, retail storefronts and artistic expression.
"I'm excited about it," Cook said. "There hasn't been anyone that hasn't said, 'What a great idea.'"
The project has won over some members of the Steamboat Springs City Council, who see it as a great opportunity to improve downtown transportation.
"People complain about bikes on the sidewalks all the time, but to me, alleys are the perfect place for bikes to go, but the alleys aren't in the best shape right now," City Council member Lisel Petis said.
Petis said she also sees the potential economic impact benefits for Steamboat, which is largely dependent on sales tax revenues.
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"It's almost like a pedestrian mall," Petis said.
Cook and other members of the Main Street Steamboat Springs organization's Alley Impact Committee are pursuing excess lodging tax dollars to help launch the revitalization project, but some work is already taking place.
Steamboat Smokehouse this summer completed a new patio area along its alley between Oak Street and Lincoln Avenue.
In addition to the added seating space, there are murals and room for a game of cornhole.
The Mambo Italiano restaurant has also made improvements.
Cook has been working with the owner of the Tap House Sports Bar & Grill building to bring life to its alley between Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street.
Work will start soon to clear the clutter from behind the building and construct a deck with sliding doors underneath to conceal the dumpsters and grease pit.
"This is a great example of what can happen," Cook said.
Off the 1,600-square-foot deck, 1,000 square feet of the building will be remodeled to create a new retail space.
Cook said he has already had inquiries from prospective tenants, which include a potential brewery that is looking for space for a tasting room.
The Tap House project will be paid for solely by the building owner, but the Main Street team is seeking funding to provide incentives for other property owners.
Organizations throughout town have submitted proposals for how to spend more than $1 million in excess lodging tax revenues, and the alley advocates are going after $100,000 of it.
Along with those dollars, they hope to secure a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $30,000 from local banks to create a revolving loan.
With $180,000, Cook said, low-interest loans would be issued to property owners between Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street.
Cook noted that portions of that alley have already been redeveloped, and it is an easier place to launch the project.
Cook said he hoped all of the money would be lent out within the first 12 months.
He said many property owners are ready to invest, but there are bound to be some holdouts.
"There are going to be some tough sells," Cook said. "We'll get it done."
One of the priorities for alley revitalization will be to conceal and better manage the dumpsters and grease pits.
Cook said they are working with a company to bring in new grease pits; grease would be pumped from the pits instead of poured into a truck. That would mean less potential for spillage, and there would be more flexibility with where the pits could be located.
The Main Street alley group is also working with the city to make revisions to codes that would better define how trash needs to be stored.
Composting will also be a component, with the help of a local trash hauler who plans to resume picking up the material.
Cook said there are also plans to expand the festival lights into the alleys to improve the ambiance, and panels would be installed to create canvases for artists.