Downtown Steamboat Springs on verge of one of its biggest makeovers in years
July 26, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Tracy Barnett has a fitting metaphor to describe the flurry of recent meetings and forums about the future of downtown Steamboat Springs.
“We are getting hit with a fire hose,” the Mainstreet Steamboat Springs manager said Thursday as she talked about all of the downtown initiatives that are moving forward at the same time. “I’m really glad it’s all happening, but it’s hard to keep up with.”
Downtown Steamboat Springs is on the verge of one of its biggest makeovers in many years, and the dominos could start falling soon.
A large industrial company is preparing to leave an entire block of Yampa Street to make way for new commercial and retail spaces.
Consultants have been visiting the downtown corridor in recent weeks to figure out how parking could be improved.
And downtown stakeholders this fall will be asked if they want to pay a property tax to pay for maintenance and improvements in their area.
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Residents and business owners here will have a big opportunity to weigh in once again on the city’s downtown parking situation Tuesday night when the city hosts a public forum on the topic at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.
Parking committees and studies have been hot topics in Steamboat Springs now for decades.
It’s an issue that never seems to go away.
“We’ve had parking committees now for 40 years,” Barnett said.
The current Steamboat Springs City Council at recent meetings has resolved to try and improve the parking situation downtown.
What isn’t yet clear is what changes will come, though ideas floated around so far include paid parking and better enforcement.
Current complaints about downtown parking here include difficulty in finding spaces during peak hours, a large number of prime spaces being taken by employees and a lack of parking enforcement.
Some downtown visitors and shoppers, however, say they don’t feel like Steamboat has much of a parking problem.
Tuesday’s parking forum comes as the city is spending $54,000 to have a consulting group based out of Denver study Steamboat’s downtown parking situation and make recommendations for how to improve it.
An online survey about parking downtown also is underway.
Efforts to revitalize Yampa Street into a more pedestrian friendly commercial district again were bolstered last week when Yampa Valley Electric Association announced it had found a new home away from downtown.
Local business leaders and city officials have been praising the announcement.
“It certainly puts us in a position to move out of here faster,” YVEA President and CEO Diane Johnson said about the electric cooperative’s purchase of 15 acres of the former TIC campus for $9.7 million.
She said some staff could move into the new headquarters later this year.
The current headquarters is under contract with a developer who plans to convert it into a mix of retail, residential and commercial spaces.
YVEA’s headquarters and the city’s public safety building have been viewed by many business owners and city officials as a “dead zone” on Yampa Street.
While the timeline for YVEA’s move away is becoming more clear, it remains to be seen how soon the police and fire stations will be gone.
City Council last month directed city staff to vet three locations for a new police station out of the downtown area.
Learn about the sites here.
Urban Renewal Authority
City staff will take the City Council’s temperature Aug. 5 on a proposal to use tax increment financing to pay for improvements in the downtown corridor.
At stake will be whether the council wants to proceed, and how much future sales tax revenue they’re willing to redirect to pay for public improvements downtown.
“We’ll talk to council about where they’re comfortable with taking the incremental sales tax,” City Manager Deb Hinsvark said Thursday. “That’s our conversation for that Tuesday.”
A consultant working with the city has estimated a TIF downtown could raise $20 million for public improvements, mostly from city sales tax.
Business improvement district
A business improvement district board has in recent months used a survey to find out what downtown stakeholders would want to see if the district is funded with a property tax.
“It was kind of what we expected, I think,” Barnett said about the survey results. “Maintenance and beautification of downtown were a big part of it.”
That includes things like flower baskets and trash maintenance.
Public restrooms also were a top item in the survey, but they could not be funded by a BID.
Barnett said the business improvement board will meet this week to discuss further outreach and also continue to figure out what the actual ballot question should be in November.
The last ballot initiative to fund a BID downtown failed by just a handful of votes.
Yampa Street patrons will see new restaurants, curb stops and other public infrastructure improvements this summer.
One of the bigger changes currently is being explored by the city.
At the recommendation of a volunteer committee vetting Yampa Street improvements, the City Council recently directed city staff to start negotiating with the Workman family to see if they would be interested in selling the old yellow house at Sixth and Yampa streets.
If purchased, the home would be torn down and converted into a public park with improved river access.
The city would pay for the project with the $900,000 in lodging tax dollars that voters here approved to spend on Yampa improvements.
The city could have an update on its initial conversations with the Workman family as soon as next week.
Revitalizing all of downtown
Last year, a group of business owners and stakeholders representing all of Steamboat’s downtown streets was meeting regularly to brainstorm ways for how to improve the downtown corridor.
Barnett said although those talks with that group have taken a hiatus as separate initiatives started branching away, there are plans to reconvene the meetings focused on all of downtown.
“It’s time to bring those people together,” Barnett said.