Our View: A move in the right direction
July 8, 2014
The Steamboat Springs City Council voted last week to enter into negotiations to purchase a small piece of residential property at 603 Yampa St. with plans to develop the parcel into a riverside pocket park. The action followed a recommendation made to council by the Yampa Street lodging tax committee, which is tasked with helping decide how the lodging tax dollars earmarked for the project (as much as $900,000 throughout two years) are spent.
We support the City Council's move to try to buy the property, and we agree with council member Tony Connell's assessment that the time to buy is now rather than later, as property values are sure to rise.
Connell and fellow council member Walter Magill showed strong leadership in pushing the council for action on the committee's recommendation in a 4-3 decision. They were joined in their affirmative votes by Kenny Reisman and Bart Kounovsky.
The council's move to try to purchase riverside property also makes sense because there are few undeveloped pieces of property left along Yampa Street and this particular parcel, located on the south side of the street along the river, is a prime spot to create a public park with prime river access. It fits with the overall vision for Yampa Street and would provide a good catalyst for future development.
Although Yampa Street has many strengths, one of its weaknesses is a lack of public access to the river.
With the railroad occupying the southside of the river between Yampa Street and Howelsen Hill, we think the creation of public places where kids and families can dangle their feet in the river or picnic alongside the water is pivotal to the overall vision and success of the Yampa Street promenade project. The purchase of the 603 Yampa St. property is one of the few opportunities left to make this happen.
The property at 603 Yampa St. is well located next to the existing Lions Park, offering the opportunity to add another 125 feet of riverside access to the east end of Yampa Street. A pocket park at this location, with amenities like gazebos, picnic shelters or a small outdoor skating rink, would serve to welcome visitors to the river district and strengthen the appeal of the entire business district.
Developing this property into a park has the potential to accelerate progress of the Yampa Street promenade project, which in turn will create an engaging river district, grow the city's tax base and expand downtown beyond busy Lincoln Avenue.
We acknowledge that the purchase of property along the river will consume a large chunk of the lodging tax money with little left to spend toward developing the park or building an actual promenade. The $900,000 earmarked for the project from the lodging tax money is finite and never was intended to finance all planned improvements, which are estimated to cost $2.8 million excluding land costs.
In our opinion, the property purchase represents a good first step. The next step must involve pursuing grant opportunities and also working toward establishing a business improvement district and possible Urban Renewal District to provide long-term support for the park as well as funding for other planned amenities like sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.
We wholeheartedly support the vision for a revitalized Yampa Street, and we think any money the city puts into the project is an investment in future sales tax dollars that is beneficial to visitors and locals alike.