Steamboat plans for improvements to Yampa Street
March 10, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Some possibilities for the revitalization of Yampa Street: a pedestrian mall, a cycling hub, a place for retail and restaurants, an entertainment district or a combination of those things.
Although city officials, community leaders and Yampa business owners may not be sure what the street eventually will become, one thing they agree on is that Steamboat Springs needs a plan. They said everyone will have to work together to develop a unified community vision for the downtown riverfront area.
"I think, like many in Steamboat, we all realize Yampa Street is this fabulous opportunity to create something very unique and special in Steamboat, essentially on the river but off Lincoln," said Mark Scully, managing director of Green Courte Partners, which developed Howelsen Place at Seventh and Yampa streets and owns several other properties on Yampa. "With good planning, you can create a very special place."
That planning will continue in the next couple of weeks.
The Steamboat Springs City Council will hear two Yampa-related presentations March 20. And Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is hosting a meeting of Yampa stakeholders March 27.
The planning process
Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said that the community has an idea that it wants Yampa to be pedestrian and bike friendly but that people are walking around parked cars and through puddles. He said Steamboat has talked about it since the 1980s, when the city started making plans that have yet to take shape.
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Gibbs wants to take the next step.
The city has a verbal agreement with the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit that helps communities across the country with planning for large civic projects. Gibbs said the institute will send a volunteer technical advisory panel to Steamboat in midsummer. He said the volunteers, who are experts in a variety of areas related to development, will review information about Yampa before advising the city about how to proceed with development.
Gibbs said there are several challenges to the "haphazard environment" that is Yampa, from improving drainage to adding sidewalks, curbs, gutters and parking to moving utility lines underground and creating better public access to the river. He said there's also a desire to move the city's police and fire departments from Yampa.
But Gibbs wanted to emphasize one thing.
"This isn't intended to be an effort to sanitize, if you will," he said. "I think one of the things we love about Yampa is its funkiness," he said. "How do we make that better? How do we preserve its character but make it more accessible? How do we highlight those things that are wonderful and unique about it?"
Gibbs said he hopes to sign Urban Land Institute to an agreement that would finalize the volunteer panelists' trip to Steamboat. He said it would cost about $15,000 to cover travel and expenses. Gibbs is scheduled to make a presentation about the panel March 20 to City Council.
Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark also will give a presentation March 20 to the City Council. She said it would include how revitalization of Yampa would impact the city's economic outlook and how the police and fire departments could be moved.
City Council member Walter Magill said whatever happens on Yampa, he wants it to start with the Downtown Design Guidelines that the city paid $439,000 to Britina Design Group, of Arvada, in 2007 to create.
Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett said she is organizing a meeting of Yampa stakeholders to bring everybody up to speed "because rumors are flying." She said the organization, which promotes downtown Steamboat and has an office on Yampa, isn't ready to do anything.
Barnett said that the city is at the idea stage and that the stakeholders have some of their own ideas. She said the whole community is going to have to participate in the process.
"There are a lot of factors that people need to think about that need to be in place before there's money and things start happening again," Barnett said. "When the economy turns around and there's development pressure again, we all need to be on the same page."
Public Works Director Philo Shelton said there are no projects planned for Yampa Street this year. He said the city is finalizing design for moving the utilities underground, but the $1.9 million plan is on a list of low-priority projects the City Council has delayed.
City Council members last year elected not to apply for $8.5 million in state financing, which would have been paid back by future sales tax revenue, for biking-related projects on Yampa. Government Programs Manager Winnie DelliQuadri said it's not known whether the state will have money to offer the program again this year.
Barnett said it likely is going to take a combination of funding sources — a special taxing district, grants, donations and city dollars — to pay for the Yampa improvements, the costs of which haven't been determined.
City Council President Bart Kounovsky said he hopes the revitalization of Yampa could include public-private partnerships, citing the promenade and stage projects at the base of Steamboat Ski Area as examples.
"The primary thing is pulling all the parties together who have an interest, the individual land owners and the city, on the same page," he said. "That's going to take some process and take time. We've seen the success in how we could do it at the base area. There's no reason why we couldn't do that on Yampa."
Kim Haggarty, who owns Sweetwater Grill, said she briefly considered buying Slopeside Grill before deciding that riverfront was the way to go. She said it would be the best long-term investment she could make.
Haggarty seems satisfied with her choice.
"I like where Yampa is going right now," she said. "I think there's a lot of good energy. It seems like it's becoming in the summer, especially with the river, where people are going."
But Haggarty, too, acknowledged that it could be improved, noting the need for sidewalks.
While nothing is planned for the immediate future, Hinsvark said the city wants to get to work now, and she thinks the community is ready to define what it wants Yampa to be.
"Nothing of that caliber ever happens overnight," she said. "I would tell you we're looking at improvements beginning in the next two years and being well on their way. I suspect our Yampa will look like a completely different street in the next five years."
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com