Yampa Street lodging tax committee regroups to explore other ways to improve riverside roadway
April 7, 2014
Steamboat Springs — The sound of heavy construction equipment moving dirt to install new sidewalks from Sweetwater Grill to Backdoor Sports on Monday was the latest sign of change coming to Yampa Street.
And the volunteers who are helping the city of Steamboat decide how to best spend $900,000 of lodging tax dollars to improve the roadway throughout the next couple of years are hoping far more dirt gets moved with the help of a variety of funding sources.
"I think we’re going in a good direction," lodging tax committee chairman Jason Lacy said Monday about all the different efforts that are underway to improve downtown Steamboat. "I’ll be a lot happier when we see some dirt moved and some things happen so we have a product to show the community."
The committee’s visions of improving the walkability and attractiveness on Yampa got more complicated last week when the asking price of a lot at Seventh and Yampa streets, which the committee identified as the centerpiece of the revitalization efforts, reportedly jumped to $1.9 million.
The lot was envisioned to be converted into a park that someday would host a new bridge over the Yampa to Howelsen Hill.
But the high price tag of the land spurred the Steamboat City Council to last week recommend that the city look at other options, and Lacy’s committee got a new homework assignment.
The seven volunteers last week regrouped with city staff to start looking more closely at other ways the city could invest the money to make Yampa a more walkable and appealing destination.
It’s a task committee member Jill Brabec said continues to weigh heavily on the committee.
"It’s a big responsibility," she said "And you don’t want to make a dumb decision, because it’s not your money. It’s taxpayer dollars, and it’s a lot of dollars. That’s why I think you will see some flip flopping and some hand wringing about what the right thing to do is. You want to make the right decision and have a big bang for your buck."
The committee has been wading through a number of challenges in recent weeks, one of the biggest being the limited amount of funding that is currently available to kickstart a revitalization project that totals more than $2.8 million.
Brabec said other considerations include trying to predict which piece of a broader plan to add parks and a promenade to Yampa would do the most to promote tourism.
"I want to see that money spent on something that brings a real return, and we’re all sitting here in a room trying to look into a crystal ball and guess what that’s going to be," she said. "I think everyone has different opinions on that."
The City Council nudged the committee and city staff to start looking at the potential of converting a city lot on Ninth and Yampa streets into a riverfront park.
Council members suggested this option may be more feasible after the asking price for the parcel recommended by the lodging tax committee jumped to a figure that is more than twice the amount of lodging tax dollars available.
But the Ninth Street parcel brings up many questions of its own, including how the elimination of parking spaces there would impact the street and what sort of timeline there could be for moving the ambulance barn and Routt County Search and Rescue headquarters off of the lot.
"It’s definitely worth a look," Lacy said about the Ninth Street option.
Lacy said the committee ultimately wants to emulate the success stakeholders at the base of Steamboat Ski Area have had in attracting more people to that part of town in recent years with the help of a slew of infrastructure upgrades.
"If we can have a great downtown to go with our great base area, I think it’s going to be a win-win for our locals and visitors," he said.
The work of the lodging tax committee is one of several downtown improvement projects that are moving forward.
Yampa Valley Electric Association has placed its large industrial headquarters on Yampa under contract with a developer who wants to convert the building into a mix of retail, commercial and residential spaces.
And Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is continuing its efforts to get the existing business improvement district downtown funded with a property tax.
"There are a lot of moving pieces," Lacy said.