Planning experts visit Steamboat to hash out plans for Yampa Street
July 22, 2012
Steamboat Springs — From the balcony of a Yampa Street condominium Friday night, a team of volunteer urban planners quickly recognized the potential of the street below.
Cheers from the grandstands in the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena echoed across the river as throngs of people closer to the condo lined up for food and ice cream.
"They were just amazed at the number of bicycles and walkers and people going from place to place" on Yampa Street, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said about the planners. "They told us what we have here is very special."
The planners arrived in Steamboat Springs on Thursday night and met with Yampa Street business and property owners with the goal of hashing out an actionable plan to revitalize the roadway that runs parallel to the Yampa River.
On Saturday, the team of experts from the Colorado Chapter of the Urban Land Institute told Yampa Street stakeholders a lot can be done to increase their street's vibrancy and accessibility to pedestrians.
The planners' initial ideas for the roadway ranged from the addition of new river access points, sidewalks and overhead lights fashioned after Denver's Larimer Square, to better management of existing downtown parking.
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Their ideas are preliminary, and the leader of the planning team is expected to return in a month or two to present a final plan for the street to the Steamboat Springs City Council, which authorized $15,000 for the study.
Many business owners on Yampa anticipate the renovations will take many years to become a reality.
But Barnett said some of the ideas could be implemented sooner, rather than later.
"One of the things they mentioned is Steamboat is in the dark ages when it comes to managing parking. Our hourly parking allotments are the old way of doing things," Barnett said, adding paid parking was mentioned as an alternative. "They said there are much better ways to manage our parking, and if we manage what we have better, there shouldn't be much of a problem."
She added the stakeholders on the street soon could band together to form a public-private partnership and create a funding mechanism for improvements similar to one used by businesses at the base of Mount Werner.
The revitalization of Yampa Street moved into the spotlight this year after city officials announced they wanted to move the police and firefighting stations off the street into a new public safety facility constructed in west Steamboat and free up retail space in what is now a "dead zone" of the street.
Yampa Valley Electric Association, another big presence on Yampa, also plans to eventually relocate its Yampa Street headquarters to free up even more space.
Still, Barnett said some of the business and property owners who attended the planning sessions last week remain skeptical that the revitalization will take off.
She said since the 1980s, many dollars have been spent on plans, but they've "been collecting dust" and they haven't been acted upon.
"None of this is going to happen fast," she said. "But we need to be ready and we need to do some things now, especially for the skeptics who say we've had these plans for 20 years now. But now is the time (for revitalization). The energy is good. The interest is good, and people love Yampa Street."
Mainstreet Steamboat currently is pursuing a major source of funding for the street's overhaul.
The project is one of 38 vying to be funded by Steamboat's lodging tax.
One street, many ideas
Bamboo Market owner Anne Halloran has a long list of ideas for how to improve Yampa Street. She said Sunday that she would like to see 12th Street closed off to vehicles and sometimes filled with food carts and music.
"You think of places like Boulder and Aspen where they have those outdoor pedestrian areas and how nice it is, but we don't have that here yet," she said. "When you've got a business, you're constantly trying to think of ways to improve it."
But she said before any improvements can be made, parking needs to be addressed. She suggested some sort of parking garage or additional lot could go a long way toward making Yampa more pedestrian friendly.
"If they really did develop Yampa to the degree they're talking about, I don't know where in the world people would park,” she said.
Halloran attended a panel discussion with the planners with Bill Hamil, who owns Steamboat Meat & Seafood Co.
Hamil said all of the business and property owners on Yampa Street must be willing to participate and invest in the revitalization projects.
"It seems like in the long term, everybody has got to be willing to pitch in," he said.
He said the Urban Land Institute's visit to Steamboat was encouraging.
"It's positive that at least there is some good, organized discussion going on," he said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com
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