Base area needs boost | SteamboatToday.com

Base area needs boost

Draft study shows redevelopment is right remedy for slumping sales

Kristi Mohrbacher

Steamboat Springs residents Jenn Gallagher, left, and Julie Friese pick through beads while making jewelry Wednesday at Silver Lining in Torian Plum Plaza at Ski Time Square.

— Planned redevelopment is on the right track to meet future lodging and commercial demands at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, which a study states is “not performing at industry standards” and is lagging behind downtown retail sales, even in the winter.

Base area stakeholders funded the Steamboat Springs Resort Base Area Retail Study, conducted earlier this year by Economic & Planning Systems consultants. The study – released as a draft last month – is intended to show the mix of retail and commercial space that would satisfy consumer demand and create a lively atmosphere at the base area, which is in a period of widespread construction and change.

The study states the base area’s atmosphere is struggling in the transition.

“Retail at the base area is not performing at industry standards and is not performing as well as space in downtown Steamboat retail,” the study reads. “The base area generated $29.7 million in annual retail sales, which was 9 percent of the city’s retail sales total of $314 million in 2007.”

Retail sales in downtown Steamboat Springs total $73.1 million annually, the study states, adding that downtown businesses average up to $350 in sales per square foot, “compared to $250 per square foot (on average) at the base area.”

The difference in retail revenues between downtown and the mountain is largely linked to year-round sales, according to the study, which emphasizes a need for increased year-round attractions, including lodging and commercial growth, at the ski base.

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While 80 percent of base area sales occur during the ski season, downtown accumulates 41 percent of its sales in the summer, compared to 38 percent in the winter and 21 percent in shoulder seasons.

A year-round focus at the base area already is in the works.

“The study backs up our plans,” said Jane Blackstone, development manager for The Atira Group. Atira is redeveloping Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge.

The long view

The study’s results are based on the planned expansion of lodging inventory throughout the next 10 years, as projects such as One Steamboat Place, base area redevelopment and the proposed redevelopment of Ski Time Square come to fruition.

“The study was a healthy exercise and will provide good guidance as we develop the base area,” McMillan said Wednesday. He added that there had been a lot of discussion about the amount and mix of retail that would be best for the area, and that the study provides a good point of reference for future planning.

Blackstone said the study reinforced Atira’s redevelopment plans with demographic information.

“The survey pointed out that Ski Time Square Drive should focus more on destination retail and dining experiences,” Blackstone said, “and the Promenade should focus more on daytime activities like skiing and possibly some opportunities for entertainment venues.”

A concern raised by David Baldinger Jr. of Steamboat Village Brokers is the rate at which commercial space is built. Baldinger worried that too much retail space would be added before the residential units were finished.

“I agree with the results in general, but I think it might be dangerous to build more commercial space before the residential units are there because there won’t be enough demand,” Baldinger said.

The study is a good place to start but it should serve as a guideline and not the absolute, said Chuck Porter, general manager for the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and member of the Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Commission. The URAAC plans to discuss the preliminary retail study results during a public meeting at Centennial Hall on Friday.

Economic & Planning Systems is a land-economics consulting firm with offices in California and Denver. The firm has completed similar studies in Telluride and Winter Park and will present final results to the Steamboat Springs City Council, which acts as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority, on July 1.

– To reach Kristi Mohrbacher, call 870-1376 or e-mail kmohrbacher@steamboatpilot.com