Plans to revitalize downtown Steamboat rely on support from business owners
December 20, 2012
Steamboat Springs — A grass-roots committee of business owners is moving forward with a plan to secure new streams of revenue to improve the downtown area.
And committee members want business owners on all three of the major downtown streets to be part of the effort that started on Yampa Street.
Mark Scully, who is leading the downtown revitalization committee, met Thursday with about 11 Oak Street property owners to start talking about what they would like to see improved on their side of downtown.
The feedback revealed that better sidewalks, lighting and parking are on the list of priorities.
"More participation of Oak Street (property owners) is important in the evolution of this plan," Scully said, adding that each street downtown likely will have its own set of priorities and capital needs.
He said the revitalization committee that formed months ago to pursue improvements specifically for Yampa Street is committed to hosting a similar meeting with stakeholders on Lincoln Avenue.
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Having the support of business owners on all three major downtown streets will be necessary to secure the funding mechanisms that could pay for future improvements.
To provide funding for an already established downtown business improvement district, a majority of property owners in the district would have to vote in November 2013 to support a property tax increase of as much as 4 mills.
A vote to fund the district in 2007 failed by six votes.
Scully and the downtown revitalization committee also are looking to create an urban renewal authority similar to one created at the base of Steamboat Ski Area that has been used to fund improvements there.
Unlike a funded business improvement district, an urban renewal authority would not impose a tax increase on property owners. Instead, it relies on tax increment funding that generates revenue when improvements increase the value of property within the boundaries of the authority.
An urban renewal authority would have to be approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council.
Scully told the Oak Street property owners he doesn’t expect the council will approve an urban renewal authority unless a business improvement district successfully is funded.
Scully and Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs spent nearly two hours outlining the two funding mechanisms that downtown stakeholders likely will seek to fund infrastructure improvements.
Gibbs said all of the revitalization downtown will aim to keep more people in the area for a longer period of time.
"We want to make downtown a place with more things to do and more reasons to linger," Gibbs said.
Gibbs and Scully pointed to several areas of Denver, including the 16th Street Mall and a revitalized area near Union Station, as locations that have utilized business improvement districts and urban renewal authorities to transform into more pedestrian-friendly hubs.
Scully said the next step for the committee is to seek a $25,000 loan from the city to pay for a study of the potential tax revenue the funding mechanisms could generate. The study also is necessary to identify "blighted" areas downtown.
For the purpose of the study, blight isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Gibbs said problems like a lack of street lighting and disconnected sidewalks will qualify as blight.
Oak Street property owner Steve Lewis, who organized Thursday’s meeting, said discussions with his neighbors have revealed enthusiasm and skepticism for a property tax increase to fund improvements.
He said it will be important for stakeholders on the street first to prioritize their list of needs.
"I think it’s going to help to put together a list of what we’ll want to see change," Lewis said.
The stakeholders at the meeting agreed to swap their list of wants so that if an urban renewal authority is pursued, Oak Street will be better represented.
The downtown revitalization committee will meet again Jan. 8.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com