Study to pinpoint retail needs | SteamboatToday.com

Study to pinpoint retail needs

Results could shape development reviews at base area

Brandon Gee

Floridian Ron Meredith, right, makes a purchase at the Steamboat Trading Co. in Ski Time Square on Monday afternoon. The city of Steamboat Springs is sponsoring and administering a base area retail study to identify the amount, scale and mix of retail and other commercial space needed to accommodate demand at the ski base.

— To better prepare for widespread redevelopment at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area, the city of Steamboat Springs is sponsoring and administering a base area retail study.

City Planner Gavin McMillan said the study costs about $30,000 and, at the strong suggestion of the city, is being paid for by some of the major owners of commercial property to be redeveloped at the base area.

The purpose of the study is to identify the amount, scale and mix of retail and other commercial space that is necessary to accommodate demand and create a lively and active atmosphere at the ski base.

“In starting to review all these projects, there’s talk of how much commercial space is appropriate,” McMillan said Monday. “This will be a tool to help us get closer to what the codes envision already.”

David Baldinger Jr. of Steamboat Village Brokers said the study’s results will be useful.

“It’s probably a great idea,” he said Monday. “Whether you’re in the real estate business or the retail business, we’ve often debated whether we have too much, not enough or just the right amount of retail at the base area.”

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While he is excited for the study’s results, Baldinger said he already has an idea of what its conclusion will be.

“My gut feeling is about what we have now or less would make the retail environment more vibrant,” Baldinger said. “Also, if it’s laid out better, it would be a lot more vibrant.”

Baldinger isn’t alone in guessing that the base area already has enough retail – if not too much. The One Steamboat Place development under construction has a very small commercial component.

“We didn’t want to compete against already existing, established retail spaces,” One Steamboat Place project director Jim Wells said Monday. “It’s a tough business, especially when it’s seasonal.”

Redevelopment plans for Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge reveal the same hesitancy to invest too much in commercial property at the base area. The Atira Group, acting in partnership with Washington-based Cafritz Interests, plans to demolish the two properties, which total 234,449 square feet, and replace them with a project totaling more than 1 million square feet. Despite that increase, Atira proposed in its pre-application to the city to decrease the amount of commercial space from 58,131 square feet to 46,578. The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission expressed some reservations about that mix.

“We’re really looking for the quality, not quantity,” said Jane Blackstone, an Atira development manager. “It was clear we needed to provide some rationale, some support for our commercial component. : This research study will really ground our development plan review.”

Baldinger said Steamboat is unique when compared to other resort towns because of its strong downtown shopping experience.

“I think the mountain area may need less than other ski resorts,” he said.

Whatever the study reveals, Blackstone said The Atira Group and other property owners such as Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and Sheraton Steamboat Resort will work together to deliver the right amount of commercial space in the right areas.

“We need to look at the outcome and collaborate collectively,” Blackstone said.

Economic and Planning Systems, a land-economics consulting firm with offices in Denver, is conducting the study. The company has done similar studies in resorts such as Snowmass Village, Telluride and Winter Park, and it recently completed a broader economic development study for all of Steamboat at a cost of $68,101. The company apparently already has started work on its current study; Wells, Blackstone and Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said Monday that they had been contacted by consultants hoping to interview them.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com