Monday, January 21, 2008

Ski Time Square Redevelpment

Ski Time Square shift discussed
City, developers hope realignment will accompany redevelopment
By Brandon Gee / Steamboat Pilot/TODAY
Monday, January 21, 2008

Steamboat Springs — Developers are making progress in negotiations that could result in a major realignment of Ski Time Square Drive. The realignment would be part of the impending redevelopment of Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

The Atira Group is expected to begin the massive redevelopment project after the ski season. The Atira Group has been hired on behalf of Washington, D.C.-based Cafritz Interests, which purchased the base area properties in April.

“They haven’t got any kind of a deal done at this point,” Steamboat Springs Planning Services Manager John Eastman said Friday about the realignment proposal. “But I think they feel they’re getting closer.”

The city’s Mountain Town Subarea Plan calls for Ski Time Square Drive to be relocated to the north to allow for a more pedestrian-friendly plaza in the space currently occupied by the road. The Atira Group’s initial submittal to the city did not include a realignment of the road. In its first review by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, commissioners made clear their disappointment with plans that did not include the realignment.

“When I see the Ski Time Square Drive in the same place it’s always been, that’s a real bummer,” Scott Myller said at the Nov. 8 meeting. The meeting was Myller’s last as a planning commissioner before joining the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Eastman said Atira has since provided an initial layout for realignment.

“It looks really good,” Eastman said. “It’s a significant improvement over the current proposal.”

Mark Matthews, a vice president of development with The Atira Group, confirmed that progress has been made.

“We are still in negotiations with the two (condominium) associations that the proposed road would be going over,” Matthews said Friday. “It’s moving along, and I’m happy about that.”

Matthews noted that negotiations with homeowner associations tend to take longer than others.

If its negotiations are successful, The Atira Group has floated the idea of having the realignment paid for by the Steamboat Spring Redevelopment Authority, an urban renewal authority formed by the city in 2005. The authority receives property taxes and sales taxes over a base amount established in 2005 to fund infrastructure projects at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

Matthews said the realignment is exactly the type of project the URA was formed for, but Eastman said the proposal to use authority funds received a mixed reception from the Urban Redevelopment Authority Ad­­visory Committee.

“There’s a big range of opinion,” Eastman said. “It’s not a simple answer.”

Eastman said some on the advisory committee sided with Matthews, particularly because the realignment is called for in a city area plan.

The project would be consistent with other URA projects, said Eastman, who noted the other road and sidewalk improvement projects completed this year with authority funds.

Others thought the developer should fund the project as part of the overall redevelopment’s public-benefit requirements.

Eastman said all base area projects are required to provide “community amenities” valued at 0.5 percent of their overall construction value. Things such as public art or enhanced pedestrian corridors can be considered community amenities.

“That’s required for every project, no matter what,” Eastman said.

Also, developers must provide “public benefits” to offset any exceptions to city codes. This projects requests such exceptions, including height variances for buildings as high as 10 stories.

The result of the URAAC meeting was a consensus that more information is needed before the commission can make a recommendation. Eastman said the city will have a better understanding of where the redevelopment stands in terms of public benefit and community amenities when it has had a chance to go through more of the planning process.

“It’s conceivable that Ski Time Square Drive wouldn’t move for a couple years,” Eastman said. “That’s a long time out in the future to figure that one out.”