Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ski Area Mountain Upgrades - Intrawest

Thursday, January 31, 2008
By Melinda Dudley Steamboat Pilot / TODAY Newspaper

Steamboat Springs — When the slopes at the Steamboat Ski Area are devoid of skiers and riders in the upcoming off-season, construction crews will take their place.

Before the 2008-09 ski season begins, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. officials hope to revamp the resort’s on-mountain food and beverage facilities, upgrade the Elkhead chairlift and create new parking solutions, pending approval from Intrawest, ULC, executives next month.

“There continue to be a lot of exciting things headed for Steamboat,” said Intrawest’s Chief Marketing Officer, Andy Wirth, at Ski Corp.’s ninth annual Airline Partners Summit on Wednesday at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.

As a fixed-grip chairlift, Elk­head is limited in its speed due to the difficulty of loading four passengers on a fast-moving lift, Wirth said. With upgrades, passengers next season can have a smoother, faster ride, he said.

Given the success of recent revisions to food and beverage facilities at Rendezvous Saddle and Thunderhead, the ski area is looking at enhancements to existing facilities and discussing the possible addition of entirely new facilities.

“Everything’s on the table,” Wirth said.

On-mountain improvements are one of four prongs in the ski area’s long-term development plan, known as Steamboat Unbridled. The strategy also includes base area redevelopment, real estate development and airport and air access.

“In the past 15 years, this resort has been greatly underutilized and struggled to compete in a very competitive market,” Wirth said.

Projects incorporated under Steamboat Unbridled aim to change that through new development and infrastructure improvements, designed in ways that maintain Steamboat’s hospitality and Western charm, Wirth said.

Some base area projects already have gotten under way, including improvements to Gondola Transit Center. Other projects, including roundabouts on Mount Werner Circle, the proposed daylighting of Burgess Creek and a pedestrian promenade at the base of the Headwall area are in the planning stages.

Steamboat Springs currently has lodging for up to 18,700 people, although that figure will drop slightly in the coming years as older properties, such as the Thunderhead Lodge and Condominiums, are demolished to make way for new development, Wirth said.

Just more than half of Steam­boat’s lodging capacity is located in the base area, and Intrawest’s real estate focus in the coming years will be on boosting that number, particularly at “high-quality” properties, he said.

While the ski area does not anticipate a need for more airline seats during season until 2010, when additional lodging capacity is developed, efforts already are under way to modernize air traffic control into Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Because of Colorado’s mountainous terrain, radar capabilities are lost below about 10,000 feet, said Bill Payne, program director for air traffic control modernization at the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A sophisticated new system undergoing installation for the airports in Hayden, Steamboat Springs and Craig will help to eliminate missed approaches and limit diversions, Payne said. The new tracking system is expected to complete testing and become fully operational in time for ski season service in 2009, he said.

The new system will improve airline and passenger experiences, cut down the required intervals between landings from 15 to only two minutes and hopefully limit the need of aircraft to circle while awaiting arrival, Wirth said.

“The whole experience of getting there and getting home is paramount,” Intrawest CEO Alex Wasilov said Wednesday. “We don’t just sell lift tickets.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Steamboat 700 Village (commercial space)

Officials want Steamboat 700 village center moved
By Brandon Gee Steamboat Pilot / TODAY
Thursday, February 14,

Steamboat 700 by the numbers
Size: 700 acres

Buildout: 10 to 25 years

Residential units: 1,827 to 2,243

High-density residential units (condos, townhouses, apartments): 45 percent

Small, single-family lots (under 8,000 square feet) or duplexes: 36 percent

Square footage of commercial/nonresidential uses: 272,000 to 331,000

Affordable housing target: 80 percent to 150 percent AMI (area median income)

Permanently deed-restricted housing provided by developer: 20 percent (367 to 448 units)

Topography: Most slopes 5 percent to 15 percent, some 30 percent or more on bluffs and hillsides

“Village centers:” three to four stories

Open space: 221 acres (32 percent)

Trails: 10+ miles

Infrastructure cost: $103 million

Additional off-site automobile trips a day generated: 14,000

— Source: Steamboat 700 Initial Submittal, November 2007

For more information on the Steamboat 700 annexation and development, visit www.yampavalley.info/

steamboat700.asp and www.steamboat700.com.

Steamboat Springs — While much of the discussion about the proposed Steamboat 700 development has focused on housing, city officials also have raised concerns about the development’s commercial components.

In a staff report prepared for Steamboat 700’s pre-application review tonight before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, city officials criticize the proposed location of the development’s main village center. Development plans show the village center going in along U.S. Highway 40 at the extreme southeast corner of the 700-acre project. New Victory Parkway, a proposed road that would serve as the development’s main east-west artery, would form the village center’s north boundary.

“The village center is disconnected from the majority of the proposed development,” the city staff report states. “New Victory Parkway should be encompassed within the village center to provide pedestrian connectivity and to ensure that at least a portion of the road operates as a ‘main street’ commercial area rather than a typical suburban arterial.”

Developers warn if they are forced to move the village center, they may lose their ability to provide west Steamboat’s No. 1 commercial need, as identified by a Steamboat 700 survey.

“We’re going to try to get a grocery store,” Peter Patten, a land-use consultant employed by Steamboat 700, said at a meeting last week with Routt County officials. “The grocery store needs U.S. 40 frontage, or it’s not going to happen.”

Patten also said that while the village center is not central in Steamboat 700’s site, it is central to the broader west of Steamboat Springs area.

“The community wants a grocery store,” Danny Mulcahy, Steamboat 700 project manager, said at the same meeting.

Mulcahy also noted two smaller, mixed-use centers that would be dispersed in other areas of the project to serve other neighborhoods. Bill Fox, Steamboat 700’s transportation consultant, said 60 percent of Steamboat 700’s homes would be within a quarter-mile of a mixed-use center.

“It’s a place that’s very walkable,” Fox said.

On Wednesday, Planning Services Manager John Eastman said city staff has not been swayed by the arguments of Mulcahy and his team.

“The key is the village center functions as a pedestrian-accessible experience for a significant portion of the development,” Eastman said.

Nonetheless, Eastman said he is confident the village center issue will be worked out. He said the grocery store argument is a legitimate one.

“We absolutely need a grocery store out there,” Eastman said.

Eastman said the developers and the city are much farther apart when it comes to the issue of affordable housing, but that is a situation that might be changing. Eastman said progress was made in a meeting between city officials, Steamboat 700 and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority on Wednesday.

“We didn’t reach any solutions but at least found some ways that might lead to some solutions,” Eastman said. “I’m a lot more optimistic.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Steamboat 700 development team is floating a housing proposal

Our View: An open-door housing policy
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Steamboat Pilot / TODAY
Editorial Board, January to April 2008
Bryna Larsen, publisher
Brent Boyer, editor
Mike Lawrence, city editor
Tom Ross, reporter
Noreen Moore, community representative
Tom Miller-Freutel, community representative

Steamboat Springs — We are encouraged that the Steamboat 700 development team is floating a housing proposal that is broader than some policies envisioned in the city and county’s West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.

From the start, Project Manager Danny Mulcahy has shown a willingness to work within existing development guidelines and collaborate with local officials, while crafting plans for the 700-acre site between Steamboat Springs Airport and Silver Spur. We believe that ethic has not changed, despite a break from the area plan in 700’s community housing proposal.

That break is founded on creative, forward-looking ideas. A range of incomes and households will be needed to make Steamboat 700 a successful addition to our community. A flexible housing plan will be needed to accommodate that range.

The 700 plan potentially provides that flexibility by expanding the range of buyers who could qualify for affordable homes.

The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, updated in 2006, asks developers to provide 20 percent affordable housing for people making an average of 80 percent of Routt County’s area median income. Steamboat 700’s community housing plan targets people making an average of 120 percent AMI.

According to 2007 Routt County data, a family of four at 80 percent of AMI has a household income of $58,880. At 120 percent of AMI, that family’s income is $88,320. Each household could include two valued members of the workforce, such as teachers or public service workers, trying to buy a home. In Routt County’s rapidly changing housing and employment markets, the need for affordable homes likely doesn’t stop at 80 percent.

In fact, we don’t know where the need stops or starts. At a hearing Thursday night, Mulcahy stated a glaring fact — there is no existing database that compiles the local demand for affordable housing or analyzes the needs of various income levels.

Thus the question becomes who, exactly, Steamboat 700 should aim to provide housing for.

“That really is the question that needs to be answered,” said Peter Smirniotopoulos of UniDev, LLC, the housing consultants hired by Steamboat 700. “We believe strongly that it needs to be a range.”

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak acknowledged that the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan already is a somewhat dated document.

“When we developed that criteria, it was based on the information we had at the time,” Stahoviak said of housing guidelines in the area plan. “I am really going to push for the city, the housing authority and Steamboat 700 to get together and create the database that we’ve been talking about for so long, that we need. Then we will actually know what need is out there.”

Smirniotopoulos said he is creating a scope of work for such a study. Local officials have several upcoming chances to discuss the issue.

The Steamboat Springs City Council, Routt County commissioners and Yampa Valley Housing Authority have a joint meeting Tuesday night in Centennial Hall. Stahoviak said a topic of discussion will be the best way to create a housing database, which could be used for many more purposes than Steamboat 700.

Steamboat 700’s development team meets with city staff Wednesday and has a public hearing before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday.

As the development’s lengthy annexation and approval process moves forward, we encourage forward-looking housing solutions and hope that good ideas aren’t tossed aside solely because they don’t comply with the area plan.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sidewalk Offer by Ski Corp.

Ski Corp. makes sidewalk offer
Snowflower residents unwilling to foot ongoing maintenance bill
By Brandon Gee - Steamboat Pilot/TODAY
Monday, February 11, 2008

On Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council will convene as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority to discuss issues related to its urban renewal authority at the base area. The URA was created in 2005. Within its base area boundaries, the authority receives property and sales taxes over a base amount established that year.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Re­­development Coordinator Joe Kracum is expected to report that progress has been made on a contentious sidewalk the URA plans to construct this year, along with a roundabout, to replace the intersection at Mount Werner Circle and Après Ski Way.

The proposed sidewalk would connect the intersection of Après Ski Way and Village Drive with the Gondola Transit Center. The city would need temporary easements from the Snowflower Condominiums to construct the sidewalk, but Snowflower residents have said they would not provide the easements because they don’t want the added responsibility and liability associated with the 6,000-square-foot sidewalk. City code requires that the owners of the adjacent property maintain sidewalks.

“The Snowflower has indicated they don’t see any tangible benefits to their residents,” Kracum said Friday at a meeting of the Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee, or URAAC. “Right now, they don’t want that sidewalk there at all.”

Both URAAC members and city staff stressed the importance of the sidewalk, with committee member Bill Jameson even suggesting the city not go forward with the $2.5 million roundabout construction without a resolution to the issue.

“That is not an option, no sidewalk there,” Jameson said. “Find a way to build the sidewalk.”

Planning Services Manager John Eastman agreed. He said the creation of pedestrian connectivity is one of the major purposes of the URA.

“This is a public-private partnership and everybody needs to get on board,” Eastman said.

Toward that end, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond told a Snowflower representative at Thursday’s meeting that Ski Corp. would be willing to accept responsibility for the sidewalk from the Gondola Transit Center south to Après Ski Way. The compromise would leave a smaller portion of the sidewalk from Mount Werner Circle to Village Drive in the Snowflower’s hands.

“I thought Chris’ gesture was tremendous,” Kracum said after Friday’s meeting.

Kracum said Diamond’s offer showed a spirit of cooperation and trust that gives him confidence that a solution will be found before the roundabout is scheduled to break ground in April.

“I don’t feel the heat yet,” Kracum said. “We’d like to keep the momentum going.”

— To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Try the Steamboat Pilot & Today

Trailside Village - 230 new condos in planning

Trailside seeking approval
Key site in Highway 40 corridor enters round two in city planning process
By Tom Ross - Steamboat Pilot/TODAY
Sunday, February 10, 2008

The condominiums at Trailside Village would offer easy access to the Yampa River Core Trail, mass transit and grocery shopping. They would be built immediately south of the Staples office supply store in the Steamboat Crossing commercial center.

Steamboat Springs developer Brian Olson proposes to build 200 market-rate condominiums and 30 affordable units on 7.5 acres off U.S. Highway 40, between downtown and the ski mountain. Olson successfully developed The Pines condominiums across the highway in 2005 and 2006. (Courtesy rendering)
Steamboat Springs — A residential development that would add 200 market-rate condominiums and 30 affordable condos to the U.S. Highway 40 corridor is working its way through the city planning process.

Trailside Village would be built on 7.5 acres immediately west of the Staples office supply store between downtown Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Ski Area.

“We want to provide attainable housing in the free market for our local people,” developer Brian Olson said. “That’s what’s exciting. We feel the free market is creeping up so high, we’re going to attract a lot of locals with our price range.”

He has a track record of doing that. Olson completed The Pines condominiums, immediately across the highway from the Trailside site, in 2006. He said this week that he tentatively hopes to deliver Trailside condominiums to the market at prices from $300,000 to $600,000.

Realistically, Olson anticipates second homeowners will be among the buyers for the condominiums. And one of the two largest buildings at Trailside would have a check-in lobby to accommodate on-site management and short-term rentals.

Homes will vary from one-bedroom units of 750 to 850 square feet, to two-bedroom and two-bedroom-plus-den units at 980 and 1,080 square feet. The project also will include three-bedroom units comprising 1,434 square feet.

Olson and his partner purchased the land for Trailside Village last year, from THF Real Estate of St. Louis. The previous owners attempted to gain city approval for a similar housing development, The Groves, in 2005 and 2006, but withdrew from the process.

THF also unsuccessfully proposed to develop a Wal­greens store on a separate, nearby parcel, on the north side of Pine Grove Road along Fish Creek. Olson also acquired the commercial property where the pharmacy would have gone, but said he’s not prepared to make those plans public.

“We are working on a mixed-use development on the north side that would provide a community amenity,” Olson said.

Additionally, on the southern end of his residential development, Olson is proposing to donate 3 acres of forest and wetlands to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. The parcel is adjacent to the Yampa River Core Trail. The developers also would build a 12-foot-wide sidewalk in front of their complex, paralleling U.S. 40.

City staff is currently evaluating technical aspects of the Trailside Village site plan. No public hearings have been scheduled.

“In general terms, the architectural approach seems to be moving in the right direction,” Senior City Planner Jonathan Spence said.

Olson is proposing a mix of building types among the 10 included in the project.

The two largest buildings comprise 120,000 and 75,000 square feet, including below-grade parking beneath the buildings. They are situated closest to the highway and deliberately planned to provide density on the site.

Spence said that when THF brought its proposal forward, city government sought density on the site because it offers the opportunity for strong mass transit connections, proximity to the Yampa River Core Trail and the ability to walk across the highway to grocery stores, among other businesses.

“From the planning perspective, we heard density, density, density,” Spence said. “We’ve been supportive of the larger buildings, with the acknowledgement that the site has to function with regard to adequate usable open space, amenities and snow storage.”

The site plan for Trailside Lodge shows a sweep of open space in the middle of the project. Tentatively, amenities would include a swimming pool. The condominiums also would be within easy walking distance of Fetcher Park and Fetcher Pond.

The first phase of Trailside would include five of the development’s smaller buildings on the west side of the site, closest to the Yampa River, Olson said. Infrastructure for the complete site also would be built in phase one.

Olson said he would like to break ground this year.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

Friday, February 1, 2008

Iron Horse - Affordable City Housing or Nightly Rental?

City seeks Iron Horse ideas
Hoteliers discuss implications of city-owned competition
By Brandon Gee (Contact) Steambaot Pilot/TODAY
Friday, February 1, 2008

Steamboat Springs — The city of Steamboat Sp­­rings is seeking proposals from private firms for an Iron Horse Inn management plan. Mean­while, some local hotel operators see the public ownership of a competing property as a less-than-ideal situation.

“If the city bought it for employee housing, I think that’s what they should use it for,” said Greg Koehler, owner of the Rabbit Ears Motel in downtown Steamboat. “I don’t particularly care to be in competition with the city for lodging.”

The Iron Horse Inn was purchased last year in a deal approved by the previous Steamboat Springs City Council. After honoring existing reservations this ski season, the city initially planned to spend $1 million — of the $5.3 million borrowed for the purchase — to renovate the hotel’s 52 rooms into 40 traditional apartments that it would rent as affordable housing.

The current City Council, however, would rather minimize the Iron Horse’s cost to the city by not renovating the property and keeping nightly rentals in play. The city currently is providing long-term rentals in 29 rooms for city workers and those of other Steamboat employers.

Alpiner Lodge owner Jon Wade believes the Iron Horse Inn purchase was a rotten deal for the city. He reserves blame for the previous City Council, however, and applauds the current one for doing what it can about the situation — even if that means competing with his business.

“The current council is trying to make the best of a bad situation,” Wade said. “I wouldn’t feel any inclination to give them any heat. Obviously, it would be best for me if the Iron Horse closed, but that’s not what I’m thinking about. We’ve got to do what’s best for the city.”

Supporters of the Iron Horse purchase have cited the inn’s ability to help the city attract and retain employees, the local need for workforce housing, and the value of securing riverfront property near Steamboat’s downtown corridor.

In addition to keeping nightly rentals in play, the City Council instructed city staff to solicit private-sector partnerships and ideas for the management of the inn. The city has advertised and sent out a request for proposal for a management and operation plan for the inn. Proposals are due Feb. 15.

Thursday, Deputy City Man­­ager Wendy DuBord said the city would be open to anything from mere suggestions to a company’s proposal to totally take over the operation and management of the inn. But DuBord, who formerly worked in Steamboat’s property-management industry, said she is skeptical a private company will be interested in providing a mix of long-term workforce housing and nightly rentals.

“I kind of doubt that a private-sector management company can do what we’re doing and make money,” DuBord said. “We’re not operating from a profit-margin standpoint. All we want to do is cover our direct expenses. … But we would consider anything that is an improvement on what we’re doing.”

The fact that the city isn’t as reliant on making money as other lodging properties is one of the problems with it owning and operating the Iron Horse Inn, Koehler said.

“I just think it gives them an unfair advantage,” said Koehler, who noted other advantages such as the city’s ability to provide extensive employee benefits.

Disgruntled hoteliers have not contacted the city, DuBord said, perhaps because business is thriving in Steamboat.

“I think everybody’s full,” she said. “Obviously the fact that (the Iron Horse Inn is) full and has a waiting list shows there’s a need. There is not enough rental housing in this community.”

Wade said the Alpiner Lodge was full all summer and is running at about 80 percent occupancy this ski season.

“It would be a good thing for me if they weren’t there from a supply standpoint,” Wade said. “But if they need to do some nightly rentals to make it a better deal for the city, I guess I’m OK with that. … The Alpiner is operating at our expectations. There’s always room for improvement, but I’m not going to blame my inability to improve on the city.”

— To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Road Access & Congestion - West of Steamboat

Access plan sparks interest
Future U.S. 40 access proposal draws questions at open house
By Brandon Gee (Contact) Steambaot Pilot/ TODAY
Friday, February 1, 2008

Steamboat Springs — Local business owners questioned a future traffic plan for U.S. Highway 40 in west Steamboat Springs during a crowded open house Thursday in Centennial Hall. Others who attended the event were happy with the plan, claiming something has to be done to relieve congestion and danger along the highway.

In their second public open house, consultants from Stolfus & Associates presented a draft of their West Steamboat Springs U.S. 40 Access Plan. The plan recommends several techniques for improving travel on U.S. 40, such as eliminating some of the current accesses to the highway and removing turning vehicles from through traffic lanes.

“Our concern is that they show both of our access points are set to be blocked,” said Ulrich Salzgeber, who owns the Routt 66 gas station in west Steamboat with Marty Waldron. “Blocking these two access points is seriously going to decrease the value of our property. … They need to come up with other solutions.”

Salzgeber and Waldron lease the majority of their building to Alpine Taxi. Waldron noted that rerouting a fleet of 100 taxis, shuttles and vans to side streets could be quite costly and difficult. The two men, like other business owners who attended the open house, are not swayed by officials’ claims that access closures will be overcompensated by more efficient traffic flows that will benefit business.

“Ease is everything,” said Steamboat Rentals owner Jack Horner, who believes his direct access to U.S. 40 is crucial to his business. “This is my livelihood. I don’t have a solution to it … but this will cost me most of my drive-in customers from the east.”

Dan Roussin, an access manager with the Colorado Department of Transportation, tried to calm such concerns by stressing the long-term nature of the plan.

“I understand it’s not perfect for everybody,” Roussin said. “What we want to do is plan the whole thing and do the best we can.”

Cost question

Engineering consultant Michelle Hansen said comments made Thursday would be incorporated into a final draft of the plan. She was happy with the large turnout.

“I’m pleased we’re getting a lot more property owners than last time,” she said. “It’s better to get them involved early.”

The access management plan costs $100,000. An accompanying capacity analysis looking at the potential widening of U.S. 40 to four lanes costs $50,000. Both plans deal with the U.S. 40 corridor from 13th Street to just past the Steamboat II subdivision, which is outside city limits. CDOT is partnering with the city in its efforts and has contributed $50,000.

“The ultimate goal is the city, county and CDOT will sign an intergovernmental agreement adopting this plan,” Hansen said.

City Engineer Janet Hruby said no funding has been identified for U.S. 40 improvements, but both studies will aid the city in getting such improvements prioritized — and maybe paid for — by CDOT. Hruby said developers might also be required to take care of their portion of the highway as sites are redeveloped.

“This is a huge tool not only for city staff but for developers,” Hruby said. “It’s a lot easier when you have a plan like this so they know up front.”

Any potential funding from CDOT faces the difficulty of competing with many other projects for the department’s ever-thinning resources. A report released Wednesday by Gov. Bill Ritter’s Blue Ribbon Transportation Panel says Colorado’s transportation funding is in a “quiet crisis” and desperate for a bigger statewide investment.

George Krawzoff, the city’s outgoing transportation director and a recent appointee to the Colorado Transportation Commission, said the problem is compounded by the fact that the construction price index is increasing more than the overall consumer price index.

“Overall, CDOT has a very difficult time funding road expansions,” Krawzoff said. “We’ve put everything in place to make progress on this, but the costs to make any improvements are huge.”

— To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com