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  • Dylan Anderson

Project that hopes to revitalize alleys in downtown Steamboat gets Planning Commission's OK


A project in the rear of 729 Lincoln Avenue hopes to revitalize and activate alleys in downtown Steamboat. (Steamboat Architectural Associates/Courtesy)

The vision for alleys in downtown Steamboat Springs is evolving after Planning Commission approved a project on Thursday that hopes to redefine the potential for the neglected rear of buildings fronting Lincoln Avenue.


The project, located in the back of 729 Lincoln, would hide trash cans and mechanical equipment, cover parking spaces and add an expansive deck that hopes to be used for outdoor restaurant seating.

“We’re really impressing the character of the rear of the building with this addition,” said Jim Cook, a longtime Steamboat resident who founded Colorado Group Realty. “It fulfills at least what has been my vision for the alleys and that is having people walk the alleys and ride their bikes in the alleys and create businesses that will serve the community at large.”


The more than century-old building used to be an automobile showroom, but now it is home to the restaurant Del Mezcal and two other commercial tenants. Currently, the back of the building isn’t visually pleasing, with coolers and other mechanical equipment, a grease trap and roll-off trash containers.


But Bill Rangitsch with Steamboat Architectural Associates said the hope is to “reinvigorate or revitalize some alley space,” with a deck that will get south-facing sun and could be utilized by the two upstairs tenants.


“This is a project that has been a long time in the coming,” Rangitsch said.


Cook said the idea started when members of the downtown redevelopment authority from Fort Collins came to Steamboat to show how important activating alley spaces has been in that Front Range city. The project is particularly important for Steamboat, Cook said, because the city largely relies on sales taxes, and without the addition or more commercial space, that funding could stagnate.


“In the absence of a property tax, a transfer tax, our sole source of revenue is sales tax,” Cook said. “Better than 50% of sales tax revenues come out of the downtown area. That’s why it’s important.”


Cook said it would add excitement and vitality to the area, which is adjacent to Howelsen Place. He also said the project will help restore the rear façade of the building, and maintain its historic nature. The project was approved 3-0 by the planning commission, with one commissioner sitting out because of a conflict of interest. City council is set to consider approval on May 16.


A Howelsen Place resident spoke in public comment against the project, feeling the nature of the deck and its restaurant usage would be disruptive to him and his fellow residents in the area. Another comment received by the city about the project worried about the noise it would produce.

“It affects the quality of life of several hundred people,” he said. “Do we really need this?”


But Senior Planner Kelly Douglas told the planning commission that as the space is zoned commercial, outdoor seating is considered a use by right. If the deck was shorter — 30 inches or less — the project actually could have been approved administratively.

“It’s a downtown area, uses are dense, it is expected to be dense,” Douglas said, referring to the zone district on either side of the alley. “It expects mixed uses, so I think the interaction between commercial and residential uses is expected, it’s encouraged. It leads to a vibrant downtown.”


While noise was a concern, the deck will be subject to the city’s noise ordinance and Douglas said staff determined that it shouldn’t need to have any additional requirement. Planning commissioners discussed trash on the property as well as parking but none of them raised any significant concerns.


“This is an urban project,” Cook said. “You’re going to have the density of people in mixed uses, that’s what it’s all about. … I think what we’re doing there everybody’s going to be very proud of.”

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