Tales from the Tread: New Year’s preservation

Tread of Pioneers Museum
The building at 910 Yampa St. is a shining example of preservation success, in which a local developer listed his commercial building on the local Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places. In his renovation project, the developer provided much-needed updated commercial spaces and received over $1.5 million in tax credits and other incentives by following preservation guidelines.
Historic Routt County/Courtesy photo

“In the end, our society will be defined by not only what we create, but also by what we refuse to destroy.” — John Sawhill

As the town of Steamboat Springs and our region continues to grow and building booms, historic preservation issues become even more time sensitive and critical.

For several years, a local historic preservation advocacy group of Historic Routt County and the Tread of Pioneers Museum has been meeting and planning to help boost historic preservation programs in both Steamboat Springs and Routt County. Partners in Preservation is dedicated to preserving Steamboat Springs and Routt County’s significant historic fabric, its distinctive architecture and its cultural landscapes. Primary strategies are advocacy, outreach and education.

Partners in Preservation is working with local partners including the City of Steamboat Springs to make the historic preservation process easier and more responsive to the public; improve public understanding of the benefits of preservation and dispel misunderstandings; review the existing preservation ordinances to see where improvements could be made to implement best practices (e.g., historic districts); proactively work with the community to designate local landmarks; and prioritize properties already on the County Register and within the National Register Downtown District.

Key education and outreach messages include:

• Preservation is not anti-development. Preservation is a form of development that adds real economic value, as authentic historic character is a major draw for visitors and residents, and investment in historic preservation often provides higher returns than new development.

“Historic properties can be adapted, remodeled and enlarged to meet contemporary lifestyles,” said Katie Adams, chair of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and curator of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. “Significant tax credits are available to assist owners who list their properties on the local Steamboat Springs historic register, with costs meeting applicable guidelines and review.”

• Preservation of the built environment and cultural landscapes contributes to neighborhood vitality, livability, authenticity, quality of life and economic value.

“Established, authentic character is a highly sought after, limited and nonreplicable resource that contributes to the value of the entire community,” said Tyler Gibbs, Historic Routt County board member and former planning director for the City of Steamboat Springs.

• Historic Preservation is environmentally sustainable – “The greenest building is the one that is already built.”

• Historic value, authenticity and character are not secured and leveraged when preservation protections are not in place. The vast majority of Steamboat’s historic commercial buildings and original neighborhoods are not currently afforded protection.

New infill development, necessary to meet expanding community needs, can and should be encouraged to be complementary to the character of our existing built and natural context while being responsive to the needs of our time. Some aspects of the current codes are not consistent with best practices and should be reevaluated.

In addition to the efforts of Partners in Preservation, Steamboat is adding resources to effectively administer its current preservation program, including adding a historic preservation planner to help guide and implement best practices.

In addition, as a Certified Local Government, the city allows local developers and owners of historic properties listed on the Steamboat historic register to apply for significant state tax credits to off-set costs of maintaining and rehabilitating historic structures.

Local sales tax rebates for historic preservation projects can also assist these local property owners, as well as local building supply businesses. Partners in Preservation wants to help ensure that Certified Local Government requirements and financial benefits are maintained.

Though Steamboat has a long way to go in order to truly protect its irreplaceable historic assets and associated charm and character, Partners in Preservation is dedicated to helping the cause for long-term community benefit.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum is located at 800 Oak St. in downtown Steamboat Springs.

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