Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to buy home in Steamboat for organization |

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to buy home in Steamboat for organization

The leadership of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps is moving forward on purchasing this property just off 13th Street that would provide the group a permanent home on Steamboat's west side and possibly someday host other youth service organizations.
John F. Russell

— The leadership of Rocky Moun­tain Youth Corps is working to close a $675,000 real estate purchase on Steamboat's west side that would give it a permanent home and possibly someday host as many as five to 10 other youth service organizations.

"I feel like we're the perfect tenants of this place because of the proximity to the public lands on Emerald Mountain," Executive Director Gretchen Van De Carr said. "The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps feels like we're one of the stewards of the trails up there. It's an ideal location for a (future) youth services center that's right in town but has a rural feel. For us, it's perfect."

The Corps has put under contract a historic home and several outbuildings on 3.85 acres at 1705 13th St. (Twentymile Road). The current owners are Mike Kortas and Nina Darlington. The entrance to what was once the Eckstein Ranch is across the street from the gasoline pumps at Petro West Distributing.

More significantly, the ranch, established in 1935, is within bicycling distance of thousands of acres of multiuse recreational land on Emerald Mountain. That proximity makes it an ideal training ground for the Corps, which supports its mission of providing youths with values and skills through outdoor projects such as trail building, Van De Carr said.

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Board President Sally Claassen said she has learned from her volunteer work on other nonprofit boards how the acquisition of a permanent home can stabilize a nonprofit group and provide a platform for growth.

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"The Youth Corps is a great organization, and this can give it a positive presence," Claassen said. "How great is it that a nonprofit can become the steward of this unusual property and it becomes more of a community asset?"

She drew a parallel to another era and the lessons she learned from fellow board members when Horizons Specialized Services took a leap of faith and bought the former Gossard house on Oak Street for its offices and an older apartment building to house staff and clients.

Van De Carr said the hope is to close on the purchase, which would depend on landing a special U.S. Department of Agriculture loan intended for community nonprofits, and remodel some of the buildings in time to move in by fall. The Corps would occupy the ranch house with its stone façade, and the Partners in Routt County youth mentoring program would become a tenant in an already remodeled bunkhouse.

The two organizations currently lease space in a building on the Colorado Mountain College Alpine Campus that is expected to be demolished to make way for a new campus building.

However, the Corps is looking further into the future to imagine a grander scheme. A second phase of the project would expand on the existing facilities at the ranch to provide facilities for more youth agencies by 2015.

"We can become a foundation to strengthen youth services in our county and our region," Van De Carr said. "It would provide one physical point of contact for people using youth services."

Seeking stability

The real estate purchase is a cornerstone of the Corps' 2008-2013 Strategic Plan as outlined by its board of directors. The plan includes a third phase of development with the creation, someday, of a youth development center on private land closer to Emerald Mountain.

"It seemed like pie in the sky in early 2008 (during a board retreat). Now we have a chance to acquire a place that fits with our mission of getting kids outside," Claassen said. "The rent on our offices at CMC have been very favorable, but now that they have other plans for the campus, we can't count on our costs being that low forever."

The real estate purchase enabled by favorable government loan terms has the potential to keep monthly facilities costs for the Corps close to where they are now, with the added tangible benefit of the stability that comes with ownership, she said.

"There's a huge value to that," Claassen said.

In the shorter term, the ranch purchase meets the plan's goals of consolidating off-site vehicle and equipment storage into one facility, to realize a cost savings.

Currently, the Corps pays rent for its CMC offices and for a storage unit where it keeps vehicles and tools. The purchase would allow it to reduce costs and add to convenience by creating ample parking for vehicles and tool storage in an existing 1,000-square-foot garage.

Makings of a deal

The real estate deal being pursued by the Rocky Moun­tain Youth Corps this summer required flexibility on the part of the owners; the buildings the Corps intends to purchase, and the land they sit on, are part of a larger parcel that was being offered in the fall by Kortas and Darlington for $1.8 million.

It comprised 13 acres including a smaller parcel already zoned industrial by the city and an intriguing parcel on the southeast corner of the overall site that was platted for 31 small single-family building lots in 1905 as part of the original Miller-Frazier subdivision, Kortas said. Using contemporary standards, he said the 33 lots might become 15 larger lots. Realtor Scott Eggleston, of Prudential Steamboat Realty, has the listing on the residential development and industrial parcels.

The Eckstein family, which once raised sheep on 500 acres that extended up the north flank of Emerald Mountain, sold its property to Newell Grant, of Yampa Valley Land and Cattle Co., in about 1970, Kortas said. The land was annexed into the city in 1992 with the Fairview neighborhood. He bought his piece of the ranch from Grant for about $650,000.

The main ranch house has been thoroughly modernized but retains much of its original charm, including a stone fireplace, now outfitted with a gas insert, that was built by the original owners with unusual rocks including petrified wood.

Kortas added the garage with a flat roof that would be ideal for entertaining groups of Corps crew leaders, Van De Carr said. In addition to the outbuildings that include the bunkhouse and a large metal shop, the Corps would acquire a small historic house moved to the site from Old Town, she said.

The estimated cost for renovating the house to include offices in the bedrooms is about $130,000, Van De Carr said. That brings the acquisition and remodeling cost to $806,000. The Corps plans to invest $35,000 from its reserve funds and is seeking $500 each from the city and county. It hopes to raise $10,000 to $250,000 from local people and businesses.

However, the bulk of the $806,000 would come from the USDA loan, an amount that could range from $525,125 to $765,000 depending on the participation from individual donors.

Van De Carr said 65 percent of her organization's revenue stream is provided by earned income from the projects built by its teams of youth workers in agreement with other entities. That amount, combined with rental income from tenants at the new site and the cost savings realized from not having to pay rent at two facilities, should service a USDA loan, she said.

Claassen is hopeful that along with penciling out on the balance sheet, the acquisition of the old Eckstein Ranch will benefit the greater community by conserving a community asset that will someday enjoy widespread use.

At a glance

The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps is among 100 youth corps nationwide, and among 10 accredited by the Colorado Youth Corps Association. The local organization was established by the city of Steamboat Springs in 1993 in response to the community goal of creating more summer employment and recreational opportunities for teens and at-risk youths. It attained nonprofit status in 1999.

A community board comprising people with experience in business, law, accounting and government oversees its activities.

Executive Director Gretchen Van De Carr said it is typical of mature Corps to undertake ownership of their own facility.

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