After 30-plus years of planning, Yampa Street project begins
Steamboat Springs — There are always smiles and celebrations at groundbreakings.
But the one on Yampa Street on Friday felt particularly festive.
Perhaps it was the scope of the improvements that are to come.
Maybe it was the number of late-night Steamboat Springs City Council meetings through the course of several years that went into making the groundbreaking happen.
Or this heightened sense of revelry at the corner of Seventh and Yampa streets on Friday could have been spurred by the fact that the plans construction crews are now executing were collecting dust in a drawer in City Hall for more than 30 years.
Yes, this groundbreaking felt particularly special.
At 12:30 p.m. city officials, business leaders and City Council members were all smiles, as they dug shovels into a portion of an empty lot on the downtown roadway that will soon be transformed into a new promenade filled with public-gathering spots.
New street lights will be installed, and the power lines that obstruct views of Howelsen Hill will disappear.
And for the first time, pedestrians will be able to travel on sidewalks from one end of Yampa to the other on both sides of the street.
“I think this is going to be a real destination for people who are visiting Steamboat,” Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said as he reflected on the event. “This will be more than just a new sidewalk. It will be a place for people to come down and linger.”
The groundbreaking event marked the official start of the multimillion-dollar improvement project on Yampa that has been talked about since 1984.
“This is something that’s been percolating in the city’s and the community’s thoughts for a long time,” Gibbs said. “We just finally had enough momentum to get it going.”
Some of the plans for the Yampa Street promenade were drafted before the end of the Ronald Reagan presidential administration in the mid-1980s.
Today, those dusty plans are updated construction drawings, and crews have blocked off portions of the street to begin the transformation.
Gibbs made sure to take a photo of the groundbreaking to send to the head of the Urban Land Institute who visited Steamboat four years ago to tour Yampa and make recommendations for how to improve it.
Noting the plans were already on the shelves in City Hall at the time, the planners from ULI essentially told the city “you know what to do, just do it.”
A previous council wrestled for several months with how to best fund the project and decided to pay for it largely out of the city’s own capital improvement budget.
During the initial phase of the work, Yampa has been closed where it runs from Ninth to 11th streets.
There will be road closures spanning two blocks at a time as the work progresses down the street.
All businesses will remain open.
To try and dispel some of the negative aspects of construction, the city is telling residents and visitors they are not digging downtown — they are diggin’ it.
A social media campaign will be launched to tout the improvements and also help keep the community informed of the progress.
Residents can call 970-871-7052 anytime to hear a recording with the latest project update.
Steamboat Today will also provide regular construction updates.
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Construction on Sleeping Giant School has moved mostly inside as the roughly 100-person crew continues the push to complete the building by the end of summer.