Behind the headlines: Tom Ptach Steamboat’s Main Street Project
Q. We understand your group is setting out to revitalize and focus Steamboat Springs’ downtown commercial district within specific geographic boundaries. Within that broader goal, the Main Street Project describes four essential points or goals. The goal of “Economic Restructuring,” calls for “increasing the economic value of downtown by diversifying it with the right mix of current and new businesses suitable for the given marketplace.” Given that there are many independent property and business owners in downtown Steamboat, how do you hope to accomplish that goal?
A. The “Main Street” approach was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the mid-80s and has been implemented in hundreds of communities throughout the country with an ownership make-up such as ours. The first step in achieving the desired diversification is to get a strong “buy-in” by property and business owners within the district. This buy-in is achieved through active and frequent communication augmented by positive involvement of all affected parties. Once buy-in is achieved, the Main Street approach uses tools from tenant prospecting to direct leasing to achieve the desired business mix. The diversification tools appropriate for Steamboat will be identified as the program rolls out.
Q. How will you reach out to the greater community to seek its reactions to your group’s plans?
A. We are starting the reach-out program with a community-wide meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Centennial Hall. That meeting will be followed up with a presentation at the Economic Summit on Thursday. Finally, as the program unfolds, we plan to keep the channels of communication open primarily through the newspaper and e-mails. Those interested in the program also can give input at any time through any one of the board or committee members.
Q. Why does downtown Steamboat need revitalization? Isn’t it thriving?
A. While overall downtown Steamboat is in good shape, it certainly is not in an optimal state. We prefer to say that downtown needs invigoration as opposed to revitalization. We have retail space that sits vacant for far too long and a business mix that is a bit over-skewed toward the guest. Through the Main Street program, we hope to develop a healthier downtown district that has its primary focus on fulfilling the needs of our residents. The mission of Main Street is to strengthen and enhance the economic, social, aesthetic and public value of the heart of Steamboat.
Q. Within the category of “design” the Main Street Project seeks to “increase the physical value of downtown through new and rehabilitation construction and through the design of public spaces that will attract more people.” Can you give examples of public spaces or facilities in downtown that could use some rehabilitation?
A. Once again, the current “physical plant” of downtown Steamboat is in fairly good shape overall. Within the framework of the Main Street approach, focus is needed on “in-fill” between existing structures and a movement toward second floor residential units in downtown. Some of this already is occurring as seen in the redevelopment of the Harbor Hotel, the new Ski & Bike Kare building and the 11th and Yampa streets project. We also have some wonderful public spaces downtown from the courthouse lawn, to Weiss Park and the Yampa River Core Trail. However, I think downtown could be made more pedestrian-friendly through “bump-outs” at corner crossings and better sidewalk upkeep.
Q. The local Main Street Project has set a goal of sharpening the definition of downtown Steamboat’s “brand.” Most people think of consumer products when they think of different brands. Why does downtown need a brand?
A. Anything of value to someone immediately brings to mind a positive image or feeling. A brand is not just a logo or image, but it is more so the lasting impression that something creates. Brands for SmartWool, TIC or the Ski Corp. are not just logos, but instead are the feeling of quality and value that is conjured up when you see those logos or talk about the companies. That is the type of “brand” that we are talking about for downtown. While a logo will be part of that identity, we hope to develop a brand that invokes a feeling of community, warmth and value for our residents that cannot be found anywhere else. Through the development of a brand, we hope to generate a sense of loyalty within our community to downtown Steamboat that will inspire residents to keep their business in town thereby enhance all aspects of Steamboat for everyone.
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