Business challenged to spruce up alleys
Steamboat Springs — The Main Street Steamboat Springs organization has posed a challenge to downtown property owners.
With work scheduled to be completed on the Yampa Street improvements next year, the group wants to tackle another downtown eyesore — alleys.
A stroll through downtown alleys today can be met with some appetizing smells, contrasted by those that are less palatable. Dumpsters and grease pits are in plain sight.
Main Street Design Review Committee Chairman Jim Cook does not think it has to be that way and believes the alleys have the potential to create a more enjoyable downtown experience.
“We’ve got a lot of buy-in from people,” Cook said, referring to conversations he has had with downtown business and property owners.
According to Main Street, the downtown alleys make up an area of 1.5 acres.
“If we, as a community, could recapture 50 percent of that area for pedestrian pathways, bike routes, landscaped areas and even backdoor store fronts, we could add almost one acre to our public space at zero land cost,” Cook wrote in a letter to Main Street members.
This spring, Main Street will spearhead an effort to show what the potential is. The group will start with the alley connecting Fifth and Seventh streets between Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street.
In those demonstration alleys, business owners will be challenged to spruce things up.
That could include the addition of public art, such as murals that have been commissioned by the Steamboat Arts Council.
“Of course, the murals have sparked a lot of interest,” Cook said.
Restaurants could consider putting in back patios. Landscaped seating areas could also be added, and Cook envisions backdoor store fronts.
“I think it’s going to be the start of something really unique,” Cook said.
Cook said similar projects have been accomplished in large communities such as Los Angeles, Seattle and Fort Collins.
The Main Street Design Review Committee has met with the local trash companies to seek out creative ways to better handle trash and recycling. Cook said many big cities have moved away from littering alleys with dumpsters.
There is the potential for better ways to store cooking grease. Twin Enviro Services has a thriving composting program, and enclosures could be built to hide dumpsters.
“Visitors and shoppers today are seeking unique experiences fostered in local creativity,” Cook told business owners. “Festival lights down the alley, landscaped seating areas, vibrant back-door store fronts could all make this a reality.”
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