Changing downtown |

Changing downtown

Riverwalk development promises to transform Third and Yampa

— The city of Steamboat Springs is poised to give up the right of way to small portions of Yampa, Third and Fourth streets in Old Town. In return, the public should gain informal gathering spots, reclaim a buried stretch of Spring Creek and add new frontage on the Yampa River.

The changes are coming as part of the new Riverwalk development. Riverwalk would create 72 residential townhomes with a mix of affordable units, 32,000 square feet of commercial space and 35 boutique hotel units on 3.5 acres fronting the river.

Theity Council is expected to vote July 18 on the second and final reading of an ordinance that would formally abandon the public right-of-way for the easternmost portion of Yampa Street. The same would apply to the ends of Third and Fourth streets close to the Yampa River.

However, developer’s representative Jim Cook said that, as a practical matter, the streets would remain public and will be greatly improved. In addition, he said, the development would pay to maintain those public spaces.

City planner Jonathan Spence confirmed that after the city vacates the street right-of-ways, a public access easement would be overlaid onto the redesigned streets. There will still be vehicular access, plus parking along the streets.

Spence said the approval process for Riverwalk is rounding third base and halfway to home. The project has received its development permit. What remains is final architectural approvals from the City Council. Rooflines, building mass and street elevations already have been approved. The final hearing will deal with building materials.

In the process of creating Riverwalk, 39 trailer homes in the Westland Mobile Home Park will be removed, with their owners receiving some cash compensation, a portion of which will be supplied by monies used to compensate the city for vacating the streets.

Ironically, Cook’s development group thought at the time they put the real estate under contract that the extension of Yampa Street was already part of their purchase after the city “vacated” the right of way in the 1960s.

It was only after they performed their due diligence, Cook said, that they discovered the “vacation” was only a technical step in moving that portion of the street farther from the encroaching river.

Now, the Riverwalk developers will move the vacated stretch of Yampa even farther from the river to allow for a public trail along the river and some of the buildings in the project.

But the showpieces of the public improvements will be public plazas where the stubs of Third and Fourth streets are underutilized and unattractive.

Cook visualizes a major transformation for Third Street, where Spring Creek makes its way to its confluence with the Yampa in a buried culvert. Promenades and staircases will bridge a gulf where the road grade ends abruptly in a sheer drop of 5 feet.

A fountain intended for children to splash in will be installed, and the creek will flow through a courtyard where small groups of people will be able to gather.

At Fourth Street, a lower courtyard will embrace the river’s edge. At an upper level, a small performing venue should attract shoppers and people enjoying outdoor dining.

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