Doak considers life along river |

Doak considers life along river

— The Bridges at Steamboat would relocate Yampa Valley Medical Center’s nursing home into the midst of a new experiential residential neighborhood based on the twin themes of trout fishing and enthusiasm for the natural environment.

Hospital CEO Karl Gills confirmed that tentative plans for the new development entail moving the Doak Walker Care Center to a new senior citizens campus about two miles from the hospital on the city’s southern edge.

“It will be really exciting if it can come together,” Gills said. “The concept of elder care and skilled nursing is constantly evolving. The idea of a long hallway is giving way to more of a community feel.”

The development has been proposed for 40-plus acres just outside the city’s southern limits and west of U.S. Highway 40, across Dougherty Drive from the River Place neighborhood. It would be built on multiple parcels, one owned by Butch Dougherty and another owned by Ed MacArthur. In addition to a senior campus, it would create market-rate housing along the Yampa River.

The move would enable matching the Doak, a skilled nursing facility, with independent living and assisted living homes for seniors. That’s something that could not be done as effectively at the medical center site, Gills said.

The number of rooms and beds in the Doak also would be increased at The Bridges, from 59 to a number yet to be determined.

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The senior living campus is just one portion of the overall plan at The Bridges at Steamboat.

The Bridges is actually entering the city planning process under a joint development agreement involving Yampa Valley Medical Center and Yampa River Village LLC, an entity created by Hank Wilton, of The Wilton Companies based in Richmond, Va.

Gills said that if the parcel is annexed and the plan adopted, the two entities each will have to purchase their own land and will develop independently of one another.

Riley Polumbus, a spokeswoman for the developers, said seniors at The Bridges would find themselves in the midst of a community within the broader Steamboat community, with a small commercial center and grouping of small luxury homes nearby in the Yampa Club. The Yampa Club residences are not necessarily intended for seniors.

The intent is to create a real estate development that is more than just townhomes and cottages, she said, in much the same way that a trip to the Apple Store is more than just a trip to a computer store, and a visit to Starbucks is marketed as not just a cup of premium coffee but the best part of one’s day.

“This will be an experience-based community,” Polumbus said. “One that offers community interaction.”

In the case of The Bridges, the experience will revolve around trout fishing, viewing wildlife including nearby nesting bald eagles and gathering later to talk about it in the lodge.

If people who purchase slopeside condominiums enjoy the ski-in/ski-out lifestyle, residents at one of the 70 to 100 townhomes or cottages at the Yampa Club would enjoy a fish-in/fish-out lifestyle, Polumbus said.

The townhomes and cottages would be built on both sides of a stretch of the Yampa River that runs through the property.

In addition, Yampa River Village LLC would develop a town center closer to U.S. 40 intended for the types of retail that would appeal to the community.

The choice of names for The Bridges was made deliberately to suggest a metaphor for the succession of senior living options at the project, Polumbus said. In theory, people might begin living independently in one of the 15 to 25 cottages on the senior campus, continue to assisted living and ultimately check into the nursing home.

The literal manifestation of the name will appear in a covered bridge entry to the neighborhood, as well as new automobile and foot bridges over the Yampa.

Annexation questions

The Wilton Companies has been in business in Richmond since 1945. It developed and manages multifamily housing projects, office parks, industrial and retail centers in the mid-Atlantic region.

Wilton is best known in Steamboat as the developer of 360 Ranch, a proposed subdivision in the west of Steamboat that is in the city planning process.

The Bridges and 360 Ranch have something in common: both projects are seeking annexation to the city. There is a significant distinction in that area, however. Unlike 360 Ranch, The Bridges already lies within the city’s existing Urban Growth Boundary.

The joint development will need to pursue a pre-annexation agreement, Senior City Planner Jonathon Spence said.

Spence said a future discussion about how The Bridges fits in with the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan should prove to be interesting.

The developers, in their pre-application documents, suggest the proposal is consistent with the plan’s vision for low-density housing in that part of the South Valley.

Spence said that at first glance, plans to build in close proximity to the river may not be such a good fit.

“The plans says we shouldn’t really be building in sensitive areas like this with a nearby (Mount Werner Water) infiltration gallery, wetlands and the floodplain. But additional senor facilities are a need today, and even more of a need tomorrow.”

Polumbus acknowledge the situation.

“Our greatest asset is our greatest challenge,” she said. “The river is what makes this such a compelling property. To be able to use that, we have to be sensitive to the environment. We’ll have to work with the best people we can to make that a reality.”

One of the centerpieces of the trails network at The Bridges is a large viewing platform so visitors and residents can observe a nearby bald eagle nest. The developers already have engaged a consultant with regard to the eagles and have said they would be willing to follow their advice and avoid building activity during sensitive nesting periods.

Polumbus said that in addition to expanded senior living opportunities, The Bridges affords the potential of linking the Yampa River Core Trail south of Haymaker Golf Course and a lake in the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.

Both development entities will wait to see if they win city approval before going forward with tentative agreements to purchase the larger land parcels from MacArthur.

Gills said he’s confident the Doak Walker Care Center, run by hospital staff, provides high-quality care and through the Eden Alternative, goes a long way to providing residents of the Doak with a residential lifestyle. However, he said, taking it to another level at The Bridges would require the hospital board to engage with another business entity that has more expertise in projecting future demand for senior services and operating skilled nursing centers. He’s just as certain that Yampa Valley Medical Center could not develop the new senior campus without outside financial help.

“We can benefit by identifying and linking with a strategic partner,” Gills said. “And I know it can’t be done without philanthropic help.”

Gills said his board is committed to ensuring that a new Doak Walker Care Center is accessible to area residents.

“We’re working to make that happen,” he said. “In terms of making it affordable and available to all, that’s part of our mission.”