Downtown Steamboat stakeholders brainstorm ways to obtain business boost |

Downtown Steamboat stakeholders brainstorm ways to obtain business boost

Scott Franz

Downtown shoppers stroll along Lincoln Avenue on Sunday afternoon. Downtown stakeholders have been brainstorming ways to improve business

— The deployment of new sandwich boards downtown could be the first idea to become a reality out of the many that were generated last week at a brainstorming session held for downtown stakeholders.

The meeting, led by Mainstreet Steamboat Springs along with city planning staff, revealed downtown merchants and their shoppers have many ideas for how to boost business and improve the downtown corridor.

Some said their retail businesses are in "survival mode" and they need every boost they can get to stay in business.

The group of about 30 business owners and community members tackled topics such as parking issues, the early closing hours of some businesses and the desire for more festivals downtown.

But it was the sandwich boards, which currently aren’t allowed in the public right of way, that were on the minds of many merchants who said they want to deploy them to help attract more visitors to their stores, especially on side streets.

"I think, frankly, those signs help to show vibrancy. It shows a store is open and they have something going on," Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett said Sunday, adding that the new signage could be used to promote dinner specials and other merchandise.

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She noted that some merchants are frustrated with the current code that allows businesses to obtain permits for items downtown such as clothing racks, the horse in front of F.M. Light & Sons and the pig in front of the Smokehouse, but not sandwich board signs.

"A change could level the playing field," she said.

One merchant at the meeting said a sandwich board is so important for business, her store owner has instructed her to keep it out, and the store will pay any of the fines it receives from displaying it.

Barnett said Mainstreet and the city’s planning staff currently are working on a proposal that could change the existing ordinance and allow the portable signs as soon as this summer, with some restrictions to ensure the signage doesn’t get out of hand.

The work follows discussions that date back years about improving signage downtown to help business owners.

Any changes to the existing ordinance would be brought before the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Planning Director Tyler Gibbs told the downtown stakeholders Thursday that he was considering proposing changes to the existing ordinance.

He said the signs currently aren’t allowed because of liability issues that could result if someone tripped over them or if a sign blew away and caused damage.

A new code would try and prevent any issues with new signage, he said.

Some community members and city officials have met previous discussions about the portable signs with the concern they could create clutter.

Barnett said that while she supports the addition of some sandwich boards, they indeed could become an issue if they are not used in moderation.

"I just hope we don’t have every store in town putting one out because that would be visual clutter," she said.

The downtown stakeholders were so eager Thursday to continue discussing potential improvements to Lincoln Avenue, Oak and Yampa streets that they agreed to hold a second meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Chief Theater.

Barnett said the meetings offer business owners and community members a regular forum to share their ideas about the downtown area.

"The biggest thing I took out of the first meeting is we have to prioritize what it is we want to do and not tackle too much," she said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email