Improving alleys, supporting recycling part of one Steamboat man’s vision of the future

A proposed deck on the back of building located on the alley between Seventh and Eighth streets in downtown Steamboat Springs is just one step in hopefully a larger project for Jim Cook to revitalize alleys.
Jim Cook/Courtesy image

Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Jim Cook views the alleys that run parallel to Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat as underappreciated assets.

Cook, who founded Colorado Group Reality along with his son Coleman, envisions the day when he can walk through those alleys and not see a dumpster, and where people can enjoy a vibrant scene as they relax on a deck, sit on a patio or enjoy a good meal. A place where businesses can flourish.

“It’s not an original idea,” Cook said. “It’s certainly been done in a lot of other communities with great favor. Denver and Fort Collins both have very active alley programs, and I would love to see that in Steamboat Springs.”

Cook represents the owners of the building where Del Mezcal is located, and has recently submitted plans to the Steamboat Springs Planning Department to build a new deck overlooking the alley between Seventh and Eighth streets.

“The deck will be the kickoff to what I’d like to see happen all the way through the alley system on both sides of Lincoln,” Cook said. “We want to make that usable space whether it be outdoor dining, putting some retail or something along those lines.”

He is also hoping the alleys will become urban pathways and create space for art.

“I think we should name the alleys, and I think we should have lighting in the alleys because a lot of people walk those alleys instead of walking along Main Street,” Cook said. “I think art is going to be a big part of what we do in the alleys. I’d like to see a rotating art scene with removable murals, not necessarily painted directly on the brick, but murals that can be moved a little bit like what I’m doing on Diagon Alley.”

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His desire to clean up the alleys is also tied to creating a more sustainable environment through recycling. In the case of the planned deck, the recycling containers, including one for kitchen grease, will be hidden from view under the deck. There will be a door that can be opened and the containers rolled out to be picked up so trucks that collect the kitchen grease can access the container. He has been working with the owner of Del Mezcal to create a new model that he sees as an example.

“I want it to be the poster boy for recycling … It is the first restaurant in downtown to have a fully in-place recycling plan that includes organic materials, which can be used for composting, other recyclables and trash,” Cook said. “What that allows us to do … is to get rid of damn dumpsters in the alley.”

He is optimistic that other restaurants will view Del Mezcal as an example of what can be done, and said the restaurant is ahead of a proposed commercial recycling ordinance.

“The paper recently wrote about the mandatory commercial recycling ordinance, but these guys are doing it prior to becoming mandatory, which is wonderful — that is taking the lead,” said Winn Cowman, Waste Diversion Director for the Yampa Valley Sustainable Council. “There will be a phased implementation of that ordinance, but it’s great to see restaurants that are getting out ahead of that and doing it voluntarily.”

Cook views the recycling and alley improvement projects as ways to improve the community. He said the mandatory commercial recycling ordinance is a good first step, and he is hoping that he can find creative ways to raise capital to improve the alleys. Cook said investing in the alleys is a great way to improve cash flow.

“You will be able to add space on the back of your building, where maybe you’ve got unoccupied areas that aren’t being used,” Cook said. “So spend a little money and get money in return. Plus, community pride is probably the biggest thing that will come out of this.”

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