Mainstreet asks city for cash | SteamboatToday.com

Mainstreet asks city for cash

Group wants funding match of up to $100K, talks on garages

Blythe Terrell

The Connor family from Denver takes an afternoon stroll along Lincoln Avenue on Sunday. Christie Connor pushes Cameron, 3, and John Connor holds Morgan, 1. Grandparents Audrey and Bill Bladt from Arizona came along. Officials from Mainstreet Steamboat Springs are asking the city for funding to improve the downtown area to keep bringing in tourists.

— Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is asking the city for up to $100,000 a year in matching funds.

The group presented its request at last week’s City Council meeting. The money would help fund operations, programming and possibly the hiring of a special events coordinator.

“We’re maxed out with respect to our resources, and that events coordinator is a key part of Mainstreet’s success in programs around the country to really inspire volunteerism,” Mainstreet President Towny Anderson said in an interview. “And in order to do that, you need someone who can coordinate that volunteer effort and do it on a sustainable basis.”

The city has given Mainstreet $60,000, $63,000 and $65,000 the past three years. The group is asking for a minimum of $65,000 and a match of whatever Mainstreet raises beyond that from members, grants and programs. It would be capped at $100,000, Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett said.

In its presentation to the council, the group said that an annual investment of $100,000 would create $5 million to $6 million in new tax revenue during the next five years. The city should invest in downtown the same way it invests in the base area, Barnett said.

On top of that, she and Anderson noted, the mountain area will be under construction for several years.

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“With the improvements going on in the base area, there’s going to be a lot of disruption,” Anderson said. “If we don’t get the visitors in the base area downtown, we’re going to lose those visitors because the disruption in the base area is going to be going on the next two to five years.”

Mainstreet decided not to go through with a vote on a business improvement district this year. Owners of downtown businesses would have been taxed through the district, and that money would have paid for improvements downtown. Voters narrowly rejected such a district through a mail-in ballot last fall.

Without that income, Mainstreet had to seek funding elsewhere.

Bob Litzau, the city’s assistant finance director, said his department is starting to work on the 2009 budget. The council is scheduled to OK that budget in October, he said.

“It would go through the budget process, and it would have to be approved ultimately by council,” Litzau said of Mainstreet’s request. “But it would have to be part of the budget cycle.”

He said the funds for the group had come from the community support budget in the past. The new funds, if approved, probably would go through the same source, Litzau said.

The city has given $1.5 million to $1.8 million for community support annually. That includes $600,000 to $800,000 in summer marketing money for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Litzau said.

Also at Tuesday’s council meeting, Mainstreet delivered a presentation on the possibility of a downtown parking garage. The group asked the council to plan a work session to discuss options. The council opted not to do so, instead asking Mainstreet to return with a list of possible ways to fund it.

A 300-car garage could cost $6 million to $15 million, Mainstreet told the council.

“We have to start thinking of all the alternatives to ways to come up with funds,” Barnett said in an interview. “We’re not necessarily asking the city to pay for all this. A private developer could build it and dedicate it to city. : If the parking garage were wrapped with retail wrap, it would give the developer the option of building it and making money back through retail rents or condominiums.”

Mainstreet is looking at half a block at Eighth and Oak streets as a possible garage site, Barnett said. Even if a garage doesn’t go up, she said, now is the time for these talks to begin.

“This whole traffic discussion is going to get worse from here on out, and we can’t keep putting it on the back burner,” Barnett said. “It isn’t that we need a parking structure today, but we need to be planning it and putting aside money for one in the future.”

– To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234 or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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