Our view: The numbers don’t lie
At issue: The construction project on Yampa Street is nearing completion, and it does not appear as if it had a negative impact on downtown businesses as originally expected.
The project was well managed by the city through the use of a well-thought-out communications plan and a willingness to work with business owners and contractors.
With the arrival of fall in Steamboat Springs, we can now look back and assess the impact the Yampa Street construction project had on business and tourist traffic this summer. And contrary to initial fears that construction would derail business downtown, we think the project has gone amazingly well.
The impact of construction during Steamboat’s busy summer months was minimized through a well-orchestrated communications plan and cooperation between the city staff, business owners and contractors.
In our opinion, the city did a stellar job of mitigating negative impacts and communicating with the business owners and the public about the project, which began at the end of May and still continues.
But don’t take our word for it, the proof can be found in the sales tax numbers.
Overall sales tax collections on Yampa Street rose 4.6 percent in May and June despite the construction, and collections were up 4.1 percent at businesses between Sixth and Eighth streets where much of the work was focused during those months.
City Finance Director Kim Weber reported that businesses probably didn’t see the sales volume they would have had there been no construction, but she said she “was pleasantly surprised that the sales tax impact hadn’t been as great as it was suspected it would be.”
The fact that sales tax increased on Yampa Street this summer reinforces the appeal of the project when it comes to attracting tourists and investment downtown. We are already seeing signs of Yampa Street’s potential with the opening of the Mountain Tap Brewery in the Blue Sage Ventures development at 910 Yampa St. on the west end of the street and Green Courte Partners’ renewed interest on the far eastern end of the street at the RiverView development.
We think the city was wise in choosing Mary Brown to serve as the project’s point person. Brown was the right person for the job, and as a liaison between the city and downtown businesses, she was able to listen and respond quickly as issues arose.
The city also launched a very effective “Diggin’ Downtown” public relations campaign that promoted businesses on Yampa Street while also keeping the public updated as the project advanced and construction zones moved from one section of the street to another. Wayfinding signage was key in directing locals and visitors through the cone zones and making sure the public realized businesses on Yampa Street were open for business despite the construction.
We realize no major construction project comes without inconvenience, but we think the fact that businesses and the city worked together from the project’s beginning to minimize negative impacts made a potentially bad situation much, much better.
Early signs, like increased sales tax revenue, show us the Yampa Street project is going to deliver on its promise of creating a top-quality satisfier for guests and boosting downtown business in the process. As new sidewalks allow people to walk from one end of the street to the other and new lighting adds safety and a night-life ambiance, Yampa Street becomes a prime destination for visitors and locals alike, and the improvements made by the city should spur private investment as well.
We think this summer’s downtown improvement project should serve as a model for future projects, and city leaders and staff should be commended for pulling off a phenomenal project under pressure, and businesses should be rewarded with increased business once the project is complete.
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