Our view: Transforming Steamboat’s alleyways
December 4, 2018
Anyone who spends time in downtown Steamboat Springs has probably navigated through some of its alleyways.
Oftentimes, these passageways are cluttered with dumpsters, trash cans and empty wooden palettes, but there are a few bright spots — a sunset over Rabbit Ears Pass on the back of the Natural Grocers building, a psychedelic elk on the side of Steamboat Meat & Seafood Co., a patriotic eagle behind the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall and a summertime forest of aspens on the side of Pine Moon Gallery.
The murals, which showcase the work of local artists, provide pockets of color in unexpected places and brighten downtown's more hidden spaces. Several of these murals were created as part of a Steamboat Springs Arts Council initiative, and we wholeheartedly support the idea of more projects like these in the future.
At a glance
At issue: A Steamboat businessman continues to challenge the community to uncover the untapped potential of downtown alleys.
Our View: This is an opportunity to continue to improve and beautify Steamboat's downtown area.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Mike Burns, community representative
• Melissa Hampton, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@
Local businessman Jim Cook has been spearheading an effort to revitalize Steamboat's alleyways, and he believes downtown's 2 acres of alleys represent untapped potential for creating gathering places, retail storefronts and canvases for more public art, and we agree with him.
Cook was instrumental in bringing a group of experts to Steamboat from the Fort Collins Development Committee to discuss with community leaders how the college town successfully transformed its alleyways. The development experts spoke about how they turned ugly alleys into pedestrian walkways with Tivoli lighting, planters and trellises, public art and new pavement.
In particular, we liked their idea of businesses turning alleys into attractive second entrances and expanding their building's footprint to include outdoor seating in alley space. We also embrace their concept of using art to mask the innate ugliness of a back alley.
With all the work that has recently been completed to transform Yampa and Oak streets, we think implementing a plan to beautify the alleyways in between is a great way to keep up the downtown improvement momentum.
And we aren't proposing some multi-million dollar public investment. Instead, we think a lot of the work can be accomplished through private-public partnerships, possible grant funding and some out-of-the-box thinking.
For example, think of what would happen if CenturyLink decided to turn its downtown, four-story cell tower into a clock tower or a giant colorful piece of public art. The impact would be immediate, and it would encourage other companies to make improvements to the outsides of their downtown businesses.
Beautification of Steamboat's alleyways can be accomplished without an edict or an ordinance, so we shouldn't overthink the opportunity. All that's required is collaboration and creativity. The alleys are plain canvases waiting to be transformed into something beautiful, and we have confidence that Steamboat has the bright creative thinkers to come up with the ideas and inspiration to do the work.