Putting the brakes on
The Harbor Hotel’s fate was sealed last week. The old hotel that some see as historical is coming down now that Howelsen Place has made it through the planning process.
We think Howelsen Place — a mixed-use development with 11 commercial outlets and 42 residential units — will be an improvement over the Harbor and should enhance downtown.
Howelsen Place is one of several new developments that are transforming downtown into a great place to live as well as a great place to shop and eat. Others recently built, being built or in the planning process include the Residences at Old Town, Waterside Village, Riverwalk and Alpenglow.
But there is a caveat — our new downtown will only work if we are willing to confront our parking problem. “We” includes everyone who uses downtown, not just those who live or work there.
Howelsen Place, like many of the mixed-use developments before and after it, got a waiver from the parking recommended in the community plan. The plan recommends one parking space for each employee housing unit, 1.5 parking spaces for each one-bedroom unit and two parking spaces for multi-bedroom units.
The Steamboat Springs Planning Department has taken the stance that such waivers, which usually require the developer to contribute fees in lieu of parking, are OK in order to create a better mix of residential and commercial units. If the recommendations were followed strictly, downtown would become a series of parking lots, and residential density would be significantly decreased. It certainly would not be the kind of downtown any of us would envision.
Planners have taken the stance that just because most residential units have two cars attached to them doesn’t mean that two parking spaces must be provided for those cars. There are practical, off-site options.
It isn’t only the residential development that requires more parking. The additional commercial space will require additional parking for customers and employees. In fact, planners say downtown employees are the major users of downtown parking.
The simple fact is we all have to be willing to change our behavior.
Steamboat provides a free bus system, a Transit Center, an easy-to-navigate bike path and parking within walking distance of downtown.
Businesses must provide incentives for employees to use these services. The city of Steamboat Springs and SmartWool recently have taken steps to encourage their employees to bike to work. Their programs can serve as models for others.
As individuals, we must be willing to try these services ourselves. There are valid reasons — the weather and transporting our kids to school and activities, for example — why many of us don’t use these services to the extent we could or should.
But what if everyone decided that just once, they would take the bus, ride a bike, walk or carpool to work? Better yet, what if everyone picked one day a week to ride the bus, bike, walk or carpool to work? What if we didn’t drive when we really didn’t have to?
Imagine downtown Steamboat Springs with an even greater mix of shops, restaurants and housing than it has now. Now imagine this new downtown with fewer cars. Such dreams are possible if we all are willing to change a little.
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Sunday, July 25, 2021