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Steamboat City Council ready to entertain wide range of Iron Horse Inn proposals

The Iron Horse Inn has been eyed by affordable housing developers and
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— At grocery stores, street corners and soccer fields, many community members have approached Steamboat Springs City Council members in recent years to tell them what they should do with the aging Iron Horse Inn.

“I’ve heard ideas from luxury apartments to this is going to be the new parking area for tubing operations, and everything in between,” council member Sonja Macys said Tuesday night.

The council now believes it’s time to put all the ideas on paper so it can weigh them.



With so many ideas and redevelopment proposals for the once-defunct hotel floating around the community, the council took a potentially big step Tuesday toward deciding the property’s future by approving a request for proposals, or RFP, that will invite developers and other interested parties to submit their ideas for the Iron Horse to the city.

After a 90-day submission period, the council will then have up to 60 days to consider the proposals and enter negotiations with the bidders.

In recent years, ideas for the Iron Horse have only been offered verbally to individual council members or as unsolicited proposals to city staff.

In March, 2013, a Chicago-based developer approached the city with a proposal to replace the hotel buildings with a 42-unit affordable housing development targeted at employees who make less than $42,000 per year.

Later that year, another developer wanted to renovate the old hotel buildings and convert the Iron Horse into a more successful and independent hotel.

Today, the Sheraton Steamboat Resort would like to keep using the hotel as affordable workforce housing for its seasonal employees.

These are only a few of the ideas the city has heard so far.

“I am eagerly awaiting what’s out there, because I have been out there for the last few years getting poked and prodded by people saying ‘you should do this you should do that,” Council President Bart Kounovsky said. “Now we’re going to see those ideas. If there’s some good stuff, that’s wonderful. If there’s not such good stuff, then we’ll make that call at that point in time.”

Kounovsky said he wasn’t ready to dispose of the Iron Horse immediately, but “I do want to see what’s out there.”

Council members chose to “cast a wide net” with the RFP and not limit the types of proposals.

The council is ultimately trying to find the Iron Horse’s highest and best use.

Council members on Tuesday continued to refer to the hotel property as an albatross and a financial liability.

Many wanted to find a way to “stop the bleeding” from the property while limiting the city’s risk.

Currently, one of the hotel buildings is housing the seasonal Sheraton employees, while the other houses tenants in studio apartments who have month-to-month leases.

The city at one point proposed demolishing the Iron Horse to make way for a new police station.

Several Iron Horse tenants opposed the idea, saying they would be hard pressed to find other affordable housing in the community.

The city purchased the Iron Horse in 2007 thinking it would be an ideal source of affordable workforce housing.

Regardless of what the city decides to do with the Iron Horse, it will pay $480,000 per year until 2032 to pay off the debt on the property.

The city’s other option is to pay $5 million in 2018 to pay off the debt in full.

The Iron Horse RFP will be available on the city’s website at http://www.steamboatsprings.net beginning Friday.

Proposals will be accepted through June 22.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


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