Yampa plans to revitalize historic downtown
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — South Routt residents like Donna Corrigan and Noreen Moore were among the 78 people who packed a town hall meeting hoping to form a vision for what Yampa should become in the wake of a fire that destroyed the Royal Hotel.
“It was a group of people who came out for that town hall meeting,” Corrigan said. “Noreen got Main Street Steamboat Springs to come down, and we were able to form different groups.”
One of those groups was Friends of Gateway Yampa, which is focused on revitalizing Moffat Avenue and Main Street, attracting new business to town and bringing more attention to longtime businesses like Montgomery’s General Store, the Antlers Café and Bar, Penny’s Diner and Yampa Liquor Store.
“The town still has that great feel, and it is truly a ranching community,” Moore said. “At the core of it is Montgomery’s. I mean they are kind of the anchor tenant of the town, and then of course, when the Antlers is open in the summertime, it’s great.
“But I would say, from a community development point of view and an economic point of view, you would really look to see if we could have like another little tavern or another little coffee shop there where people could congregate,” Moore added. “That seems to be what people like about a town … a place to kind of get together.”
After the fire at the Royal Hotel, the town of Yampa asked graduate students from the University of Colorado Denver’s Colorado Center for Community Development to develop a downtown enhancement plan that adds streetscaping elements to the main public streets to represent the community character.
The proposed streetscape plans include sidewalks — something that both Moffat Avenue and Main Street used to have — as well as a town square in the area where the two streets intersect.
The fire also sparked a newfound interest in improving the downtown with volunteers distributing flower containers and putting a fresh coat of paint on the streetlights that run up the middle of Moffat Avenue. The project raised money by offering area ranchers the chance to showcase their brands on the bases of the poles.
But that was just the start.
The Friends of Gateway Yampa, a limited liability company operating under the umbrella of the South Routt Economic Development Council, has also proposed design criteria to the town board for future development.
“The town board is still working on the ideas for that,” said Janet Ray, Yampa town clerk. “It’s been discussed in a public meeting, but there has not been anything put in place.”
Ray said the criteria would be designed to enhance the western feel of the town and avoid ultra-modern facades.
Corrigan and Moore were among a small group of private investors who purchased Wassinger’s Garage, which included several storefronts just east of the iconic Antler’s Café & Bar in downtown Yampa.
They improved the appearance of the building with a new façade, which replicated its original appearance. They are nearing completion on the interior of the first of four units, which includes a residential bathroom and a kitchen. Work is also underway on a second unit, which will have a bathroom but is set up to be a shop or storefront.
Corrigan said the first unit has already been leased, and she is hoping to rent out the remaining units this winter. Eventually, her plans are to sell the units.
Corrigan and Moore said they would like to see the building become a home for artists and businesses to help improve the economic health of the area.
“We wanted to create a place for people to come and gather,” Moore said. “Who knows what still may happen. It does take a bit to seed the soil.”
Ken Montgomery, who owns Montgomery’s General Store and is a member of the South Routt Economic Development Council, is happy to see business development downtown.
“Donna and Noreen are working on redoing that building,” Montgomery said. “Some more business downtown would be nice. You know, there’s really not much here, and there’s a vacant spot over there where the Royal was, and I don’t know what’s going to happen there.”
Montgomery believes one of the most important things would be to erect signage on Colorado Highway 131 to let passing motorists know the town is there with businesses ready to serve them.
Montgomery said the signs are key to driving business and interest. He used to have signs on private property just off the highway but was asked to take them down by Routt County more than 15 years ago. That resulted in a reduction in the amount of traffic he saw.
Friends of Gateway Yampa and the town are currently working to find someone with grant-writing experience who can help them secure funds for signage. The town is also pursuing funding to pave Main Street.
The cost for the wayfinding proposal, which would include a primary gateway, a downtown gateway, a pedestrian kiosk and additional signage, is estimated between $124,200 and $256,450.
“Not only is it exciting, which is easy for me to say, but I think it’s really essential to our survival,” Ray said. “You know there are always people that don’t want to see any change, but it appears to me that, if there isn’t some change, it’s hard to survive.”
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