Our View: Density key to vibrancy | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Density key to vibrancy

At issue

Creating vitality on west end of Lincoln Avenue

Our view

The vote of approval for new apartment building signals forward thinking at city planning

Editorial board

Suzanne Schlicht, publisher and COO

Lisa Schlichtman, editor

Tom Ross, reporter

Dennis Fisher, community representative

Ed MacArthur, community representative

Enimie Reumaux, community representative

The margin was narrow, but we think the preliminary approval by Planning Commission of developer/brothers Eric and Brent Rogers’ planned 60-unit 1125 Lincoln Apartments at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and 12th streets this month is a positive sign of a new outlook in city government.

At first glance, the Rogers appeared to be asking a lot. Their proposal to build a modern-looking structure on a tight downtown site needed variances from the city code for maximum height, floor area ratio (the perimeter of the building relative to the lot size), building setbacks and off-street loading requirements.

They also sought to have some residential spaces at street level in the downtown core. In the past, that might have been more than enough to halt a developer in his tracks. But the challenges of developing multi-family buildings in Steamboat Springs are significant. And the truth is, downtown Steamboat needs this shot in the arm.

We think if the brothers ultimately get the chance to build the multi-million dollar project, it will be very good for Steamboat and its historic downtown shopping district. There are a number of good businesses occupying a couple of outdated buildings currently standing on the site. But much of the area is covered in asphalt overdue for a top coat.

At an important intersection in downtown, the site is underutilized. The residential density of an apartment building will support dozens of businesses.

When fully rented, the apartment building could accommodate 60 to 80 people. Those residents will be a block away from the library and across the street from both a park and the Yampa River Core Trail. Living within a walkable environment, the residents will have a natural incentive to spend some of their income where they live. They’ll be able to bicycle everywhere in town in at least three seasons, and free mass transit is steps away.

The new apartments are two blocks from city offices and couldn’t be any closer to the campus of Colorado Mountain College. We can imagine city employees and college faculty members and staff being drawn to the new housing units.

One might ask, “If this desirable project doesn’t fit the development code, why haven’t we revisited the code for downtown Steamboat?”

One veteran planning commissioner pointed out the modern lines of the apartment building did not honor the traditional forms of the historic buildings a few blocks away on Lincoln. We respect the desire to preserve the architectural themes of early 20th century Steamboat between Sixth and Ninth streets on Lincoln Avenue.

On the other hand, history is not frozen in time — it’s happening right now. And the Rogers’ building is just removed enough from the historic core to elegantly enter a new chapter in the history of downtown. After all, Main Street Steamboat’s design committee approved it.

The first ballot resulted in a 3-3 tie. The Rogers’ agreed to extend snow-melting capacity to the alley behind the building and picked up a vote and the chance to make their case before City Council.

If Steamboat wants to move forward and revitalize portions of downtown, it has to give a little. We hope that when the Rogers’ apartment project goes to Steamboat Springs City Council April 5, it is looked upon favorably.

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