Urban Renewal in the Rockies: Silverthorne seals the deal on new developments
August 12, 2015
Business is booming in Silverthorne, with several new developers streaming in following the end of the recession. While many of the pieces are in place for urban renewal, the town is pulling together plans for a revitalized downtown.
"We've got incredible recreational offerings … great neighborhoods, great parks, great nonprofits, we have the FIRC, great businesses, we have all of those things — and then there's this square right in the middle, it's sort of missing," said town manager Ryan Hyland. "There's just one piece left."
The town's older city center is ripe for renovations, encompassing an urban renewal district. The district stretches from Interstate 70 to 6th Street to encompass the downtown area between Rainbow Road and Brian Avenue.
"We really narrowed it down and focused in on the town core," said assistant town manager Mark Leidal, executive director of Silverthorne's Urban Renewal Authority. "This is where we see potential for the development or redevelopment of some of those parcels, because this community has been striving for that walkable downtown for quite some time."
An improved downtown would include increased density, with larger building footprints and fewer parking lots, on-street parking and better pedestrian access.
"We're just building on some of the building blocks we already have — the pavilion, the recreation center and the town hall," Leidal said.
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Hyland and Leidal have worked on urban renewal plans for the town for several years. But, it wasn't until the end of the recession that they began to see the results of their work.
Silverthorne's Urban Renewal Authority was created in 1996, with an overarching plan for growing businesses and infrastructure throughout the town. The plan was updated in 2008, with a map that broke the long, linear town into more manageable sections, each with its own design standards.
"Then the economy went south," Leidal said. "We didn't see any true development within those areas."
As the recession continued, the town used those years to draw up its current plan. In 2011, Downtown Colorado Inc. put together an assessment, giving the town more ideas on how to approach development. The area of focus became Fourth Street, connecting a planned brewery with the recreation center, pavilion, town hall and upcoming theater nearby.
The urban renewal plan takes into account that Silverthorne's core is more difficult to develop than other parts of the town, with higher land values and greater infrastructure needs. The Urban Renewal Authority allows the town to offer developers incentives, to encourage new business.
"It's going to take quite a bit of public-private investment into those areas to make that a reality," Leidal said. "But, those plans are in place, giving us a roadmap."
The Bakers' Brewery, remodeled from an old Village Inn, has seen significant success under the town's urban renewal program. The brewery, which opened in March, is seeing more and more customers line up for its fresh bread and beer.
The site is part of the urban renewal area, with the business receiving a $10,000 grant and a seven-year sales tax incentive program from the town as incentive to improve the site.
"We were to some degree partners with them, and were very excited by that reuse," Hyland said.
Co-founders Stephanie Sadler and Cory Forster picked the location for its visibility from Interstate 70. They put in the offer in October 2013, refurbishing the building's interior before opening.
"It's just having something new and different in Summit County," Sadler said. A lot of people in Silverthorne never felt like they had their own restaurant down here."
Another brewery, Angry James, will open on the opposite end of downtown next year. The owners will also partner with the town to assist with constructing a large, 6,000-square-foot building up to the new standards.
Sauce on the Blue, a new Italian restaurant, will also open within the urban renewal district, filling a vacant restaurant space in the near future.
These improvements are funded using tax increment financing, which are tax dollars collected from properties within the urban renewal district. The URA can collect these increments for up to 25 years.
The idea is that in the long run, surrounding properties and districts will benefit from the improvements with increased property values. However, TIFs are contentious as at the present, the county and special districts, as well as fire protection and school districts, do not see those tax dollars.
"We're still asked to keep our staff trained and our equipment up-to-date and our crews at appropriate numbers for responses to cover those increased demands on our services. Yet, we are not receiving the share of property taxes that typically have gone to us to help support that," said Steve Lipsher, public information officer with Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.
He added that while the station could absorb $100,000 in one year, over the course of 25 years, that would add up to a $2.5 million loss.
A new Colorado law, effective next January, would give special districts more of a voice in urban renewal projects. However, the law has also been met with some criticism.
"With the passage of HB 15-1348 this last session, the future of urban renewal is clouded with uncertainty. Uncertainty is not something that is well received by bond issuers, and funding for existing projects by lending institutions has already been halted in a couple of instances because of the uncertainty," Colorado Municipal League deputy director Kevin Bommer wrote in an email.
While Silverthorne has not offered any special concessions to these districts, the town did note that they had seen additional growth as a result of plans that are currently in place.
Since the Lake Dillon Theatre announced its move to Silverthorne, with a new, $6 million complex set to open in 2017, other developers have put down projects in the surrounding area. For example, developer Larry Feldman announced the creation of a new 32-unit condo complex called River's Edge condominiums to be located between the new theater and the rec center.
"He started hearing the buzz in Silverthorne, and he closed very quickly on that property," Hyland said. "I think he was seeing that excitement and seeing the potential that's there."
The town also saw proposals for a new Starbucks drive-thru within the urban renewal district and a new Hampton Inn south of I-70, just outside of the district. In addition, the town has purchased vacant lots in the area to hold for future development.
In the future, the town would like to see development near the site of the Old Dillon Inn, which is currently vacant and boarded up. As the town owns part of the parcel the ODI sits on, along with the Mountain Lyon Café, Hyland said he hoped to see the area become combined into a larger development, integrating the historical building.
The urban renewal authority also purchased an empty lot through a 50-50 partnership with Craig Realty Group, the owner of the Silverthorne Outlets. Combined with Craig Realty's current land, the larger lot would open the door to a new use, aside from the old gas station that previously occupied the space.
"It's the front-door image of the community," Hyland said. "Anyone who's coming to Summit County goes through that intersection somehow, some way."
On top of all of the new development, the town is also piecing together an arts plan with the opening of the theater and marketing strategy to bring new life into the town.
"Once we start to talk about these things and stitch them all together, it's telling the story of Silverthorne and what it can be over time," Leidal said.
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