Silverthorne is closer than ever to realizing its dreams of a ‘true downtown’
Silverthorne is almost ready to build a downtown.
Planning the entire block between Third and Fourth streets on Highway 9 for Fourth Street Crossing was undoubtedly more fun than anything that happened Wednesday night at Silverthorne Town Council.
Likening Wednesday’s council votes to finalizing a home loan, town manager Ryan Hyland knew the development agreement and related agenda items — all approved unanimously — would come without the eye candy of the project’s previously approved site plan.
The planning stages are where the concepts, designs, graphic renderings and video flybys came to life. For Fourth Street Crossing, they’ve produced a multipronged project featuring a 25,000-square-foot market hall, residential units, plenty of new retail space, mixed-use units with live-work space, a 115-room hotel, public plaza, transit facility and parking garage.
Of what’s currently on the block, only The Mint Steakhouse is scheduled to remain once Fourth Street Crossing is complete.
“I get that (finalizing the documents) may not be as exciting (as the graphics and video), but they are really important to this process,” Hyland explained. “I think they are the final pieces in the redevelopment story for Fourth Street Crossing.”
With these pieces in place, the developer said the anticipated summer groundbreaking is within reach.
A LONG TIME COMING
Designs on Silverthorne’s reimagined downtown date back to 2007, when a community survey found one of residents’ most desired additions would be a real, thriving downtown area.
But dreaming is easier than doing. As Silverthorne Town Council delivered unanimous votes on the development agreement and related agenda items, the fatigue of so many years of work didn’t stop the people closest to the project from enjoying the milestone moment.
Perhaps they had earned it. While the 2007 survey showed a desire, the effort to remake downtown Silverthorne took another big step the following year, as town leaders revisited the comprehensive plan and began installing new design standards. At the time, the town was regulating the entire highway corridor as one, long continuous commercial zone.
“Obviously, if you want a downtown core and your town zoning allows for fast-food, drive-through restaurants and gas stations, that’s really hard to realize that vision,” Hyland said, as he described why Silverthorne had to impose new regulations, zoning and land-use guidelines on the downtown area.
But all of this happened when the Great Recession was starting to take hold, and the effort to remake the downtown area stalled under the stress of national economic uncertainty.
As the town rebounded from the recession, Silverthorne came back to the planning process, and a new downtown assessment in 2011 again showed that many locals still wanted a true downtown area.
As efforts progressed, Silverthorne established its Urban Renewal Authority in 2013, which created the financial tools needed to continue pursuing the project, but that couldn’t happen without first conducting a “blight study.”
BLIGHT TURNS TO LIGHT
Used as a noun, blight is a plant disease or something that spoils another thing. In the context of a verb, the word means to infect or cause severe damage. The blight study, however, gave Silverthorne the tools it needed to go after a major downtown redevelopment, one that’s unlike anything that’s been done in Summit County before.
Within the study, a number of specific conditions had to be met to establish the authority. Looking back on the blight study, Hyland recalled the property in question really “hit it out of the park,” and that wasn’t a good thing. He added that the blight wasn’t limited to the rundown, dilapidated and vacant buildings on the block either, but went beyond face value with serious issues existing under the surface, like problems with the location of a major sewer line underground.
“If there was a property built for an urban renewal project, this was it,” Hyland said.
After the study, a 2014 comprehensive plan further guided conversations and lead Silverthorne to ask what’s in a downtown. With that, officials start putting a priority on the pedestrian components and look at new regulations designed to make the area feel and look like one that belonged in a buzzing, walkable downtown core.
DIRECTION GAINS TRACTION
With the 2014 comprehensive plan, the town tackled rezoning in earnest by creating a new town core designation in 2016. After all of these foundational efforts were done, the town issued a request for proposals in January 2017 and landed on Milender White, an Arvada-based firm that town leaders felt could best deliver on the vision.
They entered a predevelopment agreement that year, and soon started going through the site-planning process. Hyland said that was probably the most fun part of the work thus far, as that’s where they dove into potential uses for the property and how it could all come together to create a “catalyst site.”
The overarching idea is that the Fourth Street Crossing project could be the biggest kick-starter yet to further redevelopment in the area, especially with the new Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, town pavilion and thriving Silverthorne Town Center directly across the street. But just like securing a home loan, you can’t close on the deal without doing the paperwork.
WHAT’S THE RISK?
One important component of the project is Silverthorne taxpayers won’t provide any funding upfront, and the project will be paid for largely through incremental increases tied to the development of the land.
Rather, the biggest piece of the town’s responsibilities will be about $15.5 million worth of public improvements, Hyland said, as Silverthorne has committed about half of that amount to pay for the parking garage and transit center while the other half will cover work on public infrastructure like curbs, gutters, sidewalks and on-street parking.
Because the town’s not committing anything upfront, only incremental increases in things like property sales and lodging taxes, for example, will be used to pay for the project, and all of those have to be generated on-site. Additionally, a new Metro District and Business Improvement District that cover the Fourth Street Crossing site includes mechanisms to help the developer finance the project.
THE NEXT STEPS
Silverthorne should see construction activity on the site beginning this summer, but it might not be exactly what people expect — at least not initially.
Leading the development team, Tim Fredregill, development executive at Milender White, said that construction work will start with a site fence, storm-water management plan and asbestos abatement before any of the demolition begins.
During Wednesday’s discussions, council couldn’t help but ask him about a potential timeline for a groundbreaking.
“We’re still targeting June,” Fredregill replied. “We are at the finish line right now, and it’s going to be a crazy month — but it’s realistic.”
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