John Scarffe, Nederland. Local Business Owner Ron Mitchell presented his concepts for the Nederland downtown area during a regular meeting of the Nederland Downtown Development Authority (NDDA) on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, at the Nederland Community Center. Mitchell owns much of the property in downtown and has been working on a comprehensive plan for about ten years.
At the January 18 NDDA meeting, Mitchell told the NDDA Board that he had the OZ architectural firm take the comments and planning documents created by the Town over the past ten years and try to develop a plan for the downtown area that conformed to those documents. He distributed copies of the plan to the Board and asked for time to present the plan at the February meeting.
Mitchell said that two copies of his plan are available at the Nederland Library for residents to review.
“It’s conceptual at this point but has been studied in depth,” Mitchell said. At the February meeting, Mitchell said he’d like to point some things out on the concept plan and then work with the NDDA on its master plan to incorporate some of his ideas into the NDDA Master Plan.
He has tried to get the plan narrowed as close as possible to a coherent proposal as a planned unit development. Mitchell’s concept plan involves redeveloping parcels between Highway 119, Snyder Street and First Street as three mixed use structures including a hotel and retail space with residential units and an internal parking structure, according to the concept. Mitchell said the concept includes two levels of parking for the hotel and surrounding buildings and businesses.
The plan also includes public parking, and he wanted to know if parking could be funded through the NDDA’s debt authorization. The Board is working toward asking NDDA District members to vote on a debt authorization for a second time. In November 2016, the voters turned it down.
Also included in Mitchell’s plan is a bridge that would provide a second access over Middle Boulder Creek at the north end of Conger and south end of Snyder streets. “I’ve been around for 62 years, and there has always been talk of a second bridge,” Mitchell said. He encouraged the NDDA to set aside money for a study and to help the Town put a second bridge into the town infrastructure.
The concept presentation includes a depiction of the bridge. Debt Authorization funds would be needed to obtain that bridge. “I think it’s time we really consider these things. I would provide the right away for two lanes of traffic as part of the redevelopment. To get funds it would have to be a vehicular bridge. My question is this, where do you want it?”
During the past ten years, he has come up with concepts of various types in consideration of the Town’s comprehensive plans and Vision 2020. “During this time, as I looked at this property, the plans have come together and have been presented to the public and the Economics Task Force,” Mitchell said. He has held three open houses, solicited public input and submitted them to his architectural and urban planning firms.
The concept includes two sections for high density housing. One is north of Highway 119 across from St Rita’s Catholic Church on the hillside, Mitchell said. Three very large lots would be turned into higher density housing with 16 units of about 900 to 1,300 square feet, targeted at people who work in Nederland.
The second residential sight would be the new parking lot at 100 E. First Street with similar housing units. Mitchell said that public properties could be integrated into final plans.
Two lots that used to be a hotel at 171 and 173 West First Street have been vacant for many years and could be a little breakfast restaurant. At some point, RTD will probably put a second level of parking there, accessed from the road to the west, Mitchell said. With a substantial increase in the number of bus riders on that end of town, a breakfast restaurant with housing on top might succeed very well.
The complete block between First and Second streets and Highway 119 would be cut into three buildings with different facades, some historical, and would have housing, a hotel, shops and a utility building with the heating plant to service the entire complex.
Mitchell also proposes taking about half of the parking in front of Town Hall, and putting a second level of parking under the buildings between Snyder and 119. “I would be willing to commit to do the second level of parking, but it would probably have to be publicly funded,” Mitchell said.
The concept also includes renovating the Bryant House, the oldest house in Nederland, next to the RTD lot. Mitchell said it was just about to cave in last year. He and historic preservation enthusiast Danny Martin covered it up with a tarp to save it. “I’m very interested in seeing that property put to good use.”
His concept also calls for a green pocket park at 100 East First Street with picnic tables.
Mitchell said the Historical Society would like a little business at the Bryant House, and he thinks it should be turned into a restaurant facility, because businesses are flooded by people right off the buses. Board Chair Katrina Harms said the Bryant House is owned by the Historical Society.
In response to his plans, people have told Mitchell that they don’t want development that looks like other towns, so Mitchell instructed the architects to make it unique. Part of the idea is finding facades from historic buildings and incorporating those into the design and construction.
Mitchell said that the 171 and 173 West First Street site could easily have 16 units and parking underneath it. In the block between First and Snyder streets, the first building would be a hotel with shops underneath. “I call this mixed use and also flex use, depending on the market, which fluctuates dramatically,” Mitchell said.
Nederland has a need for short-term hosing. Underneath the hotel is the parking. The north side are townhouses, and the veterinarian would move across there.
“All the existing businesses in the block are welcome to move in here and have first priority,” Mitchell said. The entire development would be phased in. On the block where the vet is would be the utility building and shops to service the hotel and businesses.
“One of the things you will notice, we have a huge block with trucks on First Street creating substantial congestion,” Mitchell said. He plans to put an alley through the center where both streets are exactly level, so that would be a delivery zone from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for everybody on First Street. After 11 a.m. it would become a pedestrian mall with “a sense of place.”
“One of the features is there’s enough space to create a far more pleasant pedestrian friendly area,” Mitchell said. It would turn into a pedestrian mall late in the morning because deliveries would be limited. A variety of businesses want to go in there.
There are a tremendous number of very talented people in the Nederland area, so Mitchell would make 10 x 10 cubicles available for artists to rent on weekends. Those artists are willing to take a chance on a weekend but rarely can afford to open their own galleries.
The facility would consist of three levels above ground. It drops 15 feet to the corner of Snyder, which gives good drive-in parking, Mitchell said. Two levels of parking would be required to keep those businesses viable — three levels of building and two of parking. He’d also like to get as close to Nedzero as possible.
At Snyder Street, parking would start at level ground and then go underground. On Second Street looking south, where the Ouban Restaurant is now, would be the portico for the hotel entrance.
“It’s important that the traffic pattern in and out of the hotel doesn’t impede traffic. The concept has to take into consideration the other businesses in town,” Mitchell said, and the traffic patterns and circulation have been well studied. “We will do our best to recreate the Pioneer Inn. I have a contract to purchase the property.”
The entrance to public property would be right across the street from Snyder’s Garage and Salto. On the northeast corner there currently is a school bus stop. A ski rental shop wants that corner. One Brown Mouse would be recreated on the southwest corner, Mitchell said.
They would close the driveway into the Pioneer Inn, because they think that driveway is dangerous.
“We’ve considered all the Town studies, and I don’t want to bring a proposal that the community doesn’t want,” Mitchell said.
The architects and planners were sensitive of community desires in this design. “We’re going to try to maintain the buildings as sustainable as possible with geothermal, solar, wind and whatever technologies are available,” Mitchell said.
NDDA Board Member Brent Tregaskis said this is a very interesting project. It’s different than what Nederland is today, but it would be good.
Nederland Resident Mary Jarrell said it seems like a beautiful plan, but adding two stories on top of that is her only reservation. “It’s a big step for the community. We need the affordable housing and keeping high density in high density areas. I mourn the loss of the skyline.”
Board of Trustees Liaison to the NDDA Charles Wood said that preventing sprawl and the economic use to the town are all pretty favorable. This will produce a significant amount of sales tax money. “I’m hoping the project can help solve some of the problems the NDDA is working on.”
Harms said that this is very preliminary, and plenty of opportunity will be available for more town participation. Mitchell agreed and said that this is really a start. “You can’t propose something without putting it on paper and then saying, ‘What do you think?’”
Trustee Julie Gustafson asked what the project would do to the town population when it’s all done. Mitchell answered that it would employ between 120 and 150 people. “I would build the housing units first. Then the workers could stay during the week in these facilities and drive back to Denver to be with their families.”
Gustafson asked if Mitchell had talked to the businesses about moving in. Mitchell said that rent wouldn’t be substantially more. They get to move overnight, and he will help them move. He already has it potentially 40 percent filled.
Barbara Hardt, who manages the Caribou Shopping Center, said she has 19 tenants in all and could easily fill another dozen units. “I have no units available. We have a waiting list of seven different businesses. As a business owner of two local businesses, there is also no available housing, which in turn means we cannot find qualified employees to work for us.”
One Brown Mouse Owner Kathleen Chippi said: “I want to thank you for caring what people think. You can’t have buildings that are over 100 years old and water pipes that are clay. I can’t stand the fact that we’re going to lose a lot of buildings, but what is there cannot be sustained. I hate to lose my building, but at the same time, an energy efficient building is a whole new deal.”
NDDA Member Peter Marshall said his biggest issue is one of scale. “It’s going to tip, with 40 foot buildings on one side. A dozen new structures would be preferable to what we’ve seen here, even with different facades. It seems like it’s out of character and context.”
Board Member Jeffrey Green said he would much rather see the internal part of town developed instead of sprawled out into the forest. “The forest is what we want to protect. If you take away our forests and mountains, that’s what gives Nederland its uniqueness.”
The parking should be on the outskirts of town, though, Green said. This is trying to stuff all of the internal parking inside of town instead of parking on the outskirts. Putting garages in is going to exacerbate the traffic problem. Parking in town should be dedicated to handicapped and elderly, and parking on the outskirts would let people walk through town.
Mitchell said that a major lender in this day and age won’t consider any project unless it has parking. “I’d love to have just one level of parking, but I’d have to be guaranteed those exist. Artists are going to need delivery space. This is trying to address those things.”
Following Mitchell’s presentation, the NDDA Board discussed updating and finishing the Master Plan. The next regular meeting of the NDDA Board will be on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, at 6:30 p.m., at the Nederland Community Center.