VAIL — If Vail Valley Medical Center is going to expand in Vail, it’s going to need more parking. To do that, the medical center may need some help from the town of Vail.
For the last couple of years, town and medical center officials have been talking about the hospital’s future and what that means for the area defined by Vail Valley Drive on the east, Meadow Drive on the south and South Frontage Road on the north.
The medical center has been working for the past couple of years on a plan for the future, dealing with how to improve and expand facilities on a relatively small piece of land while keeping the hospital open. Other important items on the to-do list include moving much, if not most, hospital traffic from Meadow Drive and where to put a pad for helicopter ambulances.
Medical center officials once believed a big part of the expansion equation would be solved in a joint venture between it, the town and the Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute. That plan would have produced a new town hall, a parking structure and a medical office building at the town’s municipal campus, but the Steadman-related partners in the deal pulled out in 2012.
The collapse of the multi-party deal changed the medical center’s planning process, and also put a long delay in the town’s plans for a new town hall.
But the Vail Town Council is expected to get its first look July 15 at a plan that would put a new parking structure on the western portion of the municipal complex. That structure would require tearing down the building that now holds the town’s community development department.
Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler said that a structure as currently envisioned could put three levels of parking without a massive amount of excavation. Since the municipal complex’s buildings are at the top of a small hill above street level, a structure would require digging out a hill, which is less expensive than digging a big hole.
A structure like that — and which went just a few feet above the current parking lot level on the north side, could hold somewhere between 200 and 250 cars.
Zemler said the idea, at least in its initial form, would be some sort of sharing arrangement with the medical center that would allow the town to use a portion of the structure on weekdays, and allow at least some extra skier parking on weekends. The medical center would use most of the spaces on weekdays.
The structure would have to serve the medical center via an underground tunnel. Zemler said work already done indicates there isn’t anything — such as a high-pressure natural gas line — that would overly complicate that job.
In an emailed statement, medical center CEO Doris Kirchner wrote that medical center representatives are “hopeful we will reach a decision in the near future.”
That near future starts July 8, when an initial plan is presented to the Vail Town Council. That board will have the final say on the deal.
Mayor Andy Daly said keeping the medical center’s main campus in Vail has long been a council priority.
“A major town of Vail goal is to diversify economically,” Daly said. That, he added, will depend at least in part on a growing focus on health and wellness-related businesses. The medical center is a central part of that effort.
“For them to continue to thrive, they need ... additional facilities,” Daly added.
If a deal is struck, construction on a new structure could begin in 2016.
A new town hall may be in the plans, too — a lot of preliminary design work was finished before the initial multi-party deal for the property was shelved — but Daly said parking for the medical center is a separate project.
“That would be done later,” Daly said, adding that town officials have to find the best way to pay for a new town hall — which had a 2012 cost estimate of about $20 million.
While the town and medical center appear to be on the same page regarding the need for a structure, much work remains. That’s why a 2016 start date might be the earliest work could start.