New ownership revitalizing old Avon
July 25, 2014
By the numbers
6: Number of screens in a planned theater.
100 percent: Amount of leased commercial space in Avon owned by the Hoffmann family.
7: Murals planned for building walls in the area.
11: New businesses now open in Hoffmann-owned retail space.
AVON — Dan Brewster came to the Vail Valley in 1988. Even then, the commercial space in Avon's original core needed work. That work is coming now, and it's coming fast.
Brewster in June opened Haute Route, a gear and apparel store, in retail space near Pazzo's. Business has been "decent" so far, he said. He said he picked the spot for the new shop in large part because of the work done so far by the Hoffmann family, which now owns most of the retail space east of Avon Road.
It's been about a year since the Hoffmann family — based in Chicago, but longtime Beaver Creek property owners — announced they had acquired several pieces of commercial property in town. Family patriarch David Hoffmann wasted little time talking about big plans for the area. In the ensuing months, a lot of work has been done, with much more on the horizon.
The public will soon see a comprehensive plan for the property make its first formal appearance with Avon's town planners and planning commission. Hoffmann said he expects the plan to be submitted to the town sometime in August.
“I liked the fact they had a broader plan for Avon. It’s good to work with someone with a vested interest in seeing Avon succeed.”
Owner of Haute Route
The plan includes some ambitious elements, including a movie theater located roughly between Sports Authority and City Market. The eastern portion of the Sports Authority building is vacant now — it was most recently leased by an Office Depot store — but Hoffmann said the family company is now negotiating a lease with a national pet store for that space.
If the deal is finalized — Hoffmann prefers "when" — the family-held property will be 100 percent leased.
Those leases include deals with 11 businesses that are either new or that have moved into the area. Besides Haute Route, those businesses include a new location for P. Furniture, formerly located in Eagle-Vail, and the new Boxcar restaurant.
While signing up tenants, the Hoffmanns have also put a good bit of work into their new holdings. Buildings have been painted and renovated, new signs point shoppers toward various stores and the family has already invested a good bit of money into a number of statues.
Those statues will eventually serve a purpose, as the Hoffmanns try to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. That job is likely to take some time and will no doubt be addressed in the long-term plan presented to the town next month.
Avon Town Manager Virginia Egger wrote in an email that discussions between the town and the Hoffmanns have gone well, and that the family "has a keen interest in not only providing more commercial opportunities, but clearly understands the importance of a mix of residential in the property."
The idea of using art, a mix of stores and other ideas in a part of town that has long needed a boost is appealing to town officials, Egger wrote. And the addition of a movie theater "is nothing short of an exceptional opportunity for Avon, our residents and guests," she wrote.
That eye toward the future — as well as a high-visibility location on the way to City Market — is part of what lured Brewster into his space.
"I liked the fact they had a broader plan for Avon," Brewster said. "It's good to work with someone with a vested interest in seeing Avon succeed."
But like any big plan, not everything has gone as first envisioned. Right after the family announced its property purchase in Avon, Hoffmann said he hoped to turn the railroad tracks over Avon Road into a pedestrian bridge. That bridge would create a traffic-free way for people at the hotels and condos on the west side of the street to get to the shops and restaurants to the east, and a way for people on the east side to get to Nottingham Park and the town's recreation center.
Talks with the Union Pacific Railroad at first went well, Hoffmann said. But, he added, the person he had been dealing with at the railroad left that position. "We're back to square one on that," he said.
Despite the setback, Hoffmann remains optimistic a deal can be done. And, he said, progress during the past year has been more smooth than expected. He repeatedly praised town staff for its work on the master plan before it's presented.
Brewster is eager to see what the future brings, especially if those plans include better walk-around traffic for his shop and his neighbors.
"It's about time something happened in this part of town," he said.