AVON — A combination of an improving economy, the end of a long legal dispute and a desire to spruce up before the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships has resulted in a host of improvements coming to town through the rest of summer and into the fall and winter.
The town of Avon is either well into, or just beginning, work on a handful of projects that will alter the look of the town, paying the bills with a combination of increased tax revenues, grants and other sources.
The biggest of those projects may depend on your interests, but the one that’s been longest in the planning stages is a new pedestrian mall. That mall, first envisioned during the boom years of the previous decade, has long been seen as a way to get people walking around in an area that for years getting to it has been somewhat tricky.
The pedestrian area starts on the south between The Seasons building and a new condo project being built by Wyndham. From there, the path wanders north past the Lodge at Avon building toward Nottingham Park.
Charles Frey’s Ticino Restaurant is along that path. Frey said after this summer of construction, he’s looking forward to both the relative quiet the business will have when work is finished and the prospect for more business.
“When you look at the whole plan, it’s a very good move,” Frey said. “I don’t have a crystal ball, but the improvement is going to help.”
Bob Doyle, owner of Bob’s Place, was on an early committee that worked on plans for the mall. Doyle said he’s also looking forward to having the project done, but suggested an improvement.
“I think it should be alcohol-friendly,” Doyle said. Creating a zone where people could put a beverage in a plastic cup and wander around would put Avon in fairly rare company among American towns, Doyle said.
“It would be great to get a glass of wine and visit some art galleries,” he said.
What the mall will do is open up access to storefronts on the north side of The Seasons, a place that’s long been kind of hard to get to. It will also open up a better way to get to Nottingham Park.
The idea of the mall is to help existing businesses and draw new ones to the area. That will be helped with some amenities along the mall.
Town engineer Justin Hildreth said plans call for a kids climbing wall, a couple of small performance or gathering areas — think about a solo musician or, maybe, a magician — as well as several bronze sculptures. Hildreth said most of those sculptures will be moved from along Avon Road, with a few more added on loan. The idea is to make the sculptures more accessible. And, he said, the sculptures will be a good complement those on display in the town’s commercial district on the east side of Avon Road.
Hildreth said the new mall project should be mostly complete by the time the 2015 championships kick off.
With a new link to the park, there’s a new stage coming to Nottingham Park for future events. Hildreth said the new stage will include enough space for a 60-piece orchestra, as well as a dressing room connected to the stage. Mayor Rich Carroll said the new stage, hard against the lake’s eastern shore, should be ready in time for the WinterWondergrass Festival event.
The stage has also been in the lobbying and planning stages for several years, and will allow the town to host more events beyond the new winter bluegrass event and the annual Salute to the USA celebration.
Another item that will help people get into and out of the middle of town is a couple of phases of the Eagle Valley Regional Trail. The centerpiece of that project is a bridge across the Eagle River that will keep pedestrians and cyclists off Avon Road.
This is the road that links Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 6 to the Village at Avon retail area — Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Traer Creek Plaza. As a legal settlement between the town and the entities that control the development slowly moved to its conclusion, town officials drew up a plan for landscaping and weed control along the street and its five roundabouts, as well as repair of the street lights.
That work is being paid for by a retail fee — essentially an addition to the sales tax — that’s supposed to pay for current and future landscaping and maintenance.
So, why is all this happening now?
Carroll said the main reason is the confluence of an improving economy resulting in more revenue and a more can-do attitude from the Town Council.
“The timing was just right for it,” Carroll said.
For Doyle, who’s spent many years lobbying for improvements, the projects are good to see.
“I think more positive things are coming,” Doyle said. “We’ve talked about it for a long time.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.