A plan worth considering | VailDaily.com

A plan worth considering

It's still early, but at first blush, the idea to transform the site of the old Roost Lodge in Vail into building with both hotel rooms and apartments looks like a good idea. As detailed in a story on Saturday, the Chicago-based Harp Group has for several years owned the roughly two acres of land the Roost occupied. A company plan to build a Marriott Residence Inn was ready to start work in 2014, but it was shelved when a financial partner decided the project was simply too expensive. Two years later, the hotel plan remains, with additional plans for 113 apartments and 360 spaces of underground parking. On the surface, the plan strikes at the heart of three of Vail's biggest issues: lodging, housing and parking. The site seems appropriate, since it's right along North Frontage Road and close to the West Vail commercial area. Once the new Interstate 70 underpass is finished — it will be by the time the hotel and apartments open — tenants and guests will have a very quick bus ride to Lionshead Village. On the other hand, don't expect any bargains. Hotel rooms won't be as expensive as they are in the resort villages, but combining the Marriott Residence Inn brand with Vail quality, this will be a place for destination guests. The same is true with the apartments. Harp Group founder and president Peter Dumon said in an interview that the apartments will be restricted to year-round residents. But, he added, those residents will pay market rates. That means tenants will likely be store or restaurant managers, executive chefs or professional employees at Vail Valley Medical Center. That's fine. Vail is in desperate need of homes for all kinds of people who work there. More people living and working in Vail takes pressure off roads, parking structures and housing in other areas of the valley. It also helps keep Vail a place where people actually live. A new hotel from an established brand might — might — also take away at least some of the incentive condo owners now have to put their units into the online short-term rental pool. Very few projects emerge unchanged from the town of Vail's approval process. This one deserves a full vetting, of course, but needs to come through that process with its most important numbers intact.

Hotel, housing planned for Roost Lodge site in Vail

VAIL — Vail needs hotel rooms, apartments and parking. A Chicago-area developer believes he can deliver healthy doses of all three to the town, perhaps as soon as late 2018. The Harp Group, a Chicago-area hospitality development company, has for a few years owned roughly two acres of property in West Vail, the site of the old Roost Lodge. The company a couple of years ago announced it would build a Marriott Residence Inn on the site. The group went through the town's approval process, and was ready to start construction — until the group's financial partner in the project decided in 2014 that the numbers didn't work the way they should and the project was shelved. Now the plan is back, but with some significant changes. The new proposal includes a 170-room hotel, 113 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 360 parking spaces. There's actually more parking than the town requires for the hotel and apartments, which means the remaining spaces could be leased to another user or used for private parking. The broader scope of the project began when members of the Vail Housing Authority approached Harp Group founder and president Peter Dumon. "They asked us for help," Dumon said. Dumon has a long history with Vail. While a student at the University of Notre Dame, he and friends would take the 16-hour drive to and from Vail a couple of times a month. Given that there were no smartphones at the time, the people who weren't driving usually stuck their heads in their books. "My grades actually went up," Dumon said. The Harp Group has other connections with Vail. Dumon said one of his partners was the first general manager of the current Marriott hotel at the west end of Lionshead Village. As such, Dumon said, "we know the challenges here." Filling big needs As Vail and the valley have grown, Dumon said he and his partners see the new project filling several needs in the valley. Given that Vail's lodging is nearly full on most summer and winter weekends, there seems to be room for more hotel rooms. The need for housing and parking is more pressing. Dumon said he and his partners looked at building only apartments. In the end, though, the combination of a hotel and rental units — for year-round residents only — seemed to make the most sense. And, while the building is going to be bigger than the one first approved by the Vail Design Review Board and Vail Planning and Environmental Commission, Vail Town Planner Dominic Mauriello said the new proposed structure isn't vastly bigger than the first design. Mauriello said that the new plan would add roughly one story to the building's height and add one level to the below-ground parking. Adding that space also required adjusting the rooms themselves. The resulting hotel rooms will be a bit smaller, and will also be laid out in a more rectangular shape, as opposed to the traditional square of most hotel rooms. But the big news is the apartments. The proposed 113 units equals the number recently completed at Lions Ridge, the eastern half of the Timber Ridge apartments property. And, Mauriello said, the number of apartments proposed may be the most built by a private developer in Vail since the original Timber Ridge project in the early 1980s. Vail Housing Authority board member Steve Lindstrom praised the proposal in a release, calling it a "very meaningful project that addresses not only employee housing goals of the town, but parking and lodging goals as well." The same release also included a statement from Eagle County Housing Director Jill Klosterman. In that statement, Klosterman noted in particular the need for one-bedroom apartments, as well rental housing close to employment centers. Harp Group will have some of its own employees to take care of, and Dumon said the hotel will use a few units, but not many. In the main the new apartments will be aimed at year-round residents who may be chefs, store managers or Vail Valley Medical Center employees. Paying market rates That target audience will pay market rates, and Dumon acknowledged that the entire project won't be aimed at people looking for low-cost housing or lodging. The Residence Inn brand provides travelers with full kitchens in every units, as well as a full breakfast in the morning, fitness centers and other amenities. Some of the amenities will be available to apartment residents. In addition, there's enough parking for one car per bedroom. Tenants will have the option of leasing a storage box for a parking space. That box will essentially cover the hood of a car, and will have hooks for hanging bikes and other gear. Storage is important for hotel tenants, too. Dumon said he's working on a deal for ski and boot storage close to the slopes. Add in easy access to transit — a bus ride to Lionshead Village will take only a few minutes once the new Interstate 70 underpass is finished — and Dumon believes a guest may not need a car for a Vail vacation, particularly since the hotel plans to offer shuttle service to the slopes of both Vail and Beaver Creek. The project will be submitted to Vail's planning staff soon. That can take some time, but Dumon said he believes the project can earn its final approvals in early 2017, with construction starting as soon as next spring. Mauriello said he's more optimistic, and that the approvals could be in place before the end of this year. "If this isn't the right project in the right place, I don't know what is," he said.

Vail Daily column: Another building boom?

Editor's note: The following is excerpted from the Vail Homeowners Association Newsletter. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com. There are indications that Vail may be on the verge of another building boom, even though real estate sales show signs of flagging. Increasing congestion due to a lack of structured parking and traffic circulation improvements as well as affordable housing remains a hangover from the last boom. The absence of off-street parking requirements for outdoor special events is also a cause of congestion. The Town Council has allowed the proposed Simba Run Underpass to clear another hurdle in the approval process to fund the project, which engineers say will help reduce circulation congestion. The costs associated with the resolution of these issues will have a determining outcome on additional large scale development within the community. Changes in public policy to address these issues may well be the subject of the upcoming fall Town Council election. The election will be poll voting, rather than mail balloting, even though mail balloting has been shown to increase voter participation. Mail balloting also extends the time for electioneering, giving the voters more time to assess the qualifications and agenda of council candidates. A recent change in the state voting law, now allows qualified voters to add their names to an absentee voter list that will ensure they are always sent an absentee ballot by mail in future town of Vail elections. Recent developments suggest that another Vail building boom might be just around the corner. First, there is the already approved master plan for the Vail Valley Medical Center additions. Phase one, the West Wing addition, is soon to begin but the plans for other parts of the expansion, especially parking and affordable housing appear to be in flux. At present the Vail Valley Medical Center plans envision parking to be provided on its campus but that will be a costly venture; estimates currently run at $120,000 per space which means that the Vail Valley Medical Center parking requirement of 600 spaces could cost $72 million. The site for Vail Valley Medical Center's affordable housing has yet to be announced; and recently the Vail Planning Commission reduced those requirements almost in half by cutting the town staff's recommendation of the method to calculate the requirements. It remains to be seen whether these components will be built on site or whether the Vail Valley Medical Center will seek off-campus alternatives. In West Vail, the east half of the Timber Ridge redevelopment is well on its way to completion; it will provide 113 living spaces, bringing the total for Timber Ridge to 209 units. Yet to be decided is what will become of the west half of the site long-term. At the same time, the Town Council has authorized moving ahead with developing a detailed plan to install the utility infrastructure for their Chamonix affordable housing development in West Vail, located near the new fire station. If the plan meets the council's financial parameters, then they will initiate utility installation this year and begin construction on the first phase of the housing units in 2016. The council is also considering amending the current plan which will increase the size of the project by 20,000 square feet and raises the unit count from 53 to 67. In Lionshead, the Strata project (formerly the Vailglo and Enzian Lodges) is coming out of the ground and a number of other projects, holdovers from the Great Recession of 2008, are in the development pipeline awaiting financing and a decision to get underway. And, in Vail, plans for the Vail Municipal site continue to evolve. Site clearance is also complete on the Roost Lodge site where a new Marriott Lodge is to be built; however, the project is now on hold and developers do not intend to proceed with construction at this time. Write a column! What's on your mind? Share your insights with the rest of the community. What's going well, not so well? Send your submission to ValleyVoices@vaildaily.com. By submitting a column, you are granting permission for the Daily to publish it on the paper's website. Email Ed Stoner at estoner@vaildaily.com for more information.

Vail skeletal remains presumed male

VAIL — The skeletal remains found in a Lionshead construction site are a Caucasian male, so they're not the missing victim of a serial killer. Juile Cunningham, therefore, remains Vail's only cold case. She was abducted and killed March 15, 1975, by serial killer Ted Bundy. Cunningham was a 26-year-old Vail ski instructor when Bundy kidnapped and killed her. In his execution-day confession, Jan. 24, 1989, he told Vail Police Detective Matt Lindvall that he had buried Cunningham's body in Rifle. Her body has never been found. This week, Lindvall said the chances were slim that the body was Cunningham's, pointing out that even in a bad snow year the ground in that area is frozen and snow covered. And so, the bone detectives examining the remains keep at their task, led by Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis and Dr. Melissa Connor with Colorado Mesa University. Connor is an archaeologist cross-trained in forensic anthropology, and forensic pathologist Dr. Rob Kurtzman is also assisting. They'll determine age, sex and anomalies in the bones — anything that should not appear in the bones such as evidence of blunt force trauma and gun shot wounds. Dental records and DNA are a big help. Among other tools, they'll use NaMus, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Missing persons and unidentified bodies both go into the NaMus system. How they determine it Approximately 70 percent of the skeletal structure has been recovered from the dirt collected from a Lionshead construction site. The initial discovery, a femur, was made June 26. That triggered an investigation that was joined Saturday by a team of recovery dogs. Bettis said the presumptive determination — that the bones are from a Caucasian male — is based on skeletal characteristics of the skull, pelvis and femoral head. The dirt originated from the excavation of a utility easement at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment site, 705 W. Lionshead Circle in Vail. Construction at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment project resumed Monday. According to town of Vail records, utilities were originally installed at the site in 1967. Since then, numerous permits for work within the easement have been processed. Investigators will continue their work to determine the age of the bones and positive identification, as well as cause and manner of death. The investigation is expected to take several weeks. A final search of the Edwards site is planned for next week, Bettis said. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Vail skeletal remains presumed male

VAIL — The skeletal remains found in a Lionshead construction site are a Caucasian male, so they're not the missing victim of a serial killer. Juile Cunningham, therefore, remains Vail's only cold case. She was abducted and killed March 15, 1975, by serial killer Ted Bundy. Cunningham was a 26-year-old Vail ski instructor when Bundy kidnapped and killed her. In his execution-day confession, Jan. 24, 1989, he told Vail Police Detective Matt Lindvall that he had buried Cunningham's body in Rifle. Her body has never been found. This week, Lindvall said the chances were slim that the body was Cunningham's, pointing out that even in a bad snow year the ground in that area is frozen and snow covered. And so, the bone detectives examining the remains keep at their task, led by Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis and Dr. Melissa Connor with Colorado Mesa University. Connor is an archaeologist cross-trained in forensic anthropology, and forensic pathologist Dr. Rob Kurtzman is also assisting. They'll determine age, sex and anomalies in the bones — anything that should not appear in the bones such as evidence of blunt force trauma and gun shot wounds. Dental records and DNA are a big help. Among other tools, they'll use NaMus, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Missing persons and unidentified bodies both go into the NaMus system. How they determine it Approximately 70 percent of the skeletal structure has been recovered from the dirt collected from a Lionshead construction site. The initial discovery, a femur, was made June 26. That triggered an investigation that was joined Saturday by a team of recovery dogs. Bettis said the presumptive determination — that the bones are from a Caucasian male — is based on skeletal characteristics of the skull, pelvis and femoral head. The dirt originated from the excavation of a utility easement at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment site, 705 W. Lionshead Circle in Vail. Construction at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment project resumed Monday. According to town of Vail records, utilities were originally installed at the site in 1967. Since then, numerous permits for work within the easement have been processed. Investigators will continue their work to determine the age of the bones and positive identification, as well as cause and manner of death. The investigation is expected to take several weeks. A final search of the Edwards site is planned for next week, Bettis said. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Construction resumes at site after remains found

EAGLE COUNTY — Construction has resumed Monday at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment site at 705 W. Lionshead Circle after a search of the site, led by the Eagle County Coroner's Office, yielded no additional human remains. The investigation continues. Construction was suspended on Thursday following the discovery of a human skull and a femur during excavation work on the site. The skull was discovered from a load that was taken to a dirt storage area in Edwards while the femur was located at the construction site in Vail. During recovery of the skull on Friday, County Coroner Kara Bettis says a jawbone and four vertebrae were collected from the Edwards site. Seven detection dogs and their handlers representing law enforcement agencies in Denver as well as Elbert, Garfield and Jefferson counties worked the sites on Saturday to assist with the search. The K-9 teams are trained in finding human remains. The Vail search area has been focused in and around a utility easement adjacent to the South Frontage Road on the northwest side of the redevelopment site where the excavation is taking place. According to records provided by the town of Vail, utilities were originally installed at the site in 1967. Since then, numerous permits for work within the easement have been processed through the years. INVESTIGATION REMAINS ACTIVE Officials say the case remains an active investigation. Participating agencies include the Vail Police Department, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Fifth Judicial District Attorney's Office and the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. In addition, Melissa Connor, archaeologist and associate professor of forensic science from Colorado Mesa University, has been assisting the coroner's office in the field. Once the on-site investigation is complete, next steps include work to determine identity as well as cause and manner of death.

Skull found at Lionshead construction site

VAIL — Work at a construction site in Vail was stopped Thursday after an equipment operator found a human skull. According to a statement from Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis, that skull was discovered at a construction debris site in Edwards. The debris came from a construction site in Lionshead, where excavation is taking place for a new condo/commercial project approved as Strata but now called The Lion. That project required tearing down buildings most recently known as the Lionsheadd Inn and the Lionshead Inn Annex. That building was also known as the VailGlo Lodge. This story has been corrected on-line. . The skull was discovered by Joe Caldwell, a heavy equipment operator for United Companies. Caldwell said he stopped work immediately and contacted his supervisors and the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. Work at the construction site in Vail stopped just a bit after the discovery, and preliminary investigation uncovered another large bone. The Coroner's Office, along with the Sheriff's Office, Vail Police Department, the Colorado Fifth Judicial District Attorney's office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are all participating in the investigation. The investigation will seek to determine the age and gender of the remains, as well as a cause and manner of death. The investigation could take several days. Caldwell said this is actually the second time he's discovered human remains on the job. The first time was a few years ago while working on a pipeline project near Las Vegas, New Mexico. That time, he said, he was working on the site of an old cemetery. Apparently all the bodies hadn't been moved, he said. And, Caldwell said, discovering a human skull is every bit as unnerving as it sounds. "It gets your blood pumping," he said. "I'll definitely have a beer when I get home tonight."

Big year in Vail construction wrapping up

VAIL — The days are gone when cranes crowded this town's skyline. But there are more big projects in Vail today than there have been in several years. Here's a look at the status of some of that work: Vail Valley Medical Center The medical center started work in 2015 on the west wing of the old hospital. The first phase of work will add roughly 42,000 square feet of space. Work includes adding a fourth floor to the facility, and renovation of existing space. Space will be added for the Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute. Work on the west wing is expected to wrap up in early 2017. Work is expected to start on the project's second phase in 2017. Town of Vail Community Development Director George Ruther said the application for that second phase is coming to his offices now. That second phase is larger in square footage than the first, and includes a new emergency department and new helipad for air ambulances. The Lion This project, on the site of the former Lionshead Inn and the Best Western VailGlo Lodge, will add 65 luxury condominiums to the town's inventory. Julie Weihaupt, director of sales at The Lion, said the project is on track to be complete in early 2017. Right now, there's furnished model unit that prospective buyers can tour by appointment. Those appointments are essential, since that unit is in the midst of an active construction site. That means people touring the facility need to wear hard hats. Weihaupt said the exterior scaffolding is starting to come down, and the exterior of the building is nearly finished. When complete, The Lion will offer a mix of units, from two to five bedrooms. Prices range from $1.9 million to $12 million for the penthouse unit. About one-third of the units are already spoken for, Weihaupt said, adding that most of the units with slopeside views have been sold. Interstate 70 underpass When finished in late 2017, this $30 million project will link the town's north and south frontage roads roughly halfway between the Vail Town Center and West Vail I-70 interchanges. Town officials say the underpass, which has been in the thinking-about stages since the 1980s, will ease congestion at the interchanges, will allow faster response times for emergency vehicles and will help the town create more-efficient bus routes. The news for the coming ski season is that both frontage roads will be open to two-way traffic through the winter. Construction will ramp up again in the spring of 2017. Vail Cascade The 285-room hotel was sold earlier this year. The new owners have launched an extensive interior and exterior remodeling project. The hotel will receive a new name as part of the project, and the new owners hope to move the facility into the higher end of Vail's lodging inventory. Originally set to open to guests in December, completion is now expected in January of 2017. Other projects • Vail Spa: This nearby condo complex has had an extensive exterior renovation this year. • Doubletree Hotel: The former Holiday Inn in west Vail this year received a number of exterior and interior improvements. • The old Ore House restaurant: Located at the northeast corner of Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive in Vail Village, Ruther said a new restaurant is expected to open in the early part of the coming ski season. • Vail Golf Club clubhouse: A new, $11 million clubhouse includes improved spaces for group meetings. A new summer and winter restaurant will open shortly after the facility opens in November as the Vail Nordic Center. • East Vail fire station: This project isn't particularly visible. But, Ruther said, it involves an extensive remodeling and modernization of the old facility. The existing station has also remained open and operating during the project. Coming soon? As current projects continue or wind down, a new Marriott Residence Inn has been proposed for the site of the old Roost Lodge in West Vail. As proposed, the new hotel would have 170 rooms, 113 deed-restricted apartments and 360 below-ground parking spaces. Ruther said that project is in its final review phase with the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission. A public meeting about that final review is expected before the end of this year. When the Planning and Environmental Commission finishes its work, the project — which has been proposed as what's known as a special development district in town zoning lingo — must be approved by the Vail Town Council. Work could begin in 2017. Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

Search for more remains at WTC site

NEW YORK – The search for human remains at the World Trade Center site will be expanded, a city official said Friday, hours before searchers found what may be more bone fragments at the site.In a memo to Mayor Michael Bloomberg about the search for remains, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler said debris believed to be from the towers had been dug up from under a service road on the site’s western edge and said more of the road would be excavated.Crews sifting through the material have reported finding computer parts, office carpet, electrical wires and steel from the building.”Based on the appearance of what could be WTC-related debris in the trench, the majority of the haul road requires further excavation,” Skyler wrote, adding that 165 other places also would be searched.Hours later, word came from the site that workers had found what appeared to be several more pieces of bone from the road excavation.The renewed search for remains began in October after utility crews found bones in an abandoned manhole that had been paved over and forgotten along the western edge of the site.In the hurry to finish cleaning up the site during the spring of 2002, that manhole and a number of other subterranean pockets were never searched for victims’ remains.Until Friday, the only remains turned up since the search resumed were some 200 bones in the initial manhole, plus a handful of fragments in three other manholes.Some victims’ families have pushed for a wider excavation under the service road, saying they believed crews in 2002 used rubble from the towers instead of clean soil when they were excavating the disaster site and building the road – a charge the city denies.”Thank God. Thank God they’re finally doing this,” said Tim Sumner, whose brother-in-law, firefighter Joseph Leavey, was killed in the terrorist attacks.Some 40 percent of the 2,749 people killed in the Sept. 11 attack there still have not had any remains identified. None of the new discoveries has been matched to any of the dead.Skyler estimated in his letter that the yearlong search effort would cost $30 million.—Associated Press Writer Amy Westfeldt contributed to this story.

Technology upgrades ready in parts of Vail

VAIL — This past year's Christmas holiday crush was a tough one for AT&T cellular customers. Demand on the company's existing system resulted in dropped calls, delayed voice messages and difficulty getting on the internet. This year should be better. The company this week announced that it has turned on a new system that will bring the latest 4G LTE technology used by the latest smartphones and tablets. The company joins Verizon in providing the technology in Vail. According to its website, Sprint, the third major cell carrier in the valley, doesn't yet offer the new technology in Vail. On the other hand, Sprint has far fewer subscribers in the valley. Problems with AT&T's service earlier this year prompted Vail restaurant owner Ron Riley to place ads in the Vail Daily demanding action. Riley also conducted a survey of AT&T's Vail customers that revealed a host of complaints, especially during times the town was full or nearly so. Communication delays Most of the complaints the survey revealed involved voice and text messages. Some in the real estate business said missed or delayed messages could potentially cost them thousands in lost sales. Others worried that the problems could become severe enough that some visitors might not return to Vail. Riley said better service in Vail is "hugely important" to residents, businesses and tourists. "These are common services people have come to expect," Riley said. Town of Vail Information Technology Department Director Ron Braden agreed, saying guest expectations were among the primary reasons for seeking out the deal to improve service in town. Crown castle antennas Help came this year when the town of Vail signed an deal with Crown Castle, a company that builds cell towers then leases them to carriers. That system includes a main tower at the town of Vail's public works department shop, on the north side of Interstate 70 kind of across the highway from the town's golf course. To augment that tower, the company will also build 23 smaller antenna sites throughout town to boost coverage. Braden said the first of the smaller sites are nearly complete. Those sites, along with a cell tower on wheels — called a "COW" — will boost service in Vail Village and Lionshead. The remaining sites are expected to be finished by the end of the summer of 2014 and will improve service to most of the rest of town, although Braden said portions of East Vail may remain in coverage holes due to quirks of the local terrain. The goal for the Crown Castle and AT&T system is to have it fully operational by early 2015, when the World Alpine Ski Championships return to Vail. Of course, AT&T won't be the only carrier in town for that event. In an emailed response to questions, Verizon spokesman Robert Kelley wrote that Verizon's "coverage and capacity in Vail and surrounding area can handle the voice and data traffic as we prepare for the World Alpine Ski Championships. As we get closer to the actual event, we can increase the capacity of existing sites and bring in additional temporary sites as needed to meet demand." Still, Braden said, most people in the valley for the championships will be using the AT&T system. 'Cautiously optimistic' While time will tell if the new system can accommodate a holiday-filled Vail, Riley said he's "cautiously optimistic" about the new technology. Beyond improvements in phone service — which, these days, is what most people want — the Crown Castle system is also carrying the town's free Wi-Fi signal in Vail Village and Lionshead. "This will hugely improve Wi-Fi in Vail Village and Lionshead," Braden said. "You go there now and the difference is like night and day."