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Anyone want to rebuild Vail’s Timber Ridge?

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Timber Ridge Apt.2 SM 5-19
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VAIL, Colorado ” The chance to redevelop Vail, Colorado’s largest employee housing complex ” an expensive project that would increase the number of beds in the aging building ” will be open to any developers who are interested.

The town of Vail had considered negotiating exclusively with Vail Resorts to redevelop Timber Ridge, but the Town Council decided to put the project up for “requests for qualification,” a process used to select a developer, instead.

The proposed project would be done in two phases, adding to the 198 apartments at Timber Ridge. The town also had considered being the developer of the project, but decided the magnitude of the redevelopment was too risky for Vail to undertake.

Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler had recommended that the council negotiate with Vail Resorts because the company is in the best financial position to do the redevelopment, and it also leases almost all of the apartments for its employees. The town wants to get the project going by 2010, and Zemler said having Vail Resorts do it would be most expedient.

He proposed that if Vail Resorts took the project, the 120 employee beds the company owes at the North Day Lot would be moved over to the new beds created at Timber Ridge. The North Day Lot beds are part of the requirements associated with the Arrabelle at Vail Square in Lionshead.

Vail Resorts representatives said the company would be open to negotiating with the town but gave no promises as to whether it would participate in the public qualification process.

“It’s the town’s choice,” said Keith Fernandez of Vail Resorts Development Co. “That doesn’t mean we would participate in the RFQ. I think then our focus would be on the North Day Lot.”

Council members said they hoped Vail Resorts would be interested in the project but thought that seeing what other developers have to offer might get the town the best deal.

“Competition is a good thing in my opinion, and information is power,” Councilwoman Margaret Rogers said. “(Vail Resorts) may be a unique partner, but others might also be unique. We don’t know whether they’re best financially to do this, until we see what everybody brings.”

Councilman Mark Gordon agreed, saying that the council has discussed putting out requests for qualifications for a while, and that it is the fairest way to proceed.

“We just need to keep it honest and going,” he said.

Several other developers said they would be interested in the project.

Former Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone said the town could give the project to a private developer and still have significant control over Timber Ridge. He pointed to Miller Ranch, an affordable, for-sale housing neighborhood in Edwards, as an example.

While Vail Resorts is an important partner in the project and one of the largest financial players, other developers should have a chance, he said.

“Vail Resorts is going to be part of the solution, but Vail Resorts is not the only employer that needs seasonal housing there. I think you need to serve the entire community, not just Vail Resorts,” Stone said.

Mark Masinter’s company, Open Hospitality Group/Hillwood Capital, said it would also be interested in the project.

Either way, the project will be tough to do in light of financing troubles. Also, it will be a challenge to keep Timber Ridge rents affordable, developers and town officials agreed.

However, others still thought Vail Resorts might well be the best candidate for the job.

Councilman Andy Daly said that due to the economy, the town is paying a higher interest rate on its $19 million bond on Timber Ridge. Having Vail Resorts do the redevelopment would be the surest way to help the town lower its debt on the apartments, he said.

“Timber Ridge needs redevelopment, and we know we need more beds,” he said. “Vail Resorts has a strong balance sheet.”

Mayor Dick Cleveland said he would be open to asking other developers to come forward if negotiations failed with Vail Resorts.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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