Avon envisions its new gondola | VailDaily.com

Avon envisions its new gondola

Special to the DailyA sketch of the gondola planned to connect a new riverside ski village with the base of Beaver Creek Mountain.

AVON Bill Reed sits at his desk, head bowed, immersed in his work as the general manager of Avon landscaping company Land Designs by Ellison & Co. Inc. When he looks up from his work, the large window in front of him gives him postcard views of Beaver Creek Mountain. To Reeds left, a string of desks all face the window and the ski resort in the distance. But closer to the window, Reeds immediate view is of the unused railroad tracks that cut through Avon and the bare slab of land beyond.

But the land wont be bare for long. The town of Avon recently gave developer East West Partners the go-ahead to begin construction on Riverfront Village a project that will include shops, restaurants, homes and hotel rooms. And as the buildings go up, Reeds view of valley and mountains will turn into a Parisian view a nice way of saying hell be staring at the side of a building. I dont know how much well be able to see, Reed said. Its nice to have a view, but its not the primary reason were here.The window really serves more to clue him in on the state of the weather, he said. While Reeds coworker Sean Moody said looking at the side of another building all day would be a drag, the tradeoff the incoming gondola, which has been the focal point of the development is worth it.Then I can actually go up there and ski, Moody said. I dont have to sit here and work.

The gondola, estimated to be open for the 2007-2008 ski season, has been Riverfront Villages selling point since East West Partners began working on the project about a year and a half ago. The high-tech ski lift will link Avon to the Lower Beaver Creek Express lift at the Landing, one of the bases of Beaver Creek Mountain. Skiers and snowboarders will have to hop on another lift to get to skiable terrain. But unlike Moody, not everyone is so excited about the incoming lift. It doesnt go to the mountain, complained Clyde Thomas, a South African native working in Avon for the season. Kent Jordan, a valley resident for 35 years, said Avon missed the boat when planning the gondola. Telluride hit it right on the nose with their gondolas that go down to town and up to the top, he said. I dont think thatll work in Avon.Critics have also complained about the lack of skier parking in the Confluence, but both the town and the developer have said the gondola is meant to serve tourists and those who come via public transportation. Thats why weve moved our transportation center, so its going to be convenient to get off the bus, walk over to the gondola and then come back into the area, said Jacquie Halburnt, spokeswoman for the town of Avon.

The gondola may be the selling point for Riverfront Village, but the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa will ground the development. The town needs a real hotel, said Councilwoman Amy Phillips. The prestige as well as the tax revenues will have rolling ramifications in the town, she said.As the owner of Avons Mountain Man Fruit and Nut Co. Dena Southerlan said the hotel will likely boost her business. We service a lot of hotels with amenities, and so I think thats going to bring more people to Avon, and then theyll bring us more business, she said. And theyre nice and close to deliver too.East West Partners is trying something a little different by including a sports medicine center in the Westin, said Chuck Madison of East West Partners. As part of having a nice quality spa, we wanted to see if we could have some medical component, Madison said. With the aging of the baby boomers, theres tremendous interest in sports medicine, nutrition stretching, how to play golf, bike and ski properly.Madison said he hopes the center will be able to give seminars on these topics in addition to offering care. Along with a high-end hotel, Madison said Riverfront Village will include seven to 10 new stores and restaurants, which will likely include a sporting goods store, a deli and a coffee house.

$500 million: Cost of Riverfront Village when complete19 acres: Size of Riverfront Village5.5 acres: Size of the park East West Partners will build and give to Avon45,000 square feet: Size of commercial space including restaurants, shops, sports medicine center and a spa1,200 to 1,600: How many people the gondola can carry per hour50 to 130 feet: How tall Riverfront Village will be285: Number of hotel rooms and suites110: Number of condos and townhouses120: Number of timesharesStaff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado

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