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Big retail complex resurfaces in Eagle

Kathy Heicher
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE ” Maybe this time, the train will actually pull out of the station.

Eagle River Station, a proposed shopping and residential complex on the eastern edge of Eagle, will return to the town’s Planning Commission on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Georgia -based Trinity Red Development, headed by Vince Riggio, is proposing a project that includes a “lifestyle center” shopping mall with space for large retailers, employee housing, and a private school. The development would include stores that are about 120,000 to 130,000 square feet. That’s slightly smaller than a typical “big box,” such as a Wal-Mart, which is typically about 180,000 square feet.

The project has been controversial, particularly with citizens and local merchants who oppose the introduction of regional retailers into the town. The Eagle Town Board was slated to begin reviewing the project in late January, but the threat of a legal challenge from neighboring property owners sent the project back to the planning commission that advises the town board on development projects.

The delays have allowed the developers time to revise the plan in response to input from the community and the town staff, Riggio said.

He has had a series of eight to 10 “fireside chats” with small groups of people throughout the valley, he said.

“To make this a great project, we need to get as much feedback as possible,” he said.

The commercial space has been reduced from 567,000 square feet to 539,400 square feet. The number of homes has been increased. The proposal also includes a space for a 300-400 room lodge with an indoor water park.

Citizens who have turned out for the community chats are “guarded” about the project, but are saying they know something is going to eventually be developed on the 100 acre property, Riggio said.

“There’s lots of people who don’t want to have to drive to Denver to buy shoes for their kids,” he says.

The developers have assembled a local team that includes public relations specialist Kristen Kenney Williams; planners Terrill Knight and Tom Boni; project manager Bill Clinkenbeard; and community liaison Paolo Narduzzi. Former Eagle Town Board member Paul Witt, a public relations specialist, recently joined the team.

Meanwhile, opponents of the project are also rallying. E-mails with a return address of “noboxineagle@aol.com” urge citizens to take an active role in local growth issues.

“The troops are rallying, no doubt,” says Brush Creek resident Annie Egan, who keeps a close eye on projects in the Eagle area.

Jan Rosenthal Townsend, a downtown business owner and vocal opponent of retail development east of town, said opponents are awaiting the proposal.

“We need to see it proposed first … you’ve got to keep an open mind,” she said, “I’m not anticipating that much has changed.”

Townsend is active in a grassroots group called Citizens for the Future of Eagle that has been passing out literature suggesting the town has alternatives for raising sales tax by promoting what it already has ” a downtown business district, places to see wildlife mountain bike recreation and special events.

Opposition has also come from some property owners in the Diamond Star development east of town; and from large acreage owners on Castle Peak, north of town. It was a lawyer who represents Diamond Star that threatened legal action last month.

“Diamond Star, Castle Peak, all those people are our allies. No one wants to see sprawl in their backyard,” said Townsend.

Riggio said the response to his project is typical of citizen reaction to such proposals.

“We’ll take the criticism. We have made changes,” he said “In the effort to get everybody’s opinion, we end up being a truly a community facility. It’s a cool process.”

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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