Black Porsche and matching mini-skirt
Editor’s note: In keeping with a tradition that began with Dick Hauserman’s “Inventors of Vail” and continued with Pete Seibert’s “Vail: Triumph of a Dream,” the editors of the Vail Daily are serializing Bill Clinkenbeard’s “Cordillera, From the Ground Up,” in weekly installments each Sunday. Bill can be reached at 748-0971 or via e-mail, email@example.com.
1987 was a busy year for the new partnership. A considerable number of land planning, environmental and engineering studies had to be completed before final approvals could be obtained for the project.
Terrill Knight, who was working on the project prior to the new partnership, continued on as the lead planner. Les hired Debbie Duley to run the office and coordinate the engineering studies necessary to complete the preliminary plan. Debbie commuted from her home in Glenwood Springs, where she still lives.
At the time, Debbie was the only full-time employee, but the numbers of consultants started to build rapidly and later so did the number of full-time employees. The first Cordillera office was in Eagle in a Victorian home that housed Terrill’s company, Knight Planning Services.
In October 1987, a construction trailer was set up near the site where the excavation for the lodge had started. Terrill suggested the setting for the lodge after careful review of the terrain and access. It turned out to be a superb location with unparalleled views.
The design of the lodge was an ongoing exercise. One option we considered was to buy a log building that was for sale, owned by a church in Glenwood Springs. It was a small lodge and we looked at the cost of dismantling it, shipping it and rebuilding it on- site. That was too expensive and really too small for our projected needs.
Some of the homes in Cordillera today are bigger than this lodge. Jim Guffey, an Eagle architect, was hired to design a mountain lodge.
Les and I took Jim’s first lodge design to New York when Felix was there on business, to get his endorsement. We were prepared to put on a full show with detailed drawings, artist’s renditions, etc. Felix showed up at our hotel with his daughter Melissa in tow. He said they were going to an art exhibit, I believe, and he only had 15 minutes.
We were somewhat taken aback but after a brief review of the plans he said, “go ahead” and left. We packed up and came back to Colorado. A long trip for a 15-minute meeting, but then sometimes those are the best.
Jim Guffey continued to design the lodge, now called the Mountain Club. However, the design was to be drastically changed later as we started to develop a European theme for the project.
Construction of the infrastructure was in full swing during the second half of 1987. Harry Baum’s Western Slope Utilities was the major contractor on utilities and his first order of business was the water system.
Harry was a charming rogue and I always kept my hand on my wallet when we were in negotiations. Harry would use every trick of the trade to get an advantage. One day in 1988, after lengthy phone discussions on a contract extension, Harry said he was sending the revised contract over for my review. About an hour later a black Porsche pulled up to my office and out stepped a strikingly beautiful woman in a black mini-skirt.
She came in to my office and handed me the contract from Harry and said she was told to wait for my signature. I asked her who she was. Harry Baum’s wife!
It took all the resolve I could muster to tell her she should leave, that I needed time to review the contract. Harry always followed through on his commitments, but Debbie Duley spent a lot of time in the field measuring actual length of lines laid against what we were being billed for. I actually enjoyed working with Harry. He was different, interesting and always challenging
Our water plan was approved August 18, 1987. The major source of water then were wells on the property.
Golden Eagle Drilling was hired to drill the wells. As is often the case, this was a hit and miss activity. We wanted water wells near where the Lodge was to be, but after drilling two or three, one over 1,000 feet, we gave up on that area. The water found there was full of gypsum.
In the meantime we had purchased 200 acres of land to the south from Danny and Charlynn Williams. Danny was a former Eagle County Commissioner and later a state representative. Geologists told us that the further south we went on the property, the more volcanic was its nature and therefore the higher probability of finding good water.
And that is what happened. We found good water on the Williams property, now referred to as the “southern parcel.”
Several wells were drilled near the southern border of the property. We tried to make sure none of the drilling rigs were visible from Lake Creek, but one day a Lake Creek resident saw a rig driving to the site. She called the county and said we were tearing up the landscape.
There really wasn’t anything to tear up. The rig was moving up an old jeep road, across a rather barren piece of land. I guess some people are just bored with their lives and feel a need to stir things up.
The well water was pumped to several underground storage tanks on Mount Mirador, originally named “Mount Clink” by someone in Terrill’s shop, but which I quickly had changed when I was given the plat to sign.
From the storage tanks there, the water was gravity fed to the underground water lines that were being installed by Western Utilities to the residential lots and the Lodge.
Phone and electric service was laid underground. In the early Squaw Creek Recreational project, these lines were strung overhead and the poles were set by helicopter. With much more upscale plans in hand, it was clear that all utilities had to go underground. In fact that was a condition of approval for the preliminary plan.
Bus shelter bucks
Approvals were obtained in the spring of 1987 for 225 dwellings as follows:
– Single family: 99
– Multi-family: 84
– Employee housing: 2
– Lodge rooms: 40
– Total: 225
With this approval, an accelerated development schedule was set. In a memo to Felix Posen, April 27, 1987, I outlined the actions being taken to start construction of a lodge and get home sites ready for sale.
Lawrence Chadwick of Minturn was retained to build three miles of internal roads. He would take a building lot as partial payment.
Johnson Kunkel Associates Inc. of Eagle was hired to engineer the roads, water and sewage.
Three architects were retained to develop design concepts for the neighborhoods and the Mountain Club.
The first designs of the club were very different from the final design of the Lodge at Cordillera. The early designs reflected the style of the great lodges of the western national parks. However, as our tag line “European Elegance, Rocky Mountain Splendor” suggested, the architectural theme of the development was European, and the final lodge design was an outstanding example of this.
The legal firm of Holm Roberts Owen, Denver, was retained, and hiring of administrative staff began. I prepared budgets for the years 1987 and 1988 that came to about $7 million total. Big bucks in those days, but a pittance of what was coming.
Construction costs for the Mountain Club were estimated to be $60 per square foot. You can’t build a bus shelter for that these days.