Chamonix housing parcel: ‘This is it’
By the numbers
265: Deed-restricted employee housing units in Vail
30 percent: Town of Vail goal for housing for those who work in town.
3 percent: Annual appreciation cap of deed-restricted for-sale units in Vail.
45: Average age of current owners at Vail Commons, above City Market.
VAIL — Vacant land may be the most valuable commodity in Vail. Families are also near the top of that list. A parcel in West Vail may be the last, best chance to bring together those two valuable elements.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday took another look at a proposal to build appreciation-capped, for-sale housing on a 3.2-acre parcel just north of the northern roundabout in West Vail. That town-owned land is bordered on one side by Chamonix Road.
The town has long planned to build housing on the site, but building was delayed by the national economic slump that hit the valley full force in 2009.
As plans to build were delayed, ideas of what to build have evolved during the years. Once seen as a place to build a lot of homes — or, briefly, a place to put a town hall — current thinking by Vail officials seems to favor fewer homes laid out in a more enticing manner, the better to retain or attract young families.
At a Tuesday work session, Vail Town Council members got a look at a plan that may be close to the density/quality balance officials are seeking.
The plan being discussed for the parcel now includes about 54 units, made up mostly of townhomes, as well as a few duplex units. A very preliminary plan shows some small yards for many units, as well as a large common area.
Again, though, it’s very early in the planning process. And there may be more units in the final plan.
“I want this to be desirable, but the most valuable asset we have is land,” council member Margaret Rogers said, adding that the plan needs to find the best balance between resident-friendliness and density.
Another question to answer is the mix of units. In a previous discussion Tuesday afternoon, Vail Housing Coordinator Nina Timm talked about the kind of units people tend to want. A recent drawing for a three-bedroom unit drew interest from five families, she said.
Will Hentschel of 359 Design, an architectural firm working with the town, said that the current preliminary design for the Chamonix parcel includes buildings designed to be easily adapted for one-, two- or three-bedroom units.
Hentschel added that the duplexes are similarly designed to be built in sizes between 1,400 and 2,800 square feet, depending on demand.
To determine that demand, it’s likely that a somewhat preliminary design will be taken out to public meetings. A marketing company could also be hired to determine just what should be built at the site.
The building blocks of those units could be built elsewhere and trucked to Vail. Hentschel said factory-built basics are about 10 percent less expensive than units completely built on site.
PLENTY OF DEMAND
While just who is willing to buy a specific unit in Vail is still a question mark, Timm in her presentation said there’s plenty of demand — for the right units.
In the town’s housing lottery for appreciation-capped, for-sale units, some potential buyers turn down the opportunity to buy units that don’t suit their needs.
At Chamonix, though, the idea is to market to couples and families with children.
“This is it, in terms of building family-sized housing,” council member Greg Moffet said. “Everything else from now on will be a one-off. … We’ve really got to have our heads around this, and I’d encourage us to focus on a segment of the market that’s not going to get served otherwise.”
That market, for family housing, has long been met elsewhere, to the consternation of town officials, who believe that attracting and retaining your families is essential to maintaining a vibrant community — especially since more than 70 percent of all private homes in town are used as second homes.
Planning for the property will continue this year, and construction could start by 2016.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.