Crossroads developer settled into Vail
VAIL – It didn’t take long for Peter Knobel to find his niche in Vail. At the moment, it’s a big niche.Knobel is the Vail resident who has proposed tearing down and rebuilding the Crossroads shopping center. As currently proposed, the new Crossroads will be significantly bigger than the old one, with more retail space, more condominiums, more parking, and generally more of everything. New features include a bowling alley and better theater. A lot of the project will look down upon Meadow Drive, of course, but much of it will be underground. Like most big ideas, the Crossroads plan has generated its share of controversy. Opponents have generally latched on the size of the proposed new Crossroads, particularly the height.In Knobel’s opinion, though, the critics are misinformed. “If I can explain it one-on-one it’s better,” Knobel said. “You have to relate all the pieces to each other.”Knobel said he’s managed to answer a lot of questions in those face-to-face meetings. He might have changed a few minds. “There’s been a greater level of acceptance as it’s been explained,” Knobel said.That acceptance may be due to what Knobel sees as many locals’ willingness to listen.”This is an open community,” he said. “It’s very different from New York. There’s a niceness here, a commonality. Everybody loves the outdoors.”
Leaving the AppleKnobel knows plenty about New York City, where he worked as a real estate developer for the Related Companies, a firm involved in development and management of commercial and residential property. It was there Knobel learned the fine art of putting deals together, which he had to do at Crossroads. Knobel and former owner Oscar Tang closed the deal for most of Crossroads early last year. After landing the biggest piece, he then went to work acquiring the 22 condominium units in the complex.The deal started through a mutual friend, who gave Knobel a ride home from The Saloon after he’d skied the Minturn Mile one afternoon. Thus started Knobel’s first foray into big-time development in Vail.”For the past eight years I’ve been building one or two spec houses a year in the Hamptons (on Long Island), and I’ve got one home being built on Spraddle Creek and one on Forest Road,” Knobel said. While Crossroads is Knobel’s first foray into large scale local development, he’s knows Vail well. He first started coming – to ski, of course – in the late 1980s. That first leased home turned into an owned vacation home, with Knobel and his family spending several weeks a year in Vail.The Knobels spent their first summer in Vail in 2001. They moved to Vail full time that fall. He’s now a “reverse vacationer” who spends holidays in warm places, but skis more than 60 days a year.
Since moving to Vail full time, Knobel has taken a keen interest in the future of the place, he said. Not just CrossroadsKnobel has gotten to know Ron Byrne, who’s carved his own niche in Vail’s high-end real estate market. The Knobels and Byrnes have kids about the same age, and share a lot of interests, especially about redeveloping Vail Village.”We’re both involved in efforts to regenerate the village,” Byrne said.Byrne said Knobel is a man “who sees value and opportunity.”While working out at the Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa, which Byrne owns, Knobel spent a lot of time talking with other clients.”In a short period, he almost knew more about my business than I did,” Byrne said.Conversations between the two led to a friendship.”We both saw a clear need to reinvent Vail Village,” Byrne said.
But reinventing the village in a worthwhile way means finding out what people want. Knobel came back from a trip to Denver with the Byrnes thinking people would come to Vail if there was a dining/entertainment center like Dave & Buster’s available, a sort of high-end adult video arcade. He and Byrne also spent a day at a real estate convention in Las Vegas talking to people about what attracts them to resort areas. The result is what’s come out in the plans for Crossroads. “We looked at what was missing, and what could bring people back into Vail,” Knobel said. “We started looking at things for kids, of all ages.”Infrastructure to matchBut the Crossroads plan has changed from what the town’s planning commission first saw last year. The rooflines have changed and shrunk a bit, with a little less height. The above-ground part of the complex is now at six stories rather than seven.The 10-lane bowling alley is back in, too, as is a three-screen theater and entertainment center, all of which will be underground, along with several hundred parking spots.”We’ve made a lot of changes,” said Knobel. “But people have to understand there’s a north side and a south side, and the north side faces a highway. We have to sell that side, too.”In the end, though, Knobel says he wants to build something that’s welcomed in town.”I’m committed to Vail,” he said. “It’s the greatest place to live, and I can live anywhere I want to. It’s a great place, and it needs quality infrastructure.”Vail, Colorado