Developers will fine-tune garage plans
VAIL – Vail’s current construction projects are dubbed its “billion-dollar renewal.” But soon, the Lionshead garage alone could get a half-billion-dollar renewal. The Vail Town Council has asked both contenders in the Lionshead garage redo to continue with the process. Two teams – Avon-based East West Partners and Texas-based Open/Hillwood – are vying to redevelop the town-owned 6-acre site. The developers have shown the town rough concepts. But the town hasn’t made a commitment to do anything with the property – it can still decide to choose neither of the proposals.Both developers said their projects would cost up to $500 million, dwarfing the cost of other Vail projects like the Four Seasons, the Arrabelle and Solaris. The developers will submit full proposals next month.Harry Frampton, managing partner of East West Partners, said the garage is a blight on Vail and the town can’t afford to not redo it.”It you don’t choose us, choose someone, and do it,” he said.Open/Hillwood precipitated the process when it approached the town about redeveloping the property. Ross Perot Jr., son of the former presidential candidate, is part of the Open/Hillwood group.
There were similarities in both concepts. Both used the slogan “One Vail” to express their desire to connect Vail Village and Lionshead. They both said they wanted a dialogue with the town to decide what the complex would look like.Both groups are looking to start construction in 2008. East West said construction would last until 2011. Mark Masinter of Open/Hillwood said the project would be completed by the 2010-11 ski season.The town wants the garage to only be closed during an eight-month period between April and November. That provides a tight timeline for the demolition of the garage and the construction of new parking.The East West concept didn’t add more public parking than what is there now. Frampton said that would be too costly and couldn’t be done within the town’s window of construction.Frampton said the East West concept has a four-star hotel – rather than a five-star hotel – that would be more affordable and family-oriented. Frampton said Vail already has enough five-star hotels.The Open/Hillwood concept includes the W Hotel Retreat and the St. Regis Hotel. It also has a performing arts center for concerts, theater and lectures. It says it also may bring in House of Blues to book concerts. The center would also be available for meetings that need 25,000-30,000 square feet of space. Open/Hillwood also includes a bus hub in the complex.East West’s idea has 25,000 square feet of conference center space. It also includes a center for local nonprofits and a wellness center.Both groups said they’d like to find a way to subdivide the ownership of the land so the town could retain ownership of the public parking while the hotels and condos would be private.Both groups said they may pursue tax incremental funding but will not pursue the town’s conference center fund money.
The council voted 4-2, with Farrow Hitt and Kevin Foley voting against, to proceed with both developers to the next step. Mayor Rod Slifer, who is a partner with Frampton in real estate firm Slifer Smith and Frampton, recused himself from the vote.”I don’t think we’re in a position to say ‘no’ to the next step,” said Councilman Greg Moffet. “It would be foolhardy in the extreme.”Several council members said an appraisal of the worth of the property should be done before the next step. The town will proceed with an appraisal.
“In effect, we’re selling the land,” Councilman Kent Logan said.Logan said the town should also study whether the eight-month demolition and construction window is feasible for the proposals.Hitt said more study needs to be done before the town proceeds.”If we’re going to send them forward, send them forward knowing you really want to go ahead with this,” he said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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