Development is inevitable, Avonites say
Editors note: Yesterday’s article about Riverfront Village talked about the physical components of the development that will take up 19 acres of Eagle River riverfront property in Avon. While yesterday’s story explained the commercial aspects of Riverfront Village, today’s will discuss why Avon wanted the development and how it will affect local residents.
AVON ” A high-tech gondola, high-end hotel, ski shop, deli, coffee house, condos, timeshares ” they’re all coming to Avon as part of the Riverfront Village development, but does Avon really need all this stuff?
Some say Avon’s done fine without them, while others say the town is desperately in need of the boost ” financial and otherwise ” the village will bring. As the town gains a larger sales and property tax base, what are the people who live here gaining or losing?
Although Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks said he loves Avon the way it is, there’s always room for improvement. Riverfront Village represents an improvement he and other town staff and council members think will revitalize the town.
“The western core area struggles right now,” Brooks said, pointing out a completely empty building between the Sheraton hotel and the Seasons building.
“That area just doesn’t have enough development for people to want to be there,” he said. “We need to stimulate the area. From an image perspective, the gondola and Riverfront Village is valuable for us. The closer we can affiliate ourselves with Beaver Creek, the better.”
But Brian Deem, a valley resident of six years, doesn’t think that’s possible.
“It’s not close enough to the mountains to make it Beaver Creek or Vail Village,” Deem said. “You still have to drive or jump into the gondola, which is going to be a longer ride. I don’t think you can create the same atmosphere because there’s not a ski mountain staring you in the face.”
Beyond Riverfront Village
Notwithstanding Avon’s image, Chuck Madison of East West Partners, the company developing Riverfront Village, said it was high time for Avon to get a facelift.
“Many of the buildings that are in Avon today were built 20 to 30 years ago, and they’re in a state of decline,” Madison said. “I think this will help allow for redevelopment of those buildings and remodeling.”
Part of the redevelopment will create Avon’s Main Street ” a strip of land from the Benchmark Road roundabout stretching west to Nottingham Lake. Main Street is envisioned to be a sort of pedestrian mall, similar to the city of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall.
While Avon spokeswoman Jacquie Halburnt acknowledged financial gain is a catalyst for redeveloping, she said improving the quality of life of residents is also key.
“It’s about making Avon a more vibrant place – people want to come here, and people want to hang out in the area,” she said.
Madison also said the development will make Avon ” traditionally a “car town” ” more pedestrian friendly.
Keeping the development near the town core, Councilwoman Amy Phillips said, will allow for open space elsewhere. To local resident and business owner Dena Southerlan, it’s all good news.
“I think Avon’s a great town, and a lot of people miss out on Avon just coming to Vail and Beaver Creek,” she said.
What’s in it for the locals?
Riverfront Village promises to inject new life into Avon, but if it’s going in the way of Vail and Beaver Creek, new life may also mean higher price tags in a town known for catering to locals.
“I think it’s going to skyrocket Avon property values,” said Clyde Thomas, a South Africa native working in Avon for the season.
Already real estate ads are calling for buyers to “get in before the gondola.” But Brooks said Avon will continue to cater to locals while enticing tourists.
“I think we’ve done a good job of being price sensitive for the locals,” he said. “We’re not like the Aspen fur shop depending on Hollywood people flying in. We’re picking our niche. We’ve got more affordable hotels and restaurants. We’re not Vail yet. I don’t think we’re heading that way.”
As a fly fisherman, Deem isn’t too keen on seeing a prime fishing spot developed.
“I like my solitude,” he said. “The more development, the less places on the river I can fish.”
The Eagle-Vail resident said he kayaks that stretch of the Eagle River and has used the future home of the Riverfront Village to put in and take out his boat.
“Really, the Eagle River is a very important asset to our community,” he said.
Madison said he couldn’t agree more, and sees the development as a way to bring even more people closer to the river. Madison said people will likely be able to get to the river during construction, but not by car.
And when all is said and done, Riverfront Village will also include a 5.5-acre park, right on the river, and a widened bike path. East West Partners promises to give these public amenities to Avon once they’re completed.
And amidst all the buildings, developers will also preserve a “view corridor” so everyone will continue to enjoy views of Beaver Creek Mountain ” if they’re standing the right spot.
One thing both proponents and opponents of Riverfront Village agree on ” development is inevitable.
“I think the valley’s going to continue to boom, with or without it,” Deem said. “Development’s going to happen, whether we want it or not. There’s just too many people with deep pockets that want to make it happen.”
Because growth is unstoppable, Halburnt said, controlling it is key, and Riverfront Village was an excellent example of planned growth.
While most valley residents are excited to see the birth of Riverfront Village, Sean Moody and Bill Reed, whose office window look out on the now empty lot, will miss the entertainment that used to take place right outside their office window ” the rodeo in the summertime, rebels turning doughnuts in their cars in the winter.
“It’s a drag, but we’re here to work,” Moody said. “It’s OK.”
Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or email@example.com.