Development starting to pick up in Vail Valley?
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – For decades, Vail Valley construction projects flowed like water through a faucet. As soon as one project was finished, another was ready to break ground. Then the world’s economy fell off a cliff.Even as construction projects still hummed toward completion last year, local engineering and architecture companies were laying people off. The pipeline ran dry, or nearly so.Jeff Kovacik is the one-man crew at Eagle Valley Construction. Starting last year, his business got more and more sporadic.”It was steady, but I’d work two or three days instead of two or three weeks, then wonder what I was going to do next,” Kovacik said. “I’m just glad I know how to do a lot of different things.”Kovacik’s business has started to pick up, a little, this year. He’s booked solidly through May. Repeat customers are calling for remodeling projects or other work.At the moment, smaller jobs are what’s available to the construction companies in the valley that aren’t finishing up bigger projects.Much of Eagle County’s building permit activity is for smaller projects. The same is true in the town of Vail. The good news is that more of those permits are starting to come through those community development offices. In fact, Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said that both permits and building value are up this year to date over 2009.But that’s still a pretty low bar. Consider that in 2007, the value of building permits issued in Vail alone exceeded $500 million for the year. For the first quarter of this year, the value of permits issued so far is $6.5 million. The 2010 number is about half again higher than the permit value for the same period of 2009.”The pipeline was just empty,” Boles Construction owner Brad Foster said.
While the local construction industry is getting by on smaller projects right now, there’s better – if not great – news on the horizon in the form of some bigger projects.The town of Vail will start work this year on a new fire station in West Vail, and work will start this year on new housing at the site of the Timber Ridge apartments. Both of those projects are being managed by general contractors from out of the area, but Ruther said he expects local subcontractors to get quite a bit of work.Vail has also put out requests for proposals for initial design and engineering work on a 56-unit affordable housing complex in West Vail on the site of the former Wendy’s. There’s a job coming this year for renovations to the Lionshead parking garage.In Avon, East West Partners has started design work on a set of townhomes adjacent to the Westin Riverfront Resort. Company partner Chuck Madison said it’s smaller projects like townhomes that will come back first as the broader economy starts to recover.”Hotels are usually the last thing to recover,” Madison said.Work on the townhomes will probably start next year, Madison said, depending on pre-sales and other factors.Farther downvalley, the Colorado National Guard expects to start work next spring on a roughly $35 million project at the Eagle County Regional Airport. That project will replace the existing buildings at the High Altitude Aviation Training Site with a new, modern building better suited to the base’s mission of training helicopter pilots in the tricks of mountain flying.
Looking farther out, there are a couple of good-sized projects in Edwards just starting through the county’s approval process, including one called the “Edwards Village mixed use and affordable housing” plan. As the name implies, that project would put a combination of commercial and residential building on a couple of sites – one roughly behind the Edwards Corner building (where the Marble Slab Creamery is), and one roughly behind the Edwards post office and fire station.A bigger potential project is the Eagle River Meadows proposal on the old B&B Excavating gravel pit.Both of those projects, though, wouldn’t start before 2012, if then. Developer Rick Hermes believes he can break ground on an ambitious, roughly 2,000-unit project at Wolcott by 2013 or so.And then there’s EverVail, a more than $1 billion project in Vail. No one is sure when that might break ground. Until those bigger projects get to the point of hiring contractors, Foster said his company will have to get by the way it has been for more than a year now.”Our idea is to generate a lead that turns into a project,” he said. “We’re calling past clients, using any sources we can. “But when the developers are back and kicking out projects, we’ll be back, too,” he said.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.