Ever Vail project won’t happen; next project will require a fresh start
Vail Resorts has given no indication of plans for the property
When Vail Resorts first proposed it in 2005, Ever Vail was going to bring a lot to Vail. It’s uncertain now what the future holds for the roughly 12-acre property.
Key town approvals have expired for the property between Lionshead and Cascade Village, and any new development will have to start essentially from scratch.
The biggest missed milestone was relocating South Frontage Road. A key to the project was routing the road around the north side of Vail Resorts’ shops, which sit between the frontage road and Interstate 70. The deadline to have that job done was Dec. 31, 2020.
During a 2018 Vail Town Council meeting, council members questioned whether the road project — itself a multimillion-dollar effort — could be finished by the expiration date.
After roughly 85 public meetings between the time it was proposed and gained initial approval in late 2012, the project was going to add a third resort village and a new portal to Vail Mountain. Coming on the heels of Vail’s “billion-dollar renewal” in the first decade of this century, the idea was to add hundreds of new residential units, more than 100 hotel rooms and a bit of workforce housing. Also included in the plan was public parking — more than 2,000 spaces — as well as office, retail and food and beverage space.
But between proposal and those first approvals, the nation dropped into its worst economic slump since the Great Depression. In 2014, Vail Resorts announced it was shutting down its development division and would instead work on projects with third-party partners.
Today, the land sits vacant except for the company’s shops. Locals can only speculate what might eventually sit on that property.
Andy Daly was Vail’s Mayor when those 2012 approvals were passed. Daly said he isn’t surprised that the project stalled. He noted the “significant” downturn in the local real estate market that hit full-force in 2009. In addition, the cost of moving the frontage road and putting in basic infrastructure was “such a high nut to crack.”
Longtime local real estate broker Craig Denton is the developer of the new Elevation project in Lionshead.
Denton noted that Ever Vail was going to “change the dynamics of the town and the mountain.” That includes the relationship between the town and resort company.
Moving the road made it hard to justify the numbers on a large development, Denton noted, adding that Ever Vail would also have forced Vail Resorts to relocate its shops. That’s also a hard question to answer, he said.
Vail Resorts hasn’t given any indication what it might have in mind for the property.
What should change?
Current Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said if a new proposal did come to the town, he’d like to see as much of the land preserved as possible.
Chapin said parking and workforce housing — which was fewer than 50 units in the original proposal — should be the primary focus of any development proposed for the parcel.
If any proposal did come to the town, Chapin said he’d expect a long approval process. But he added, any proposal should have to merge the strategic goals of both the town and a developer.
“Talk is nothing if you don’t have a plan,” Chapin said.
Whatever happens on the property, whenever it might happen, will have to reflect different realities in Vail and the resort business.
Longtime local real estate broker and developer Ron Byrne said parking and workforce housing have to be near the top of any new developer’s to-do list.
Byrne said workforce housing has to be a key to any new development, large or small.
“You’ve got to have people working here to support (the resort),” Byrne said. But he added, people who are working late in the retail or restaurant business need to live close to where they work.
“If you work until 1 or 2 a.m., then get in the car and drive 30 or 40 miles in a snowstorm, that’s not going to cut it,” he said.
Byrne noted that Vail’s economy has become a bit more stable over the years. Activity today is spread out beyond former peak periods in the summer and winter, he noted. Having year-round housing for people working in that economy means providing quality housing for those people.
While there’s nothing on the publicly-known drawing board at the moment, Byrne said the property itself is “wonderful.” And, for now, it remains empty.
Here’s what Ever Vail might have brought to town:
A new gondola.
Between 350 and 450 residential units.
Between 100 and 120 accommodation units.
Between 35 and 45 workforce housing units.
More than 2,000 parking spaces.
Office, retail and food and beverage spaces.