Vail child care facility has to move by August
Children’s Garden of Learning moving to make way for housing
Vail officials aren’t yet done with approvals to move the Children’s Garden of Learning, but the clock is ticking.
The Vail Town Council on Jan. 19 approved spending $760,000 for a new, modular facility to be located on the southeast corner of the Lionshead parking structure. That’s the current site of the town’s parking area for charter buses and RVs.
The Children’s Garden now sits on town-owned land just east of the Middle Creek Village apartments. That’s been identified as the best site for new workforce housing in town. The idea to use the Middle Creek lot for housing sprung from a Vail Town Council initiative to replace the need for housing at Booth Heights in East Vail. That idea is currently the topic of a dispute between the town and Vail Resorts, which owns the East Vail site.
No matter the outcome of that dispute, town officials want to break ground by this fall on the Middle Creek site, with units occupied by the start of the 2022-2023 ski season.
That means the Children’s Garden has to move. Town officials and the Children’s Garden have been looking for a new, permanent home for the facility. Until that site is found, the Children’s Garden will move to the Lionshead site. That could take between three and five years.
Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said the new, temporary home will consist of “building cubes” that can be repurposed or sold later.
But the project still requires final town approvals.
The Vail Design Review Board recently voted to reject the current design, with opponents saying the design didn’t meet “the Vail standard.”
Robson noted that “Vail standard” isn’t an official criteria used in project reviews.
The board’s vote “doesn’t end the project by any means,” Robson added. With the town as the applicant, Robson said staff in the town’s public works and community development departments are preparing an appeal to be heard by the Town Council. Robson said he expects the council to make a decision on that appeal at its Feb. 2 meeting.
Robson said the current schedule calls for work to start on the Lionshead site once the current ski season ends in April.
Robson acknowledged that using temporary, if “high quality” buildings was a topic of some discussion by the council.
While taxpayer money will be used, Robson said “We all know how critical child care is” in the valley. “We need to make sure they’ve got a great home,” he added.
When the Children’s Garden finds a new home, Robson said the building cubes could be used by another facility elsewhere in the valley, or could be repurposed for the town or other entities.
Before voting to approve the funds for the new facility, Vail Town Councilmember Kevin Foley said the new site is essential.
“This is the best move we can make right now,” Foley said. “There might be some challenges, but I believe we can work through those.” Noting the town’s chronic need for housing, Foley said “I believe all of us feel this is where we need to be going.”
75: Average number of children per year enrolled in Children’s Garden of Learning.
144: Workforce housing beds expected to be built on the property where the child care facility now sits.
$760,000: Town of Vail budgeted amount to move the facility.
7: Months until the facility needs to move.