Ever Vail: Green and platinum
VAIL ” There, Tom Miller said, pointing to a West Lionshead strip mall, will be a parking garage and employee housing.
There, he said, pointing to a nondescript office building, will be a transit center.
“We come through a portal here” ” Miller was walking through a parking lot ” “and it opens up to what will be a public park.”
Miller, director of development for Vail Resorts Development Company, was describing Ever Vail, the $1.5 billion ski village planned for the western edge of Vail Mountain.
Many of these pieces of Ever Vail will be energy efficient, environmentally sustainable and pedestrian friendly, Vail Resorts officials said Tuesday in a tour of the proposed village.
The company announced that the development has qualified for a “platinum” rating under the first stage of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Neighborhood Development program, which rates new developments on green techniques.
Planned aspects of the project ” including restoration of wetlands, use of recycled materials, energy efficient design of buildings and use of renewable energy resources ” give the project points for the certification.
“When we announced Ever Vail, it was the next in what’s been a series for us of environmental initiatives,” Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot said. “It started with our conversion to 100 percent wind power for all of our operations across our company. This platinum rating becomes a significant, notable achievement for us.”
Ever Vail is one of two projects in the U.S. that have been certified for the platinum rating under the LEED-ND program. Ever Vail would get the final certification after the project is completed and all of the criteria have been met.
The 11-acre Ever Vail project would include a gondola to Eagle’s Nest, condos, timeshares, a 110-room five-star hotel, a public parking garage, about 100,000 square feet of restaurants and stores, office space, about 100 beds of employee housing, a new ski-mountain maintenance facility and parks.
Vail Resorts, the developer, also is the operator of Vail Mountain. The Ever Vail site is now a strip mall, an office building, a mountain maintenance yard and an empty lot.
One expert said the platinum certification is no small feat.
“LEED platinum is as good as it gets,” said Byron Koste, executive director of the University of Colorado Real Estate Center and an expert in environmental development and smart growth. “You can’t aim any higher. One has to give high marks for them to go for it.”
Vail Resorts will be a bit of a trailblazer, as the “neighborhood development” category is a new pilot program, Koste said. He credited Vail Resorts for sticking with the LEED-ND pilot program, even as other developers decided it was too complex and time-consuming to pursue.
“It’s a very courageous and gutsy move, but certainly appropriate for the community and their company,” he said.
The company is investing a lot of money on the front end to make the neighborhood unique. Koste said the company may well see that money return to them on the back end.
“At the end of the day, if they did it right, and I believe they think they have done it right, they will create a unique place you and I will want to see, and we may want to live there or recreate there, and that is their business,” Koste said.
Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland said he applauds the effort to attain the green certification.
“It’s a great goal to set, and it can’t do anything but help this community to have an environmentally sensitive development,” he said.
The project doesn’t have a definite timeline, in part because town and state Department of Transportation approvals are still needed. It could begin as soon as next summer with the realignment of the South Frontage Road along the interstate. The earliest the entire project could be done is 2015. The existing stores and offices could stay through the frontage road realignment but would have to be razed when other construction begins, Miller said.
The uncertain economy hasn’t slowed the project, Miller said.
“We’re definitely cognizant of what’s going on with the market and the economy, but the way that we’re phased right now, it’s such a long time before we’ll bring the product to market,” Miller said. “For us, it’s still prudent to continue planning the project as we are right now.”
Vail Resorts plans to submit the Ever Vail project for town approvals on Oct. 27. Company officials expect the bulk of the approvals to take up to 10 months.
Meanwhile, Ever Vail has become drawn into a separate project ” a $900 million redevelopment of the Lionshead parking garage. Approval of Ever Vail will be contingent of the company lifting the “deed restriction” it holds on the Lionshead garage land, Town Manager Stan Zemler said in a letter to Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz in August.
“That’s an old story,” Cleveland said. “It’s water under the bridge. We are working better together.”
Miller said Vail Resorts is talking to the Texas developer that is proposing the Lionshead plan.
“The lines of communication are open, and we’re working with them,” Miller said. “We’re meeting with them, and we’re understanding their plan.”
Miller said Ever Vail’s sustainability goes beyond the environment. It also will help sustain Vail as a top resort, he said.
“It’s not just a real estate deal for us,” Miller said. “We’re not just interested in making money off selling condos here. This is good for the resort, and this is important for the town because it provides for the longevity of our ski company. It provides for the long-term sustainability of this town.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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