Forum tackles big ideas, cooperation
What was this?
The annual Vail Valley Business Forum, sponsored by the Vail Valley Partnership, is an annual panel discussion about economic trends and ideas. This year’s panelists were:
• Harry Frampton, a named partner in the valley’s biggest real estate company and a partner in the East West Partners development company.
• Frank Gray, head of the Castle Rock Economic Development group.
• Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan.
• Town of Vail Community Development Department George Ruther.
The forum will soon be on ECO TV, channel 18 on local cable systems.
EDWARDS — Harry Frampton acknowledges the Vail Valley is about big enough for his tastes. But Frampton’s a realist, too, and thinks he knows where the valley’s next big workforce housing project should be built — in Avon.
Speaking at the Vail Valley Partnership’s annual Vail Valley Business Forum, Frampton talked about a number of big ideas on which valley governments could work together. Perhaps the biggest is the notion of housing on property that once held Avon’s STOLport, an airfield for short-takeoff and landing aircraft.
“We could put 1,000 or maybe 1,500 units there,” Frampton said. A project that size could put a sizable dent in the valley’s current housing crunch.
There are complications, of course. The property is currently part of the 1,800-acre Traer Creek parcel that includes the Buffalo Ridge apartments, as well as the Traer Creek Plaza shopping center, Walmart and Home Depot. That property is controlled by the Lindholm family, Frampton acknowledged family patriarch Magnus Lindholm is known to be a tough negotiator.
But if the land could be obtained, it could be used for a large housing complex with easy transit access to local shopping and resort-village jobs.
Frampton mentioned the idea, along with several others, during a discussion that focused on building a business-friendly valley. These days, that effort will require new levels of cooperation between local governments and the private sector. But, Frampton said, the groundwork for that cooperation is firmly in place.
In his remarks, Frampton, one of the principals of East West Partners, mentioned a business deal in Snowmass that the company didn’t take action with. The environment between government and the private sector felt too confrontational, he said.
On a subsequent tour of the Vail Valley with Snowmass officials, Frampton said he re-discovered what makes this valley different.
“It’s the partnerships between governments, individuals and businesses,” he said. “In Snowmass, it seems they’re always at war over something.
The cooperation in this valley has helped create recreational and medical facilities, schools and cultural institutions, Frampton said.
But as the valley attempts to face the problems looming in coming years, that level of cooperation will be tested in new ways.
Find New Common Ground
Frampton said the valley’s public and private sectors also need to find new common ground on transportation, both ground and air. De-emphasizing cars includes boosting air service, making local bus services work better for more people and even finding ways to welcome operations such as Uber, Car2Go and city bikes — a bicycle sharing service — into the valley.
Bus service in particular could be better, and would pay immediate dividends in increased ridership, Frampton said.
Frampton’s ideas dovetail well with a recent meeting of Vail officials, at which Mayor Andy Daly asked council members and others to think of “big ideas” for the next few decades.
Vail Valley Partnership President Chris Romer said the outlines for future growth Frampton laid out are exactly the sort of thinking the valley needs.
“It’s hard for us to look at the next big thing,” Romer said. “We need to be looking not one, three or five years out, but 30 years or more. That’s harder to grasp.”
Vail Town Council member Greg Moffet, who was at Thursday’s meeting as well as the town meeting earlier this month, agreed that Frampton is looking at some big ideas. And, Moffet added, it’s become obvious over the years that Vail will have to join partnerships outside the town’s boundaries to tackle housing, parking and other problems facing the valley’s primary resort area.
“Now all it takes is money,” Moffet said.
Where that money might come from is anyone’s guess right now.
Frampton said he believes the valley ought to consolidate some services to free up money for other projects.
At some point, though, valley voters will probably have to be asked for some sort of tax increase to pay for services that could include both air service and ground transit.
Antlers Lodge General Manager Rob LeVine agreed that all those ideas will take closer regional cooperation than past projects.
“I think better, more structured cooperation is close,” LeVine said. “We’ve made good progress so far.
But, he added, it might be time to re-visit past ideas.
More than a decade ago, valley business leaders asked voters to create and fund a valleywide marketing district. That effort failed, and Vail created and funded its own special district.
“We might want to give that another look,” he said. “Maybe not a marketing district, but something that could facilitate these ideas.”