Garage redesign begins in board room |

Garage redesign begins in board room

Brooke Bates

VAIL ” For about the past five years, Vail has been keeping an eye on the Lionshead garage, which was built in 1981 to house 1,100 vehicles. Structural analyses suggest the building will soon need improvements, community development director Russ Forrest said.

The two developers remaining in the effort to redevelop the Lionshead parking structure will present their cases to the Town Council on Aug. 1.

After a May 10 call for proposals, developers had to submit preliminary plans and an acceptance letter from Vail Resorts to the council by June 28. Vail Resort’s support was necessary because the resort company holds certain land use restrictions on the property.

Of the eight interested developers, the only two to meet the deadline were East West Partners of Avon and Open Hospitality Partners/Hillwood Capital Partnership of Dallas.

After proving financial capability for the project, both companies submitted concepts for rebuilding the Lionshead structure, adding at least 400 parking spaces. If the council chooses to proceed to the next step, the project will move from concept to design, possibly including new hotels and a conference center on the parking structure site.

Forrest called for the council to move to phase one of the process by inviting the developers to a council meeting. There, the developers would share their qualifications and general plans, including timing and financing for their projects. The council was almost unanimous in its decision to proceed, save some concern about timing.

“Vail has a lot going on,” including housing policy changes, transportation issues and parking additions, Councilman Farrow Hitt said. “I would hate to get too many things on our plate at once. We should wrap up loose ends before moving forward.”

Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler said Vail ” a prime spot for development ” should just be happy to have prospective developers who are aware of the town’s vision.

The council agreed to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s here. Developers are knocking at the door to absorb the cost of rebuilding the structure now, Councilman Greg Moffet said. But if the town hesitates for five more years and developers lose interest, taxpayers may have to foot the bill.

“I feel like we’re IBM trying to decide whether to keep DOS or sell it to some kid named Bill Gates,” Moffet said. “If we wait, we’re screwing the Vail taxpayer. We’d be letting Microsoft have DOS while we continue to build boxes.”

Councilman Mark Gordon agreed, urging the council to consider the options now while interest rates are relatively low and the real estate market is peaking.

But the economy and the developers’ desires alone won’t decide the fate of Lionshead. A premium will be placed on public input as the decision nears, Forrest said.

“Some people don’t want any more development,” Councilman Kevin Foley said. “Some people are tired of seeing cranes and tired of seeing Vail portrayed as being closed for construction.”

In addition to the general public, representatives from lodging, business and residential districts in Vail will be invited to participate in the Aug. 1 discussion.

Brooke Bates can be reached at

Vail, Colorado

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