‘Green’ village on tap for Lionshead | VailDaily.com

‘Green’ village on tap for Lionshead

Special to the DailySkiers and snowboarders will have another way on the mountain if Vail Resorts gets approval to build a small village in West Lionshead that will have a gondola.

BROOMFIELD ” ‘Largest green resort in North America’ is how Vail Resorts is describing its plans for a gondola, hotel, condos and shops in West Lionshead.

Vail Resorts chief Rob Katz announced Monday the company is rebuilding West Lionshead into a “green” neighborhood, saying that reflects the values of local residents, visitors and his employees.

“It’s a development that’s going to be green through and through,” Katz said.

Condos, timeshares, a hotel, a gondola, a parking garage, stores and restaurants are planned for the $1 billion project, which will be called “Ever Vail.”

“It’s like the mountain itself ” everlasting,” Katz said.

The buildings will be certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program, Katz said. The project is aiming for certification under LEED’s new neighborhood category, Katz said.

Green-building methods can include minimizing erosion, using recycled materials or using solar power.

The area will be a entrance to the mountain, bigger than Golden Peak but smaller than Vail Village or Lionshead, Katz said.

The 9-acre site now contains the Lionshead shopyard, the old Amoco gas station, and stores including Blockbuster Video and Home Outfitters.

The company talked to people in Vail and found out that they wanted a “real neighborhood,” Katz said.

“That it isn’t just about building another condo,” Katz said. “It brings something new and extra to the valley. … We really see this as an icon to making Vail a true leader in green building in sustainability.”

Vail Resorts made the announcement about the new neighborhood for Vail at its new Front Range headquarters.

Katz declined to say how much more green building would cost the company. But last year, an official from East West Partners, a local developer that’s done several LEED projects, said it adds about 3 percent to the cost of projects.

The project would include a parking garage with hundreds of spaces for the public. Skiers probably wouldn’t be able to ski down to the area, but could download to the new village, Katz said.

Ever Vail will help distribute skiers more evenly across the mountain, and take pressure off the entrance to Lionshead, said Bill Jensen, chief operating officer for Vail Mountain.

The project is scheduled to start in 2009 and be completed around 2012, said Tom Miller of Vail Resorts Development Company.

The first part of the project would be to realign the frontage road along the interstate, he said. The stores and office buildings would be demolished then, he said.

Kevin Foley, a Vail councilman, said green certification is a good start for the project. But the town needs to get more benefits to justify the development, he said.

“They should (build green buildings), because they are going to be making a lot of green,” Foley said.

The Town Council has to approve rezoning for the property. The town is looking for public benefits in return, including parking and road improvements ” perhaps a new underpass under Interstate 70.

Foley seemed unimpressed with the moniker “Ever Vail,” saying it sounded like it came from a marketing department.

“Whatever,” he said.

Matt Scherr, director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, applauded Vail Resorts’ move to go green.

“I think a lot more of that than I do of buying wind power,” he said.

Last year, Vail Resorts announced it was buying enough wind credits to offset all of its electricity use.

Green buildings cost less over their lifetimes, use less energy, use less material and are healthier for people who inhabit them, Scherr said.

Beyond LEED

Nolan Rosall, president of RRC Associates, a Boulder market-research company that studies the ski industry, noted that going green is a trend that goes well beyond ski resorts.

He cited Al Gore’s recent, popular documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which was about global warming. He also cited another documentary, “Resorting to Madness,” recently released by California filmmakers, which criticizes Vail Resorts and other ski companies for overdevelopment.

“This is part of a much broader trend of awareness of impacts of development,” he said. “It’s certainly good from many perspectives to see ski resorts embracing a lot of those principles.”

But sustainability extends beyond just green building, Rosall said. Sustainability includes other issues like worker housing and transportation.

“It’s so complicated to be truly sustainable,” he said. “Those other factors need to be taken into account as part of overall development.”

The town of Vail is working on stricter employee housing requirements. Ever Vail would be subject to those rules.

Ryan Demmy Bidwell, executive director of Colorado Wild, said LEED-certified is the way to go ” if you’re developing.

“That leaves aside the question of whether the development is necessary at all or appropriate,” he said.

However, Bidwell noted that the project is happening in a place that’s already developed. That’s good, he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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