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Head and shoulders above

Don Rogers

Each visit to Vail now, I’m craning my neck. These buildings. How tall is too tall?That’s the question, after all. Would the new Crossroads be too tall or just right? And by whose measure?Favor the plan to rebuild Crossroads and you have one set of heights. Oppose it and there’s another. In Vail, even “facts” change in the eye of the beholder. So buildings shrink and grow, at least rhetorically, by the conversation.So Kaye Ferry, executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, Daily columnists and inveterate attendee of meetings, scourer of memos, comes up with buildings reaching even higher than Crossroads would. She favors the development.People who oppose it turn to the official staff heights that make Crossroads the tallest of the bunch, at least in central Vail. And some who oppose the development more than others have Crossroads growing from there, rather like Pinocchio’s nose.Somewhere in there lies reality, but that gets squishy, too. A building in Lionshead, say, starting uphill from the ground level where visitors hustle toward the gondola, is much taller than its official height. And higher still, if you go by “architectural features” such as towers or cones that rise above the predominate roof line.Confused? Here’s the 1993 “clarification” of how Vail’s staff determines height: “The distance measured vertically from any point on a proposed or existing roof or eave or finished grade (whichever is more restrictive) located directly below said point of the roof or eave. Within any building footprint, height shall be measured vertically from any point on a proposed or existing roof to the existing grade directly below said point on a proposed or existing roof.”Height, which might seem a simple enough measurement, can get, well, a little complicated. I think distills to basically roofline height, absolute height of tallest accoutrement, and how tall it really looks from the ground. The complication comes from observers mixing this all up to fit their arguments.I favor the plan to rebuild Crossroads into Solaris, the new name for this would-be phoenix. So I realize now that I have seized on figures that suggest nearby buildings going up along the Frontage Road near Crossroads would be even taller at their tallest than Solaris. Those higher figures might be right, so far as they measure absolute tallest points, no matter how inobtrusive to the eye. But the tallest height at the center of Solaris, 99.9 feet from the Meadow Drive side of the complex, is the staff calculation for roofline compared to slightly shorter heights for the neighbors. So, apples to apples, by this measure Solaris is the tallest in the neighborhood at its peak. But not by any “monstrous” proportion. The peak height on the Frontage Road side is 87.5 feet and it steps down to 35 feet. All these are the staff heights.The quibbling about height figures is a bit of a sideshow, though, other than establishing that Solaris would be big by Vail standards. So are the Four Seasons and Vail Plaza, which are being built without citizen referendums aimed at stopping them.Likewise measurements for bulk will contest each other. Opponents will rightly say Solaris is the biggest building in this way, too. Advocates of the development will rightly point out that on a per-acre basis, the neighbors will be more dense. In this case, the advocates will make better sense.I can understand opponents wanting Solaris to fit the neighborhood at a slightly smaller scale. Take a floor off and this phoenix will be the smallest building along the Frontage Road. But leave it on and Solaris still fits without really sticking out.Measure by actual benefits to the public and this one does stand out – brightly at that. For the sake of a few feet, the petition organizers would make sure Vail no longer has a movie theater, never mind bowling alley, public plaza, streetscape improvements and so on. None of the other projects going up deliver anything like that for the public at large. Solaris stands head and shoulders above the others when it comes to that.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14600, or editor@vaildaily.co. Check out his blog at http://www.vaildaily.com/section/BLOG.


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