Hotel, condos and shops envisioned along riverfront

Cliff Thompson
Special to the Daily/East West Partners A rendering of The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, which a developer wants to build along the Eagle River in Avon. The project also would include a gondola that would carry skiers and snowboarders some of the way up Beaver Creek Mountain.

AVON – A $300 million riverside development that will connect Avon to Beaver Creek via a gondola, and also is meant to revitalize the town’s 27-year-old shopping area, was revealed Tuesday. The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, on 19 acres just north of the Eagle River and west of Avon Road, will feature a high-speed, eight-person gondola that will connect to the Beaver Creek express lifts at Bachelor Gulch. A seven-story 200-room hotel – about two-thirds the size of Beaver Creek’s Park Hyatt -will also house a restaurant, spa and fitness facility, meeting space and underground parking. Flanking the hotel will be timeshares, residential units and approximately 40,000 square feet of retail shops.If Avon approves the plan this year, excavation and construction could begin next summer and the gondola would carry its first skiers during the 2007-’08 ski season, said Chuck Madison of East West Partners, the company developing the riverfront. Vail Resorts was granted development approvals in 1998, but redevelopment of the land, which once held a mobile home park, didn’t gain any traction until East West Partners purchased the property and began its riverfront designs in earnest eight months ago. TransportationOne of the keys to the proposed development is how it will impact traffic in and around Avon. When completely full the development could add 1,200 people to town.”The whole project is developed around that issue,” Madison said, adding that a gondola should mean less buses running from Avon to Beaver Creek. “We hope to make this extremely pedestrian-friendly with lots of paths.”

The design includes two crossings of the unused railroad tracks that are meant to make it easier for owners and guests of the development to get to downtown Avon. Another part of the plan is a light rail station for line running from the Eagle County Airport to Avon, Madison said. Light rail has been discussed for more than 10 years, but it remains in the planning stages. “From a long-term perspective, we want the area to serve as a multi-modal transportation hub with bus service, light rail and a gondola accessing the mountain,” said Larry Brooks, Avon’s town manager. Connecting Avon and Beaver Creek would provide a catalyst for redevelopment of Avon by boosting property values, Madison said. In fact, the developers are literally banking on it. “For this development to be successful the real estate values need to be significantly higher than today’s values,” Madison said, adding that property in the new development would be selling for as much as $700 per square-foot. Some Avon properties are selling for $300 per foot, he said.The gondola ride to the Beaver Creek Express lifts would take three minutes. It would then take skiers and snowboarders an additional 16 minutes to get to the top of Beaver Creek’s Chair 12 at Strawberry Park. The gondola will be able to carry up to 1,600 riders per hour.The town and developer will try to build a riverfront park that will run the length of the half-mile-long property. The town has proposed creating a five mile-long whitewater and recreational park on the Eagle River, and East West Partners has agreed to pay for the design of the stretch of whitewater park that runs along its property.”Our goal is to make the river a center for activity for Avon residents and visitors,” Madison said. A bike path runs along the south edge of the property, and Madison said the public would have more access to the river.The popular Beaver Creek Rodeo will be held on the site this summer, but will be moved to a new location in subsequent summers.

Who pays for what?The current plan – subject to town approval – calls for Avon to spend $3.5 million to build the roads that will cross the railroad tracks, and also to purchase approximately one-half acre of land for a light rail terminal, Madison said. The town is also being asked to cover half of the annual operating cost of the gondola – $200,000. The town will save approximately that amount because the gondola will reduce the number of buses running from Avon to Beaver Creek, Madison said.The earlier development approval required the town to rebate some of the taxes and fees charged to the developer in return for building a new, 15,000 square-foot conference center on the site. The new plan changes that, with the town paying for the roads connecting to the site and reducing the size of the conference facility.The first phase completed will be the timeshare residences, followed by the gondola and hotel. It is likely to take five years to complete the development, Madison said.

Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or, Colorado

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