Housing workers paying off in Vail | VailDaily.com

Housing workers paying off in Vail

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyThe Willows Condominiums operations manager Greg Smith works in his home office Friday in Vail. Smith is on call every day of the week, so living on the premisis comes in handy.

VAIL, Colorado ” When an alarm goes off late at night, or a guest has a problem after hours, Willows Condominiums property manager Greg Smith is steps away.

“They can call me because I’m 10 yards away in my unit,” said Smith, who lives in an apartment in the Willows building. “I’m in charge of maintenance and housekeeping and reservations, so being here really allows you have a hands on feel.”

The 18-unit condominium building in Vail Village has always provided an on-site home for its property manager ” something that is a great recruitment tool and helps the complex provide prompt service, said Willows General Manager Tim Hargraves.

The town of Vail’s goal is to house 30 percent of workers in the town, and new housing rules encourage future developments to house workers on-site or in Vail.

And while buying or building worker homes in Vail is no cheap matter, some businesses say there are benefits to having their employees live on the property or even nearby in town.

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Hargraves said the Willows has always as a property manager’s apartment on site so that someone can keep an eye on maintenance and security problems.

Smith said he remembers when the building was being rebuilt, and he was temporarily relocated to Eagle-Vail.

“Living in Eagle-Vail, if a guest has a problem, I had to drive all the way up. You weren’t aware of alarms if alarms went off,” he said. “The other advantage (of living on-site) is being face-to-face with guests.”

The proximity of employees is also important for emergency services, such as the Vail Police Department.

Vail has rental units scattered throughout town that the department uses to house police officers and dispatchers, said Police Chief Dwight Henninger.

“When the roads start closing down, or there are problems in Dowd Junction, it’s important to have employees nearby helping out,” he said.

Vail Mountain also houses all its seasonal workers in Vail ” mostly in Timber Ridge, a large town-owned employee rental complex.

“A lot of our employees are specific to Vail Mountain, so they want to be close,” said Kristin Williams, Vail Resorts spokeswoman for Eagle County. “And because Vail has a terrific transit system, you don’t have to have a car.”

On-site employee housing can be expensive and difficult to work into a project, said Tom Miller, director of development for Vail Resorts Development Co. ” but it can still be good for business.

Having workers live in town helps create a local feel for visitors, an ambiance that Vail Resorts is looking to create for Ever Vail, a proposed ski village in West Lionshead.

Plans for the project include housing 70 percent of its workers within Ever Vail in a combination of rental and for-sale housing, Miller said

“Ever Vail is the first project where so much of the housing is on-site,” he said. “We want to make it a year-round, vibrant village.”

“Guests are constantly asking, ‘Where are locals going? Where do they ski?'” added Williams. “That’s one reason we want people living in the village,. It makes sense for the project and its vitality for workers to live there.”

Nearby employee housing is also a great recruiting tool, and the only way some workers can afford to come to Vail. Henninger said the offer of housing is “huge” in hiring employees.

“It helps those people to get into town and save up to buy a home,” Henninger said, although he added that taking the next step to home ownership has become increasingly difficult.

He hopes the town will be able to build a new affordable housing neighborhood in West Vail as planned, he said.

Smith said the provided housing at the Willows, located in the village and steps from the ski lift, was the biggest deciding factor when he took the job.

“I would not have been able to take the job if not for the housing,” he said. “Vail is an incredibly expensive place to live.”

There are downsides to living at work 24/7, he said, but the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects.

Vail Plaza Hotel General Manager Connie Dorsey saw the hotel’s 19 on-site housing units pay off when rentals filled up quickly this season.

“It became a very tight thing this season because so many people came into town,” Dorsey said. “Housing got picked up pretty fast.”

Some of the hotel’s seasonal international workers use the housing, but it hasn’t been a major recruiting tool, he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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