Is Eagle River Station worth the risk?
Eagle residents: please take a moment to consider why we live here. While other communities have traffic, noise, congestion and pollution, we have the Eagle River, Brush Creek, Flat Tops and Sawatch vistas, open fields and working farms. We can track ravens, hawks, maybe an eagle overhead, and share our town with deer, elk, fox and other wildlife. The night skies reveal countless stars, invisible many other places. If our quality of life is important to you, please learn how Eagle River Station will impact our way of life.
The sheer mass of this three “district” project proposed on 88 acres of pasture lands east of town by Trinity/Red of Kansas City, Mo. is difficult to comprehend. Plans include 581 multifamily residential units, a “mixed use lifestyle” center, a “boutique hotel” and over 565,000 square feet of commercial/retail space. Most residential space will be massed into four, multi-story, 65-foot buildings ” an unimaginable density for Eagle. Do we want a manufactured “Main Street” anchoring a “lifestyle center,” constructed in stylized “Colorado vernacular?” How about big box stores and vast asphalt parking lots? Think about the daily traffic, employees and town services required to run, supply, clean, and secure this huge scale development. If you want our quality of life ” natural beauty, clean air, a slower pace ” then you must reject Eagle River Station. Because Eagle, as we now know it, will not be changed. It will be gone.
And downtown, as we know it, will be gone as well. Our town center is unique and another reason I chose to live here. Long before Vail was Vail, Eagle was Eagle. Broadway is a successful work in progress with brand-new buildings next to ones more than a century old. There are eclectic, independently owned retail stores and residential lofts, community services and locally sponsored public art. I can get a latte or a beer downtown, or just about anything else at the Everything Store. Our park has beautiful old trees, cool, green spots for summer gatherings, and peaceful places to read books available from the library right next door. To me, our downtown core is worth treasuring. It is the real thing, not a corporate replica.
You won’t find GAP or Target, both potential Eagle River Station tenants. They have their place, but not in Eagle. You can find them in Silverthorne, where I lived for a year. You’ll also find parking lots, traffic, midnight deliveries, light-polluting security spotlights and plenty of other “lifestyle” outlets. What you won’t find is anything like our downtown. Local, independent stores can’t compete with big chains’ marketing, national advertising budget and name recognition. Can downtown survive Eagle River Station? Is the risk worth taking?
But don’t take my word. Make your own decision. Eagle River Station presentations are currently scheduled before the Town Board every Wednesday evening. If approved, Trinity/Red will be Eagle’s partner for the foreseeable future. At previous meetings ,I’ve heard the developer state there would be no “significant” impact on wildlife. I’ve listened to affordable housing presentations based on salaries I don’t think exist here. Despite national mall failures, increased gas prices and the Internet’s increasing role in consumer spending, revenue projections remain rosy. Before Eagle invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in developer-requested infrastructure, and commits to complex tax-increment-financing funding obligations, I want more than slick PowerPoint presentations. I want facts. Don’t you?
I understand the need to increase Eagle’s tax base and appreciate the tireless work and diligence town leaders and staff have devoted to this project. I also appreciate Citizens4Eagle’s tremendous commitment to provide community information. With so much at stake, these talents and energies must be dedicated to finding better options with less financial exposure that make sense for Eagle. Once gone, our heritage cannot be redeveloped. Once compromised, our environment cannot be restored. Consider what we have to lose.