Letter: Vail’s Timber Ridge quagmire
Vail, CO Colorado
About time, the Town of Vail is in the midst of doing something about the aging Timber Ridge employee housing complex. It started when they purchased the buildings and land in 2003 to assure continued employee housing. Shortly after purchasing the property ” a big surprise ” mold was found. For awhile there was concern for the financial drain on the town as many units were not rentable. In response, a targeted RFP (Request For Proposals”bids to do the work) was issued in 2005, with one of its goals to relieve the town of its financial hardship. The RFP process did not yield a contract. Then things changed ” the mold problem was resolved, units were pulling in rent and the financial drain was no longer the big key issue.
Now the plot thickens. Someplace along the line competition to redevelop the Lionshead parking structure heated up. Each of the last two candidates left standing threw in a “sweetener” to redevelop Timber Ridge ” but needing to acquire the land. Subsequently, one candidate was left standing. Their plan actually called for the Timber Ridge part of the project to be constructed first ” by a business partner of the Lionshead main developer. At this point, a clear line in the sand should have been drawn to totally separate the Lionshead and Timber Ridge projects. This would have triggered issuing a widely distributed Timber Ridge RFP ” with goals of getting multiple proposed solutions and heading off the appearance of a no-bid contract.
The project separation and RFP issuance were not done. Hence the Timber Ridge project started someplace in the middle of a model project process. This typically causes projects to take longer, cost more and/or not getting what is wanted. It was further complicated when a new town council inherited the project. Hence, it is not surprising the Timber Ridge project is currently experiencing increasing contradictions of perceived goals and requirements ” since these were never clearly established at the outset. In short, the council may be tempted to take what they can get considering “all the work that has been done to date.” In total fairness, we have a sincere, hardworking town staff and council ” the problem is they got backed into a flawed process that is working against them. In the meantime, the Lionshead parking structure project is on hold ” partly based on obtaining the necessary Vail Resorts approval.
Unless the Timber Ridge project comes together with full support of the entire Vail council, the best solution may be to go back to the beginning to do it right, complete with a comprehensive RFP. The intent would be to bring in potential developers who could offer options”especially the option of leasing rather than acquiring the land. Apparently, we have two working models of employee housing”The Commons (capped for-sale units on land leased from the town) and Middle Creek (rent-capped units on land leased from the town). Further, we have a disciplined, model process moving ahead for the development of the old Wendy’s site and the larger adjacent “Hud-Wurth” land.
In starting over, “thinking outside the box” should be the watchword. Perhaps the project is too big for one organization. One notion is to break the land into perhaps several parcels, allowing smaller projects to be undertaken. One should note we have precedents of projects that experienced problems and had to be started over ” the best and most successful examples are the Sonnenalp Hotel and the Donovan Pavilion. We need to solve the problem of employee housing, so lets get cracking, even it means starting over.
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”