Letters: Vail’s renewal lacks taste
Vail CO, Colorado
I keep bumping into these street signs boasting “Vail’s Billion Dollar Renewal.” You can see them all the way from East Vail to West Vail and everywhere in-between. The necessity to do these renovations is not questioned here. What is being questioned here is the way Vail Resorts and the Vail Town Council are managing (or, better yet, mismanaging) these real estate development projects.
The Vail Resorts Annual Report lists its five “key” stakeholders in the following order: 1) guests, 2) employees, 3) communities, 4) environment, and 5) shareholders. The Arrabelle, along with The Lodge at Vail Chalets, for example, will generate approximately $390 million in recognized revenue for Vail Resorts, and its shareholders, come closing time. However, how are the rest of the stakeholders benefiting?
Well, guests of the Arrabelle get to pay in excess of $1,000 per room per night, during the winter time, to stay at one of the 36 luxury hotel rooms. But what is the current status of its employee housing? Clearly, the guests are being looked after, albeit at rather extravagant prices. But the employees aren’t being looked after, now are they?
Much like The Lodge at Vail Chalets and the Arrabelle, the Solaris Residences project demonstrates how the council voted in favor of big development without taking into consideration its existing community. All the small businesses that used to operate in Crossroads were pushed out in favor of “70 magnificent residences that will redefine the lifestyle of Vail.” Clearly, Vail’s lifestyle is definitely being redefined.
Small businesses and open spaces have given way to multi-million dollar residences that are making Vail feel more like a cold city than a cozy village. In addition, prices for goods and services, as well as property taxes, just keep on rising. The opportunity cost created by these mega-property developments is putting an upwards pricing pressure on everything from a cup of coffee, to a massage, to operating a store like the Rucksack, or owning a condo in town. The village appeal Vail used to have is no longer. Vail’s lifestyle is, without doubt, being redefined. In fact, what village do you know of that requires getting into a car and driving three miles to buy a gallon of milk and some medical tape?
As a result, Vail’s “Billion Dollar Renewal” is beginning to shape our town into a small city. The sizes of these projects are not only aesthetically displeasing but are completely out of proportion to its environment. The Arrabelle is the most painful eyesore yet. With its myriad of pastel colors, and potpourri of exterior architecture, the Arrabelle is like a medieval fortification on acid. Fortunately, Peter Knobel has better taste than the color-blind folks behind the Arrabelle; however, Mr. Knobel’s gargantuan-sized project completely undermines his effort to create something that is “worlds apart from sterile urban environments.” I’m not sure about you guys, but 77 luxury residences does not sound exactly non-urban to me.
In conclusion, I understand the need to remodel and develop and grow with the times. But, like in everything else in life, there is a fine way to go about things. The Sonnenalp is a perfect example of what good taste is all about. These people upgraded and expanded their operations, aligning all of their stakeholders into a real win-win situation, and did so keeping in the true spirit of the Vail Valley. If the driver of future developments continues to be maximizing profits solely to the benefit of Vail Resorts and its shareholders, we will be stripping Vail of that inherent goodness that attracted us here in the first place.