Lights out at Cascade Theater?
I hate writing obituaries. Even if they’re not about people. The latest sad story on Vail’s horizon is the closing of the Tyrolia. At a review last Tuesday of the recent PEC and DRB decisions, there it was. The Tyrolia was being shuttered only to be converted into a large condominium. It’ll be a great condo. Ground floor. Multiple levels. Fabulous location. And stunning views. But it was an even greater restaurant.The Langegger family made that business a life’s work. They raised the elk. They grew the vegetables. They prepared the food. And they greeted the guests. Whenever there was a request for authentic Austrian food, it was right there at the top of the list of recommendations.It’s been a part of our landscape for so many years and it’s one of Vail’s old traditions. It’s sad to see it go. While writing any obit isn’t easy, it’s even harder to write an “almost” obit. Or a “nearly” obit. Or an “I hope it doesn’t really turn into an obit.”Confused? Well, so am I. The best place to start would have been the beginning, but unfortunately we’re only hearing about it at the end. But I’ll do my best to fill in the blanks.The topic is the three levels of the Cascade parking garage. Two levels are owned by the Vail Cascade Hotel and Spa. The third is privately owned, has been for sale, and is now under contract with a scheduled closing in about 10 days.So why should this concern us, you might wonder? The proposed buyer is contemplating making changes to the use of that space, and those changes would have a serious impact on businesses in the area and on us as a community. Currently the use is controlled by a document called an SDD4, which requires that 125 of the 150 parking spaces be available to the public and the rates charged cannot exceed those charged by the town of Vail in winter.The level in question has functioned under an annual lease agreement between the owner and Colorado Mountain College, Cascade Theater, the hotel and the space currently called Blue Tiger restaurant. Those four entities use the space for their own guests and also make it available to the public.
The prospective owner has other ideas. Naturally there are many rumors. But there have also been some pretty clear options thrown out. Rates probably would be raised from their current $10. A lease agreement with the current users has met with resistance. And the most serious is the threat of condominiumizing the parking spaces.Here’s where it gets tricky: The only parking available in the Cascade area to the four in the current user group is the level in question. If the spaces were taken off the market through either no lease agreement or the condo concept, the problems for those businesses are inconceivable. The same would hold true if the rates were raised to a level that was impossible to incorporate into a business plan.Let’s look at the possible scenarios. Condo spots equals no public parking. No lease agreement means no control of parking by the four users. As it functions now, the theater, for example, gives you a token in exchange for your parking ticket. You then do not have to pay the cost of parking in addition to the price of a ticket. If that were not the case, even under the current rates, you’d have an additional cost of $10 to go to the movies. How about if that rate went to $16 plus the ticket cost? How many movies would you attend? Well, the owner of the theaters has already decided that without his ability to control some of that space, the Cascade Theaters will be a thing of the past – perhaps as early as June 1.Your next question is probably, why didn’t the four users try to buy the space themselves? The answer is that some did and others didn’t, so they couldn’t put a deal together. Apparently CMC decided that they’re soon to be out of there, so why bother? The why bother in their case is the obvious. How do they anticipate selling their $3 million facility without parking? The hotel decided they could get along on the two layers they already own. Sorry. We’ve all seen what happens to the Frontage Road when they have a full house. The theater and the restaurant were left out on a limb without sufficient resources to pull it off.The condominium option is a mystery. It’s one thing to sell parking spaces in the village. It’s quite frankly another to think you can pull it off down there. Which brings me to something else. Let’s go back to the SDD4, which controls the use of this space. A change of usage would require town of Vail approval. In talking to town staff, they made it pretty clear that the chances of that happening are slim to none. The feeling is that the buyer has been convinced by his representative that something is possible that very probably is not.I have pages more of notes filled with things I can share and others that were given to me off the record. In reviewing them all, I have several conclusions. There’s a real idiocy on the part of CMC and Cascade Hotel that they allowed this to get this far without their participation. Shame on them. As for the current buyer, I can’t see that his intention subsequent to acquiring control of the property is aligned with the best interests of the community. Additionally, the options that have been thrown around on his behalf are most likely not attainable if they require a change of use from the Town of Vail. If that route is pursued, the new kid on the block will undoubtedly have a very serious fight on his hands. Let’s see what the week brings as the clock ticks. I’ll keep you posted. I hope it doesn’t turn into a real obit. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.