Lionshead questions go beyond ‘To build or not to build’ |

Lionshead questions go beyond ‘To build or not to build’

Michael Robinson
Vail, CO, Colorado

With the recent announcement by East West Partners that it would withdraw its redevelopment proposal for the Lionshead parking structure, the question being tossed around town is not which is the better proposal of the two, but whether “to build or not to build?”

Open Hospitality/Hillwood Capital Partnership of Dallas is the remaining company under consideration by the town. While the Vail Valley Partnership did not endorse one proposal over the other when East West and Open Hospitality were both on the table, it is time for us to officially urge the community and the Town Council to not let this unbelievable opportunity bypass Lionshead and all of Vail.

The proposal by Open Hospitality presents a concept of “One Town,” which essentially means a consistent streetscape theme will extend throughout Lionshead. The continuity between Vail Village and Lionshead will enhance the powerful sense of place that Vail’s renaissance is attempting to achieve. The redevelopment of Lionshead should be viewed not as a separate development but as a natural complement to the current effort.

When the opportunity to redevelop the Lionshead structure was first being considered, I was still in the early going of my role within the Vail business community, but I knew input from businesses most affected by this development was key. We invited businesses to share thoughts, ideas, reactions and concerns so the partnership could better represent their interests. The responses had a common theme ” that the development itself was exciting and should happen ” but the real concern was the impact on businesses during the construction phase, along with the always passionate call for increased parking.

Vail is experienced in dealing with the impact of construction and development. Thanks to coordinated efforts of the town of Vail and many other organizations, ample efforts have been made to mitigate construction impacts to guests and residents. The results have been impressive:

In the midst of the construction, Vail earned the No. 1 ski-resort ranking in SKI

magazine this season for the 14th time in 19 years.

The business community is thriving with record sales-tax collections in 2006.

Visitor surveys show the guest experience continues to remain high in winter and summer.

The town’s initial streetscape improvements in Vail Village were completed one year ahead of schedule, reducing impacts to visitors, residents and businesses.

There’s good reason to believe this performance will continue throughout construction of the new Lionshead. But construction mitigation isn’t the only concern.

Other issues have surfaced and have been folded in to the discussion ” work-force housing, transportation needs, West Vail, redevelopment, etc.

In my opinion, it is important for the business community to continue to focus on the terrific economic advantages this redevelopment will bring, from increased sales and lodging taxes to new parking solutions and a new venue for larger meetings and/or performances. As businesspeople, we solve problems all day long. As so-called problems surface during this debate, make no mistake, they will be solved, because the end goal is worth it. The role of the Vail Valley Partnership is to champion the ability to work through an issue and resolve that the community will be better off as a result.

So I urge the community to rise to the challenge to assure the renaissance continues. It is the responsibility of the town to embrace this opportunity to continue to renew, innovate and strengthen an environment for community enhancement and economic success. The chance to move forward with Open Hospitality’s proposal is a defining moment for Vail’s future.

Open Hospitality has embraced the input they’ve received. Their ability to adapt and grow their original vision into one that now has a definite Vail signature has showed that they will be true “partners.” The Partnership looks forward to welcoming them to our community of progressive and innovative businesses.

Finally, I’d like to credit the Vail Town Council and staff for fostering an inclusive and fair review process, allowing the community to voice suggestions and concerns. The proposal in our hands today is vastly different, and significantly more community-oriented, from the original concept presented last summer. Never before in my nearly 20 years of working with government entities have I witnessed such as collaborative process between the public and private sector. The notion that this process has been anything but inclusive and open is a shame, in my opinion, and if the minority of voices that are challenging the way this proposal has evolved are successful in any attempt to stop this opportunity, the real loser will be the Vail community.

Opportunities for public input are continuing. Discussion will take place during Town Council meeting on March 13 and 20, with additional public input occurring during an open house on March 6.

While “to build or not to build,” may continue in the short term to be the question, it is my hope that we will look back on this past year, and learn that a transparent process is one that works for all. In a way, it should always be the question ” and before rushing to a quick or emotional answer, I hope the business community will always push for a thorough review and inclusive process. The Partnership will continue to foster that way of thinking, and we look forward to leading the business community in working with towns, groups, and other parties to ensure that the process answers all questions with a responsible and authoritative response.

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