Lots going into Lionshead renovation
VAIL ” Architects, contractors, lawyers, traffic engineers, convention center experts ” they are all meeting with the town to hammer out a deal to build Vail’s priciest project ever.
Vail is in the middle of a four-month negotiation period with a developer who wants to rebuild the Lionshead parking garage into condos, timeshares, a W Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, a conference center, stores, restaurants, a bus hub and even more parking.
“It couldn’t be going better,” said Mark Masinter, who leads the development team, Open Hospitality Partners/Hillwood Capital of Dallas.
“They are cyclical,” said Town Manager Stan Zemler said of the negotiations. “Sometimes they go better than other times.”
The agreement will set in stone what the town expects in the deal. That includes how much money will be put into public benefits such as the conference center, the transportation center and street improvements.
It will likely even say that Vail expects “high end” finishes in the conference center, Zemler said.
Other parts of the deal consider worst-case scenarios.
If the developer, for some reason, couldn’t finish the project, there would be an “irrevocable letter of credit” in the bank that would provide enough money to replace the parking garage. That could be tens of millions of dollars.
“The letter of credit is like cash in the bank,” Zemler said. “It’s a financial guarantee that Hillwood is putting forward that, under the right circumstances, we have the ability to turn into cash money.”
The two sides are also deciding how the developer would pay for the conference center’s operating deficit.
The developer proposes to create a metro district that would tax its hotel guests or homeowners to pay for the deficit.
Parking is another big issue. The town ” and Vail Resorts, which holds covenants on the property that give it final say over whether the deal can happen ” wants to make sure there’s enough parking for skiers.
Vail Resorts wants its parking garage at Ever Vail ” a village planned for West Lionshead ” to be in place before the Lionshead garage gets torn down.
The frontage road has to be realigned for that to happen, and that needs approval from the state transportation agency. But the town is looking at options in the event that Ever Vail parking garage isn’t built in time.
The town and the developer are also working on a separate agreement for Timber Ridge, the 10-acre affordable housing complex that the developer has also offered to rebuild at a cost of about $150 million. That agreement will specify what mix of housing the town wants for Timber Ridge.
Mark Gordon, Vail councilman, said the project seems to be moving in the right direction.
“It’s a complicated negotiation,” he said. “We’re taking our time and making sure it’s done right.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.