Marriott Residence Inn a unique project for Vail |

Marriott Residence Inn a unique project for Vail

The west end of a planned Marriott Residence Inn in West Vail will be the hotel portion of a building that also includes 102 apartments. Those apartments are being built without government subsidies.

The project

What: Marriott Residence Inn.

Where: West Vail.

Hotel rooms: 170.

Apartments: 102.

Start date: Summer of 2017.

VAIL — The proposed Marriott Residence Inn in West Vail is a unique project in a couple of ways.

The project will add 170 mid-priced hotel rooms to town. Rooms in that price range are in short supply in Vail right now.

Developer Peter Dumon’s Harp Group is also adding 102 apartments to the project, 96 of which will be deed-restricted to renters who work in town.

The Vail Town Council at its Tuesday meeting gave final approval to an ordinance creating what’s called a special development district for the project. That means the project goes beyond what town zoning would normally allow on the property.

While the district has been created, the project still has a few more steps to take before construction can begin, probably early this summer.

Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said the project still needs a final approval from the Vail Design Review Board. The developers also need to complete a development agreement with the town. That has to be approved by the Vail Town Council. That agreement will define on- and off-site improvements, including on South Frontage Road and how much construction traffic will be allowed on Meadow Ridge Road, just to the north of the project site.

Local planner Dominic Mauriello has been working with Dumon on the project. Since the Design Review Board meets twice a month, it could take a month or two for that board’s final approval, Mauriello said.

The developers also need an agreement with the Vail Art In Public Places Board. That approval will determine what kind of public art will be around the site, probably at the bus shelter just outside the hotel.

Perhaps the toughest next step will an agreement on what kinds of fees the developers have to pay the town. Mauriello said he expects Dumon to ask for some fee waivers.

Ruther called that request “a tough thing we have to talk about.”

No-subsidy housing

When work is complete, though, the project will add a rare thing to the Vail Valley: rental housing built without any government subsidies.

For years, local governments and developers have worked together on apartment buildings. Some, such as the Buffalo Ridge apartments in Avon, were built privately, but as part of a broader development agreement.

The Sylvan Flats Apartments in Gypsum may be the last privately-built and privately-financed apartments. That building was completed in 2008.

Eagle County Housing Department Director Jill Klosterman said there’s a handful of reasons private rental housing is so hard to build in the valley.

Perhaps the biggest is land costs, she said.

Mauriello, who has had a long career in the valley, said in addition to land costs, the cost of construction is one of the biggest hurdles to clear. Some work, such as excavation and utility installation, costs about the same for apartments as it does for a hotel or a ski-in, ski-out home.

Government hurdles

Mauriello also cited the difficulty of getting projects approved by local governments, and the frequent difficulty in overcoming the objections of project neighbors.

“It’s difficult to get the numbers to work,” Mauriello said. “Between the red tape and the (government) exactions, it’s nearly impossible. And you’re going to make so little money back.”

The Marriott Residence Inn is a bit different. Beyond the town’s desire for more rental housing, there’s the fact that apartments don’t really conflict with a hotel. Putting deed-restricted apartments next to condominiums might affect property sales, Mauriello said.

Then there’s the fact that this project is in Vail, where there’s little land available for construction.

“This project probably doesn’t work in Edwards,” Mauriello said.

But other projects might work west of Dowd Junction.

Klosterman said the county’s housing department is working on a few potential public-private partnerships for more rental housing, although she couldn’t disclose details of those deals.

And Mauriello said he’s working on a project west of Vail that would also be deed-restricted rentals.

For now, though, it could be some time before anything like the project is West Vail is replicated anywhere else in the valley.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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