‘Massive collaboration’ in Avon at Buck Creek gets big recognition | VailDaily.com

‘Massive collaboration’ in Avon at Buck Creek gets big recognition

Avon Mayor Jennie Fancher receives an American Planning Association award Wednesday, October 25, at the group’s annual meeting, which took place in Telluride this year. Avon was awarded for Innovative/Creative Partnerships and Collaborations for the Buck Creek planned urban development; the police and fire portion of the development opened in October.

AVON — October has been a big month for the Buck Creek makeover.

Over the last 2 years the area between Nottingham Road, Swift Gulch Road and Buck Creek Road has been transformed from a grassy field into an area offering police services, fire services and 24 hour medical care. Over the next year, it will also see the construction of housing, classrooms and trails.

As the police and fire component was preparing to open in October, Mayor Jennie Fancher was also preparing to accept a prestigious Colorado Honor Award from the American Planning Association in the category of Innovative/Creative Partnerships and Collaborations. On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Fancher accepted the award at the American Planning Association's annual meeting, which was held in Telluride.

"They had a big committee that was pouring over hundreds of applications," Fancher said. "It was quite an honor, and it really speaks highly of the town staff, the planning department and the engineering department, and the ability to have a project really come together."

Avon was one of only 5 recipients across the State of Colorado.

'CAN'T BELIEVE IT'

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The 15.7 acre Buck Creek planned urban development coming together to bring health care, police, fire, classrooms, housing and trails to one spot in Avon was the result of "all the planets aligning," Fancher said.

"So many different entities had to work together, and it's not easy," she said. "I can't believe it all came to fruition."

Fancher credited town manager Virginia Egger with the facilitation of the project.

"If it hadn't moved forward in such a timely fashion, I don't know that it would have been able to come together," Fancher said.

The medical office building needed to hit every deadline to be open in time for Colorado Mountain Medical to move in before its lease ended in its former location. NexCore Group, the building's developer, watched nervously as the project went before the town staff, then the planning commission, then the town council, to be complete in July of 2016, a few weeks before Colorado Mountain Medical had to be completely moved out of its Edwards location. They moved their final piece of equipment in days before the lease ended.

"It was quite a feat," Colorado Mountain Medical CEO Brooks Bock said.

Fancher said had the medical center component not come together first, she thinks the police and fire station would have struggled to come together, as well. That facility, known as the joint public safety facility, required voter approval from Avon residents on the police side, and Eagle River Fire and Protection District voters for the fire station. Both passed.

Finally, if the joint public safety facility had not come together, the open space, classroom expansion at Walking Mountains Science Center and incipient housing would have probably not fallen into place.

"It was just a massive, massive collaboration," Egger said.

COMPLICATED DEAL

The Innovative/Creative Partnerships and Collaborations designation from the American Planning Association is particularly apt for the Buck Creek project, due to the fact that so much collaboration and creativity went into it.

Egger said when they noticed the American Planning Association had an Innovative/Creative Partnerships and Collaborations category, this project jumped out at them.

"Eric Heil, our town attorney, has a strong interest in planning, and said look, this project deserves to be nominated," Egger said. "He wrote the application."

In receiving the award, Egger said it objectively validates something they always knew subjectively.

"This project was special," she said. "It creates a legacy for generations to come."

DISCUSSION SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE

The deal started with Egger talking to the Fire Protection District out of concern about wildfire mitigation. Like a wildfire, the discussion quickly spread.

The original Buck Creek parcels were owned by the Oscar Tang Group and the Eagle River Fire and Protection District, and both parties came to realize the other party's parcel would be better for its needs — the Fire District's parcel would be better for the medical complex, and Tang's parcel would be better for the Fire District. So Tang helped arrange for a land swap to occur as part of the sale to the NexCore Group.

With so many parties involved, negotiations were intense. Egger said any negotiator would be impressed with the way each party never lost sight of the end goal.

"We never blew it up," she said. "We never, during a period of not seeing eye to eye, elevated the debate to something that we couldn't come back to the table over."

The final piece of the Buck Creek puzzle involved another big collaboration, as the planned urban development wasn't complete with the medical, fire and police components. There was still a final 5.8 acres left unaccounted for, located between Walking Mountains Science Center and the joint public safety facility. The Oscar Tang Group worked with Walking Mountains and Eagle County to see that land used for open space, trails, housing and an expansion of Walking Mountains classroom needs. Tang donated $1 million worth of land, and Eagle County pitched in, as well. Through that final effort, every Eagle County resident can now say they're part of the massive collaboration at Buck Creek, as $1.1 million in tax dollars went toward the purchase of the open space.

"That's what really completed the Buck Creek PUD for future generations," Egger said.

CREATIVE PARTNERSHIP AND COLLABORATION

Buck Creek development involved parties

• Oscar Tang group (original land owners and donors)

• Nexcore Group (developer)

• Davis Partnership (architect)

• Colorado Mountain Medical (approached Nexcore)

• Centura Health (joined Colorado Mountain Medical in leasing space prior to development)

• Town of Avon staff (brought parties together)

• Avon Planning Commission (recommended project approval)

• Avon Town Council (approved project)

• Eagle River Fire and Protection District (joint public safety facility occupant No. 1)

• Avon Police Department (joint public safety facility occupant No. 2)

• Eagle River Fire and Protection District voters (1744 people voted in favor)

• Town of Avon voters (457 people voted in favor)

• Walking Mountains science center (will put housing, classrooms and trails on final parcel)

• Eagle County Open Space advisory committee (recommended open space purchase)

• Eagle County Board of Commissioners (approved open space purchase)

• Eagle County residents (purchased open space with $1.1M in tax dollars)

• Eagle County Land Trust (will manage a conservation easement on the open space)