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Money under the microscope

Special to the DailyAmong other studies, Vail is trying to determine the value of a developers plan to build luxury hotels, shops and condominiums on top of the Lionshead parking garage.
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VAIL ” The town of Vail is spending about $70,000 studying a plan to renovate the Lionshead garage.

Open Hospitality Group/Hillwood Capital, a Dallas group, wants to tear down the garage to build more public parking, condos, timeshares and a convention center. The proposal also includes a five-star St. Regis Hotel and a four-star W Hotel.

“It’s important,” Mark Gordon, a Vail councilman, said of the studies. “No one on the Town Council is an expert in this particular field.”

The Town Council is expected to make a decision next month on whether to proceed with the project.

Two appraisals are being done “to ensure that the public value that is being professed by the developer is more than the value of the land,” said Russ Forrest, community development director for the town.

Bowes and Co., a Denver firm, did one appraisal, at a cost of $20,000. The appraisal is finished but hasn’t been released to the public. The Town Council also ordered a second appraisal. It’s being conducted by Rocky Mountain Valuation of Denver and will cost $10,000.

Another study is being done by Denver-based Economic Planning Systems. The company is examining whether the “public benefits” that are proposed are worth as much as the developer says they are.

“We need to make sure what is being promised to us is real,” Gordon said.

There are several levels of public benefits, Forrest said. The value of the conference center, the bus station and the parking spaces adds up to about $100 million.

Then there are the taxes that would be generated, such as sales tax, property tax and tax increment financing.

That study will cost $35,000. It has not been completed yet.

Another study is looking at the construction schedule that the developer is proposing.

The Beck Group, a Denver contractor, is doing the study at a cost of about $5,000-$7,000, said Greg Hall, director of public works for the town.

“What should be our issues and concerns, and are there any fatal flaws?” Hall said.

The developer says it can tear down the structure at the end of a ski season, leave several hundred spaces through the summer, and have 1,150 spaces available by the time ski season starts.

Town officials, Vail Resorts and Lionshead businesses want to ensure there’s enough parking for visitors during the garage renovations.

A draft of the survey has been completed, but it is not being released to the public, Hall said.

The Open/Hillwood group also contracted HVS International to study the viability of the W and St. Regis hotels. That study says the hotels will make about $32 million a year in revenue by 2013.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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