New plan for Timber Ridge in Vail appears viable |

New plan for Timber Ridge in Vail appears viable

Lauren Glendenning

VAIL — The town of Vail seems to have found a viable redevelopment project for the eastern portion of Timber Ridge, however, the town’s dilemma over the density of the project continues.

The newest development proposal, reached via collaboration between the town and a team including Jen Wright, of Wright and Co.; Gary Gorman, of Gorman USA; Chupa Nelson, of R.A. Nelson; Gary Brooks, of Alpine Engineering, and architect Hans Berglund, is a far cry from the high density dreams Vail council members once had.

The last developer who tried to get the project funded, approved and built was Darren Woody, whose 350-plus-unit proposal that would have included 600 beds and was too large to qualify for special federal Housing and Urban Development financing.

In order to get that financing, Woody would have had to make the project too small to make financial sense for his business, so he walked away.

Now developers Wright and Gorman say a 106-unit project, with roughly 212 beds, makes financial sense for the town, but Councilwoman Margaret Rogers isn’t sure it makes long-term housing sense.

The existing eastern portion of Timber Ridge has 102 units, so the redevelopment of that site, which was conceived with the purpose of increasing density, doesn’t accomplish its goal, Rogers said.

“The whole point of redeveloping Timber Ridge was to increase density,” she said.

Costs of high density projects

Wright pointed out the costs of building such a high density project — mainly costs associated with structured and/or underground parking and elevators — and said there’s just no way it can be successfully done, he said.

“You’ll need a subsidy of about $40,000 per unit over what we have here, and we can’t get it out of the rents,” Wright said. “There’s no magic to it.”

Stan Zemler Vail town manager reminded the council that unlike previous Timber Ridge redevelopment proposals, the town didn’t ask the developers to sell it a project.

This time, the town worked closely with the developers to come up with the most realistic option.

All about parking

“I don’t think there’s any doubt — this is the project that will fit on this property without structured parking,” Zemler said.

It all comes back to the parking. The costs of structured parking run about $25,000 per space — and there’s no way to create the kind of high density space needed on the eastern portion of the property the town initially sought without structured parking.

So the dilemma continues as the town now completes a market study with Wright and Gorman — a study that might help Rogers, who voted against moving forward with the market study — feel more comfortable about the lower density.

Rogers’ concerns were from the 30,000-foot level, she said. Wright’s comment that the proposal wouldn’t necessarily be aimed at housing seasonal workers didn’t sit well with her.

“There’s been a fundamental shift that’s been going on, away from your seasonal part-time workers to the more permanent older worker, who has completely different needs and requirements for housing,” Wright said, adding the proposal is more oriented toward year-round rentals, not seasonal, workforce housing.

The market study should help answer some of those questions about whether the units fit the town’s long-term housing needs and whether the rent — which Wright said would be $1,500 to $1,600 a month per two-bedroom unit — would be within the realm of what people are willing to pay, Zemler said.