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Nice to meet you. Can I build this?

Preston Utley/Vail DailyMark Masinter, left, and Jonas Woods right " who want to build hotels on top of a parking garage in Lionshead " met with locals Wednesday at the Red Lion.
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VAIL ” Mark Masinter said he got his half-billion-dollar idea to redevelop the Lionshead parking garage while walking around Vail during a ski trip in January.

“I’ve always wanted to do something here,” said Masinter, a Dallas developer.

Seven months later, Masinter has found a partner, submitted a plan, and kicked off a competitive process that has two groups vying to build the most expensive project Vail has even seen.

This week, Masinter and his partner, Jonas Woods, are meeting with residents and businesses to push their proposal. Masinter calls it “outreach.”

“What we ultimately think matters a little,” Masinter said. “what the town thinks matters a lot.”

At a reception Wednesday at the Red Lion, Masinter and Woods showed their plans on placards set up throughout the restaurant. During their three-day stay here this week, they also met with a group of hoteliers and merchants, local chambers of commerce, Town Council members and town staff members.

The town solicited plans for the aging, 1,150-space garage in May after Masinter came forward with his idea. Masinter’s group and East West Partners of Avon are the two firms that have submitted plans.

But Vail has not committed to doing anything yet with the town-owned parcel. A decision on whether it will proceed ” and, if so, with which developer ” is scheduled for later this year.

The town has decided that the garage needs significant repairs to make it to the end of its life, which is 15 years away.

Woods works for Hillwood Capital, a division of Hillwood, which is headed up by Ross Perot Jr., son of the former presidential candidate.

The Perot family has owned a home in Vail for many years. That is one reason residents can be assured the developer wouldn’t build the project and leave town, Woods said. Woods and Masinter both said they also have vacationed here for many years.

“You’ve got people who are committed to this town,” he said.

Hillwood Capital is developing Victory Park, a $3.5 billion project in downtown Dallas that includes American Airlines Arena, homes and shops. The project has seen controversy and roadblocks.

The public-private partnership hinged on a 1998 referendum that narrowly approved funding. Then, Sept. 11 slowed the development, Woods said. Now, building continues there more than a decade after the project was conceived.

Building this project in Vail can’t be harder than what happened at Victory Park, Woods said.

“It’s just going to be different,” he said.

Masinter said he knows about the controversial Crossroads project in Vail. That development, whose opponents said it was too big, was approved by voters in July almost two years after it was first submitted to the town.

“We are now coming in and talking about a project that is bigger and is on publicly owned land,” he said. “It causes a lot of interest. If I was a citizen, which I aspire to be, I would be suspect.”

Masinter and Woods want to build a W Hotel and a St. Regis Hotel on the site. The proposal also includes condos and timeshares.

The complex would have 1,500 to 1,800 spaces ” more than the 1,150 spaces that are there now. They also plan an arts complex that would also provide as much as 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 25-year-old parking garage is a doorway for many visitors to the ski mountain. The proposal is “something more exemplary of the overall quality of this resort,” Woods said.

Woods touted the group’s experience with public-private partnerships as well as its financial strength. It wouldn’t need funding partners, he said.

“In all likelihood, it’s just something we would fund out of our own resources,” he said.

The group wants the hotels and condos to be privately owned but to allow the town to own the parking garage, Woods said. The group may want tax increment funding for the project, Woods said.

Some Lionshead merchants, weary of construction, have suggested the town take a timeout from construction before it proceeds with this project.

Woods said the climate for development may not be right five years from now ” for his group or for the St. Regis or W hotels.

“A lot of things can change in five years,” he said.

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

Vail, Colorado


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