Parking, workers still big concerns
VAIL ” Bill Suarez, owner of Billy’s Island Grill, is worried about having enough parking around his restaurant during construction if the Lionshead garage is torn down.
“I’m kind of trusting you guys to take care of our interests,” Suarez told the Vail Town Council on Tuesday.
Even with the parking worries of some business owners, the Vail Town Council voted to move forward with the $600 million proposal to rebuild the town-owned garage into condos, hotels, a conference center, timeshares, shops, restaurants, a bus station and even more public parking.
The council voted to start a 120-day negotiation with the developer, Texas-based Open Hospitality Partners/Hillwood Capital.
Kent Logan, a councilman, said the parking garage that Vail Resorts wants to build in West Lionshead would have to be open before the Lionshead project could begin to ensure there’s enough parking.
“That would have to be a condition of moving forward with this,” he said.
Kevin Foley, the only councilman to vote against proceeding with the project, said he didn’t know how Vail would find the 700 workers needed to run the complex.
Already-approved projects such as the Arrabelle at Vail Square, the Front Door, Solaris and the Four Seasons will need lots of workers, he said. And so will other projects that are already proposed, he said. And that doesn’t factor in new jobs in other areas of the county, he said.
“Where are you going to find the people?” he said.
Councilwoman Kim Newbury noted that the developer’s plan to redevelop the aging Timber Ridge employee-housing complex would help house workers.
The developer plans 1,248 beds of employee housing plus 176 for-sale, deed-restricted condos at Timber Ridge.
Michael Robinson, president of the Vail Valley Partnership, a regional chamber of commerce, said the project would benefit businesses.
“It’s inherent for us to compete in the future that we have this type of offering,” he said.
The town and the developer will try to draft an agreement for the project in the next four months. That agreement will come back to the Town Council for approval.
Because Vail Resorts donated the land to the town several decades ago and still retains some covenants on the land, it could veto the project.
Keith Fernandez, president of Vail Resorts Development Co., attended the meeting Tuesday and said the company will be part of the conversation as the negotiations continue.
The company’s main concerns are keeping enough parking and having some kind of guarantee in case the project can’t be completed after the garage is torn down, he said.
Mark Masinter, a representative for the developer, said they are going to deliver on all of the promises they have made. They can wait until the West Lionshead garage is built, he said.
“If it happens in 2010, we’re here,” he said. “If it happens in 2011, we’re here.”
The 1,150-space public parking garage was built in 1981 and will need lots of repairs over the next few years if it isn’t rebuilt, the town says.
The town also needs about 1,000 more public parking spaces over the next 20 years to keep up with demand, officials say.
Recent studies say the town-owned piece of land is worth $75 million, but the town would get $81.9 million in public benefits with the proposed complex.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.