Pedestrian mall still a vision for Avon
The town has long-envisioned creating a pedestrian mall where a walkway now runs from the Avon Library between the Seasons Building and the Lodge at Avon Center and out to the roundabout.
The costly plan, also called the Town Center or Main Street Avon, has been endorsed by the Town Council. But it has languished under the unwillingness of either the town or developers to pave the entire pedestrian mall.
So town planners are using the Town Center plan as a design guide while landowners develop empty lots alongside the pathway.
“Every development proposal the town is approached on, we’re going to insist that it supports this ultimate vision,” says Ron Wolfe, a member of the Avon Planning and Zoning Commission.
The commission advises the Town Council on the compatibility and design of all new building projects proposed in Avon.
Critics of the Town Center say planners are focusing redevelopment efforts on the wrong side of town. East Avon business owners have complained their side of town is being ignored, though many of them now support the extensive roadwork underway this summer on the streets in front of their shops.
Other critics worry about overloading the town with stores and shops as the large Village at Avon shopping complex readies to open on the east side of town next summer, complete with. The Home Depot and a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Supporters of the pedestrian mall, however, say Avon is a core-less town with a nebulous identity and that the Town Center would finally give the valley’s fastest growing community a downtown to match the villages in Vail and Beaver Creek.
“At this point, it’s up to owners around the Town Center to bring the plan forward when they want to bring it forward,” Mayor Judy Yoder says. “There’s still a good chance that will happen.”
Yoder disagrees Avon lacks a geographic focus.
“I think the town looks great,” she says. “There are always things to work on, but that’s true with every small town. I think they’re doing a great job with the vision, but it takes some time before the vision’s fulfilled.”
Avon’s Town Center is not an all-or-nothing plan – the project was designed in phases, ranging from a simple enhancement of the pedestrian path to the extensive redevelopment of west Avon. The path could be turned into anything from a pedestrian mall to a new road.
A popular aspect of the plan is realigning and widening some of west Avon’s twisting streets such as Benchmark Road. A roundabout could also be built between the library and town hall.
If a new Town Center commercial area is built, planners say parking garages would be necessary to accommodate shoppers.
“It’s a guideline,” Avon Town Manager Bill Efting says. “We’ve asked people that have land over there to work together and come up with some ideas, and that’s kind of where it’s been left. At this stage in the game we’re not forcing anyone to do anything.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission has endorsed the expansion of a development project planned for one of the empty lots along the Town Center pathway, Wolfe says.
The developer was allowed to build 22 more lock-off style condominiums because an adequate amount of parking spaces will be provided and the design was altered to fit into the Town Center plan, Wolfe says.
“The developer worked hard with the town staff to re-do the design to incorporate the needs of the Town Center,” Wolfe says. “They moved their building further back from the spot that may someday become the pedestrian mall.”
Redeveloping west Avon also hinges on Vail Resorts’ development plans in the area. The company last fall submitted a preliminary design for Beaver Creek Landing –the ski village it wants to build on a patch of land known as “the confluence” between the Eagle River and Benchmark Road.
The new village would also be the launching point for a gondola carrying skiers from Avon up to the top of Beaver Creek’s Strawberry Park Express chairlift.
Both plans are in limbo, however, as Vail Resorts negotiates with the town. The company wants the town –meaning Avon’s taxpayers – to help build the gondola, estimated to cost $30 million.
Meanwhile, the Town Center will hover over all plans in west Avon.
“If there’s an opportunity to make improvements, we’re certainly looking at it,” Efting says. “Some very good ideas came out of the plan, but the questions are the implementation and who pays for what, as in most plans.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at email@example.com.