Ryan Sutter to Avon: Let’s honor ‘Old No. 7’ firehouse | VailDaily.com

Ryan Sutter to Avon: Let’s honor ‘Old No. 7’ firehouse

Ryan Sutter, left, addresses the Avon Town Council on Tuesday, May 29, while town manager Eric Heil, right, watches. Sutter would like to see Avon's former fire station at 351 Benchmark Road transformed into a fire station themed cafe and bar.
John LaConte | jlaconte@vaildaily.com

AVON – Ryan Sutter approached the town council Tuesday with a hot idea: Work together to create a legacy that honors the profession of firefighting in a fun and unique way.

While he’s known nationally as the star of the first season of “The Bachelorette,” Sutter is also known locally as a 17-year veteran of the Vail Fire Department.

Sutter lives with his wife, Trista, and their two children in Avon’s Wildridge neighborhood, one of the only “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” couples to form a lasting marriage and start a family.

On Tuesday, Sutter told the Avon Town Council that he started wondering what the fate of the fire station would be as soon as the plans were finalized for the department to vacate the building and move to the town’s new joint public safety facility. Sutter said he chooses not to refer to the property as 351 Benchmark Road, and instead calls it “Old No. 7.”

In that building, Sutter said, “I spent a tremendous amount of time training and learning and getting the skills to follow in that profession.”

Sutter said that as a firefighter he has strong associations with good food and positive social interaction on the bottom level, and cozy and unique lodging on the top level. He added that as an entrepreneur, he could exaggerate that sentiment with a fire station-themed café, coffee shop and bar on the bottom level, and a unique lodging opportunity on the top level.

“We would propose to make that firehouse look even more like a firehouse than it ever did,” Sutter said.

‘Destination attraction’

Council Member Jake Wolf said he had known about Sutter’s idea for a while, and he thinks it’s so crazy it just it might work.

“First off, it would probably become the best place in the country to have a bachelor or bachelorette party,” Wolf said. “And I’m dead serious about that. It’s incredible how relevant this couple still is in that world – Season 23, a bachelor jumps the fence to escape the show, who’s Vanity Fair’s first call to talk about it? Trista and Ryan.

“I really do think this would become a destination attraction for people who celebrate Trista and Ryan as the be all end all of what a couple on that show is supposed to become,” Wolf added.

Loftier dreams

Other suggestions, including workspace for artists and a Children’s museum have been suggested for the fire station building, as well. The lot was also one of the options considered for the failed plan to move the Hahnewald barn to the town core.

Town manager Eric Heil has recommended a two-step approach for the large question mark that represents the future of the 351 Benchmark Road property.

Heil suggested that the council continues to find temporary uses for the building for the next five years, making whatever improvements necessary to facilitate those temporary uses, while simultaneously embarking on a community planning process to determine the long-term fate of the property.

On May 1, the town renewed a lease with Richard Wheelock, owner of Agave, who will use the property for employee housing for the next year.

Loftier dreams, such as that of Sutter’s, would require a vote of the Avon electorate to authorize conveyance pursuant to the Avon Home Rule Charter, Heil informed the council.

“In my experience, communities more often than not reject ballot questions to convey municipal property when they involve parks and property in the center of the community,” Heil wrote in a memo. “Avon’s electorate previously rejected a Charter amendment to authorize the Avon Town Council to convey property as a follow-up to the adoption of the West Town Center Investment Plan in 2006. Avon’s electorate did approval conveying 3,000 square feet. of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in 2015, but then this project did not move forward and the authorization for conveyance expired.”

Sutter said that as a voter in Avon, he understands the political appetite for such a project might not be there at this time.

“There would be a tough court of public opinion that we would have to engage heavily, but that’s not something that’s a deal breaker,” Sutter said. “I think we would be willing to tackle that challenge.”