So, where to go from here?
There is one last fascinating study that went almost unnoticed during the months preceding the election. It has to do with one of the life bloods of the community – retail.Ian Thomas is a very well-respected consultant in retail. He studies it minutely in various parts of the country and indeed all over the world. He is hired to share his expertise where new developments are in the planning stages; when old established areas are getting tired; when competition pits the slick and sophisticated against the old and comfortable. In other words, whenever the question is what direction retail is taking or ought to take, Ian’s number is the one many of the cutting-edge planners call.His background and solid research has brought him to the Vail area in the past to consult on the retail mix in Beaver Creek. He made several presentations to various segments of the community when he returned this summer to look at opportunities in Lionshead, as well as the newly proposed redevelopment in west Vail.As a matter of fact, he was originally scheduled to be here last spring to participate in some of this planning. But like so many, he could not resist the lure of a spring day on Vail Mountain. Sadly, that day came with a severe consequence. So several months of surgery and rehab later, he was able to pick up this summer where he left off last spring.He began with a slide presentation looking at successful retail centers around the world. The most common characteristic is that they are part of larger urban areas that seems to have “soul.” And they don’t just happen. They are planned through amenities, attractions, and placement of public spaces that are all orchestrated to create a sense of place where you feel comfortable and are encouraged to linger.But regardless, retail is the cornerstone because shopping is the third-biggest pastime, only surpassed by working and home life. As a result of this, the nature of shopping is changing, being integrated with many aspects of daily life. Consequently, multipurpose environments are being developed with the express goal of extending visitation to these areas in order to generate a greater economic return for the developer and community. There is a concerted effort to blur the lines between leisure, recreation, entertainment, eating and dining. The result is a place where social interaction is encouraged.One of the cornerstones of today’s shopping experience is the ever-changing environment demanded by the consumer. They are looking for new and different shopping arenas and choices that are adaptive to lifestyle options constantly in transition. This demand is the impetus behind an evolving stage that is driving upscale pedestrian-friendly concepts which include trendy shops, coffee bars, nightlife, salons and spas, as well as cutting-edge furniture and accessory emporiums.Yet one thing to keep in mind when analyzing the new consumer is that they are no longer simply in search of products and services. The prevalent driving force is the quest for a lifestyle. The industry is changing rapidly toward a concept coined the “new urbanism,” which embodies the following attractions: open air, multipurpose reasons to visit, mixed-use space, blending of concepts and price points, combining natural streetscapes that blend indoor and outdoor elements, attention to architecture and style, and more responsiveness to community needs.Interestingly, Ian suggested that resorts like Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler-Blackcomb are the forerunners of new urbanism, as they have become mini cities within larger areas. While consumers go there for a wide range of reasons, primarily it is the ambience, outdoor dining and street entertainment that slows them down and encourages them to stay. They feel the magic and romance of the place, and want to visit time and time again.So I guess my question is are we getting it right? My sense is that we have gotten it right at times and have faltered at others. But we are clearly on the cusp of new and exciting options all over town.With the redevelopment going on in both Lionshead and Vail Village, we have an opportunity to really blossom. One of the major hindrances in recent times has been the oppressive rents charged by many of the commercial landlords.Fortunately, this is about to change. The amount of available retail space will be increasing significantly, with the result of a more competitive marketplace. Additionally, Vail Village will no longer have a captive audience. A new energy will be felt in Lionshead that has not been there for a long time, if ever.West Lionshead and west Vail will also give the community some options for expansion that will further address much-needed amenities and services. If done right, they will further enhance the guest experience, as well as provide expanded choices for the locals. One suggestion made during the wrap-up was that we should be doing some consumer research. In reviewing the community survey, I could find no question specifically geared toward asking what we are missing as a community and resort in terms of shopping, dining, lodging, etc.This is vital information that could easily be added to the piles of surveys gathered during the course of the year by Vail Resorts and the town of Vail. It would provide some clear guidelines for us as we start filling in the blanks on what promises to be a very exciting future. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail email@example.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado