Sonnenalp’s Solar Vail proposal could add 65 deed-restricted apartments at a cost of $4.2M to town of Vail

The Solar Vail apartment complex is adjacent to Red Sandstone Elementary School on North Frontage Road in Vail.

VAIL — The Vail 2027 Housing Plan envisioned the town purchasing deed restrictions on 1,000 new or existing units over the next decade. The plan seems to be paying some dividends.

The latest proposal is from Sonnenalp Properties. That firm has proposed rebuilding Solar Vail, a 24-unit building the firm already owns. The replacement plan is for 65 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Of those, 25 percent would be offered to individuals or other businesses in Vail. Sonnenalp Properties has proposed imposing deed restrictions on all 65 units and acquiring deed restrictions on another nine units, to replace the number of currently deed-restricted units there.

According to a release from the town, leasing preference would be given to renters who work in town. Limiting the rental pool to employees is seen as a way to keep prices down and keep the apartments out of the town’s short-term rental pool.

Sonnenalp Properties is asking the town to pay $65,000 each for the deed restrictions on the apartments, a total of $4.225 million. That’s a lot of money, but Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said the town’s contribution would be only about 20 percent of the project budget.

There’s $3.7 million in the deed-restriction purchase program, called Vail InDEED. That fund was established to buy deed restrictions for both existing units and new projects, limiting occupancy largely to people who work either in town or in Eagle County.

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The Vail Town Council will consider the proposal at its Tuesday, Oct. 17, evening meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

Proposals coming quickly

The Sonnenalp plan is the latest of several proposals to come to the town in the wake of the 2016 adoption of the Vail 2027 Housing Plan.

Those include a proposal for nearly 100 deed-restricted apartments at a Marriott Residence Inn on the old Roost Lodge site in West Vail. Vail Resorts in the past few weeks has successfully rezoned a parcel in East Vail with the intent of developing employee housing there.

The Marriott Residence Inn is supposed to break ground either this fall or in the spring of 2018, and work continues on a formal development agreement between the town and the developers, the Chicago-based Harp Group.

There’s no current plan for the East Vail parcel, but Vail Resorts has said it would seek out a private development partner in the wake of the recent rezoning.

The Lion’s Ridge complex in Vail

Add in the 32-unit Chamonix townhome project in West Vail and the Lion’s Ridge apartments and “we’ve done more about employee housing in the last 2 1/2 years than we have in the previous 20,” Ruther said.

Ruther said the Vail 2027 plan is similar to the tactics used by the town for the “Vail Renaissance” in the previous decade.

“We made it favorable for the private sector to come in and do redevelopment that the town can’t,” Ruther said.

In the case of the Solar Vail proposal, while the town is being asked for a significant amount of money, the town’s responsibility ends with the purchase of the deed restrictions.

“We’re not a partner in anything here,” Vail Local Housing Authority Chairman Steve Lindstrom said. “We’re making this as streamlined as we can.”

The town’s minimal involvement in the Solar Vail proposal is a marked contrast to the Chamonix project. There, the town tackled the cost of building the project. That cost, about $18 million, would be repaid as units are sold, and all of the units have been sold.

$4 million here, $4 million there

An artist’s rendering of the Chamonix townhome project currently under construction in West Vail.

Ruther said the town has put about $4 million into buying the land, building streets and installing utilities on the Chamonix property.

That’s about what the town is being asked for with the Solar Vail proposal. But, Ruther added, the town will more than double the number of units being built at Chamonix.

If the deed-restriction plan is approved by the Town Council, and the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission and Vail Design Review Board also OK the project, then Solar Vail will be rebuilt using modular units similar to the ones used at Chamonix.

That will allow a compressed construction schedule in 2018, with units ready for move-in by December of that year.

That process will take a big step forward if the Vail Town Council agrees to the deed-restriction deal.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller.

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