Streetscape showroom doubles as town store |

Streetscape showroom doubles as town store

Geraldine Haldner

Store space donated to the town by Vail Resorts for information gathering purposes for the Vail Village Streetscape Design Project needs to be used for more than selling the project designed to revamp the Vail Village’s streets by April 2003.”You cannot have offices on the first floor in the commercial core areas,” explains Russell Forrest, the town’s director of community development. “Our zoning requires that you sell something, so we wanted to make sure that we do not violate our own laws.”So the town is selling nicknacks such as manhole covers to comply with the code and perhaps meet a demand from consumers. Really.The showroomThe streetscape showroom, at 158 Gore Creek Drive in a vacant store space owned by Vail Resorts, has been used by the town for the past week for community workshops on the streetscape design project.Employees of Wenk & Associates, a Denver-based design firm, are seeking community input to update the 1991 Vail Village Streetscape Master Plan and come up with a checklist to reinvigorate the village’s pedestrian areas and parks.So far only described as a “multi-million dollar” project, the streetscape design will coordinate with a phased water line replacement project by the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and tie into the ski company’s $75 million “Front Door” project.The ski company has pledged $1 million to the streetscape project to seamlessly join a new ski service yard at the Vista Bahn with an improved Vail Village street scene.The project, which could include everything from heated sidewalks to new planters to better lighting, encompasses Bridge Street, Gore Creek Drive, Wall Street, Hanson Ranch Road, Willow Bridge Road and Gore Creek Promenade.The Vail Town Council has indicated its commitment to start the project’s first phase in April 2003, with other phases following over the next two or three years in off-season months to minimize disruptions of guest traffic.”It is an experiment. We have the showroom right at the site of the project,” says Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin. “It’s very convenient and can keep those impacted by the project abreast as it moves.”Staffing and showroom hours are still being worked out, McLaurin says. Members of the Wenk & Associates will be on hand to explain the project.The manhole coversBut free cookies and coffee don’t make the showroom a store, so town officials have decided to ply whatever wares they can think up.Like 148-pound manhole covers.The 24-inch diameter discs, decorated with Vail’s V-logo and the 1962 year of the town’s beginnings, have been hard to keep on the street in years past. So Vail’s Public Works Director Greg Hall has decided to make them available to the public.For $295 a pop, it’s a steal, Hall says, snickering about the inside joke that refers to the fact that at least two manhole covers were stolen last year -despite the back-breaking weight and the challenge of prying them loose.Instead of having to lug one of these covers away in the dead of the night and risking getting caught with it, shoppers can now pay plastic for an iron plate the size of a tire.If that’s too big or too heavy – the type of reinforced bag it will take to carry a manhole cover out of the store is still being discussed – there are also lighter water valve covers to be had for a mere $65.At 40 pounds and as ornately embossed with the Vail logo and date as the manhole covers, water valve covers can make a lovely paperweight or door stop.”Since we’ve talked about finding new revenues so much, we thought we try our hand at that,” McLaurin says. “It could be an opportunity. If we can sell stuff, we’ll sell it.”McLaurin says town staff has been encouraged to come up with other town wares that locals and guests might want to buy.”My sense is that a T-shirt with the Vail Fire Department logo on it will have some appeal. Things are still developing, we might look at getting a couple of bear-proof trash cans and see if they are in demand,” he says.If the store takes off, Lionshead will be next, says Forrest.”The town might look at a change in zoning code for the temporary use of store fronts for public projects,” Forrest says, adding that he is not sure if the town will need another town shop, but another project showroom might be handy when the redevelopment of Lionshead gets under way in 2004.Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at

Support Local Journalism