The heart of Vail continues to evolve |

The heart of Vail continues to evolve

NWS One Willow DT 8-3-12

VAIL, Colorado – When Stephen Virion opened La Bottega in 1997, Meadow Drive was mostly a street town buses ran on to get from Lionshead to Bridge Street. Today, the street is one of the hottest spots in Vail.

The stretch of Meadow Drive between Vail Road and Willow Bridge Road has been transformed in just the past few years by the opening of Solaris on the east and two new, high-end hotels – The Sebastian and the Four Seasons Vail – on the west. The plaza at Solaris has turned into a particular draw, with everything from concerts to fly-fishing casting classes to Saturday morning yoga.

The Solaris plaza has become a project that has delivered just what its developers promised several years ago – a spot that’s become a major attraction in Vail Village, both for its plaza space and its retail and dining.

Solaris’ retail reach is about to spread across the street. The company that owns Solaris this spring bought the retail space at One Willow Bridge Road, where a market used to be. That space is being renovated with new glass – better to draw window shoppers – and a bit more square footage. The roughly 6,000 square feet of space is also being divided into six retail spaces between roughly 850 and 1,300 square feet each.

While some in Vail Village have said that part of town still needs a small market, Craig Cohn, of Solaris, said the market closed before the space was sold. And, Cohn said, he’s contacted both niche and national market operators.

“No one was interested,” he said.

The new retail space at One Willow Bridge is a response to demand for retail space along Meadow Drive, Cohn said. While no one has signed a lease yet, Cohn said he has more potential tenants than space available right now.

“Traffic patterns in Vail Village have changed,” Cohn said, adding that the new hotels’ patrons bring a desired clientele to Vail.

The hotels Cohn mentioned are much different from the ones that were operating when Virion opened La Bottega. Then, there was a Holiday Inn on the southwest side of the main Vail roundabout and the old Vail Village Inn was still open on the southeast side. Neither drew the kind of clients the new hotels attract.

“There was no real draw here,” Virion said.

Lance Thompson, general manager of The Sebastian, has only been on the job since the hotel – formerly the Vail Plaza hotel – opened in 2010, but he’s spent much of his career in the resort hotel business. He said what’s happening on Meadow Drive is unique in his experience.

“There’s a healthy competition, but we all support each other, too,” Thompson said. “If the Four Seasons is sold out, it helps us.”

Thompson added he’s been particularly impressed by what’s available along Meadow Drive and at Solaris.

“We’re all benefitting from what’s there,” Thompson said. “It’s really activated that whole part of the neighborhood.”

With Solaris, The Sebastian and the Four Seasons all opening at about the same time, higher-end customers have come to Meadow Drive.

That’s especially true for Latin American guests, Virion said.

“The Sebastian has really been focusing on Latin American clientele,” Virion said. “That’s been one of our top markets over the years, so to have them behind it has been great.”

With more destination guests than ever, Cohn said Solaris saw an opportunity across the street that was simply too good to pass up, especially making it an extension of the existing plaza.

“People know you can come here,” he said. “We’re just building on the success we’ve had so far.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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