The man behind Solaris
VAIL – Peter Knobel has been described as both a savior for Vail and a greedy developer. At times, he, even more so than his proposal, has taken the spotlight in the debate over the redevelopment of his aging Crossroads complex.Knobel’s $250 million Crossroads proposal has 69 condos, a 10-lane bowling alley, a three-screen movie theater, a public plaza with an ice stores, stores and restaurants.”I’m committed to Vail,” he told the Vail Daily last year. “It’s the greatest place to live, and I can live anywhere I want to. It’s a great place, and it needs quality infrastructure.”The Solaris development is intended to bring vitality back to Vail Village, he has said.”Our vision is to create not just a building, but a community center,” he wrote in a March 22 Vail Daily editorial.Knobel lives in a home in Vail Village with his wife and two children. The house, which he built, sits among the homes of Vail’s founder near Vail Mountain. Knobel is an avid road biker and skier, and it’s not uncommon to run across him on a lift on Vail Mountain or riding his bike up Vail Pass.Knobel didn’t want to talk about why attention has focused on him during the debate over the Crossroads proposal.”As the developer of the Crossroads project, I’ve tried to run the cleanest and most factual campaign that I could,” he said.
Knobel, 49, grew up in Hewlett, N.Y., on Long Island and graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in real estate and finance. Knobel said he’s the third generation of his family in the real estate business.He started coming to Vail in the late 1980s for ski trips. Ten years ago, he bought a house here for vacations, and he and his family spent several months here a year.Knobel spent his first summer here in 2001, and his family moved here that fall from Manhattan.Sept. 11 was an impetus for the move, he said. Almost five years later, he said the transition from living in Manhattan to living in Vail wasn’t hard. He likes the relatively egalitarian nature of the town, he said.”All people are equal here and enjoy the lifestyle and outdoors,” he said.Knobel has welcomed people interested in the proposal to his Crossroads office for one-on-one explanations of his plan.He’s also been involved in community causes and events. In April, he helped bring the band Cracker to Spring Back to Vail to perform on Gore Creek Drive. This spring, he was one of the people who donated money to Verbatim Booksellers to help the town’s only bookstore stay in business.
Knobel said he has made most of his money in real estate in New York and in telecommunications.Knobel was a partner at the Related Companies, which develops high-rise residential real estate in Manhattan. In addition, he was a founder and partner of Gilbert Charles Beylen, a marketing and sales company for condos in New York. Beylen is Knobel’s middle name.He was also a founder of National Fiber Network, a fiber optics company that later became Metromedia Fiber Network, a public company with a market capitalization of $28 billion at its highest point, he said.Another of his companies was Beylen Telecom, an international phone carrier based in the Cayman Islands.In 1997, Knobel signed a Federal Trade Commission consent order that ordered Beylen Telecom to pay a portion of almost $800,000 to consumers who were involved in an alleged Internet scam. Knobel has said he didn’t know that a client was running the scam.Knobel was also a partner in WKP, a telecommunications billing company, with Seth Warshavsky and Ruth Parasol, two entrepreneurs who made money in the 1990s in the phone-sex hotline business.
Knobel bought the Crossroads complex in 2003 for $13.5 million from Oscar Tang. The deal started one day after Knobel did the Minturn Mile. Knobel got a ride home from a guy who happened to be a good friend of Tang’s. Knobel mentioned to the friend that Crossroads was the best property in Vail, and three months later, Knobel got a call from Tang asking if he wanted to buy the property.The complex was built in 1968 by current Vail Mayor Rod Slifer – who voted against the current redevelopment proposal – and architect Dick Bailey, with help from investors Ted Kendall, Morgan Davis and Fred Ford. Ford was the father of former Vail mayor Rob Ford, an opponent of the current Solaris proposal.After Knobel bought the property, he went to work acquiring the 22 condos in the complex.Knobel also said he’s built about three houses a year in the Hamptons on Long Island, and has built a home a Spraddle Creek and one on Forest Road. He was also a partner in the conversion of the Tyrolean Restaurant to a home.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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