Town needs a face-lift, leaders say
Councilmen Brian Sipes and Ron Wolfe say the best design for the town’s future is for all new developments to match a plan to make Avon a shopping and entertainment hub not unlike Riverwalk in Edwards.
“We think we can improve guests’ and residents’ experience,” Wolfe says.
Many Avonites, including candidates for Town Council last fall, complain Avon is too nebulous to lure either the droves of local shoppers that now flock to Edwards or the tourists who spend their money in Vail and Beaver Creek.
“We’re a long, linear town. We’re skinny and strung out,” Wolfe says.
But a bigger problem may be Avon Road and its four roundabouts, which Wolfe says essentially break Avon into two separate towns.
“We need to eliminate Avon Road as a barrier. It’s a terrible barrier for circulation,” Wolfe says.
Indeed, the east side of Avon is the town’s larger commercial district, though many have complained its winding streets make it unattractive for shoppers to walk around. The west side, meanwhile, is home to hotels, lodges, offices, condos, the Town Hall and Nottingham Lake. The lack of shops and restaurants on that side of town –aside from those in Avon Center –restricts most activity to the lake and the Avon Recreation Center.
In approving future development, the town should try to create an east-west road that could at least be used by pedestrians and mass transit, Wolfe said.
“It would help define and link activity and entertainment hubs,” Wolfe says. “We have to make things happen, rather than allow things to happen and react to them.”
A plan to pave a Main Street on the west side of town was approved last year by the Town Council. Though there is no money to build it, the town has been asking west-side developers to tailor their buildings to the plan that would create a “Main Street” running from Town Hall east, between Avon Center and the Seasons Building.
One criticism of the plan, however, has been Avon Road. Some leaders and business owners have said building a Main Street is pointless if shoppers can’t easily cross Avon Road to the more commercial side of town. That has led some to consider building a bridge over Avon Road.
Bridges, however, are always expensive to construct.
Sipes says a key to making the town more dynamic is to create more cross-town roads, beginning at the Village at Avon shopping complex now under construction on the far east end of town.
“You either go to Edwards Village Center or you go to Riverwalk,” Sipes says. “Ninety percent of people to go a destination here or there, but we have the opportunity to let people move between them.”
A Main Street connecting Town Hall to Chapel Square and the Village at Avon, however, would not be a short cut across Avon, Sipes says.
“On Main Street we’d want parking on the street and stoplights,” Sipes says. “It’s not the route you’re supposed to take from point A to Z.”
That would allow drivers and pedestrians to better see what there is to do in the future Avon, Wolfe said.
“If you come to Vail as a guest and you ride the bus, you get to see what the town has offer,” Wolfe says. “You should be able to get onto a people-mover and see Avon and decide what you want to do.”
As the town is laid out now, there would be a big kink in Main Street where East Benchmark Road bends between Christy Sports and the Benchmark Building. But future redevelopment could allow for a straighter road, Sipes said.
Another key for the future is to make sure there is an easily accessible way for skiers and shoppers to travel between the town and the gondola Vail Resorts wants to build. The gondola would start on a sliver of land alongside the Eagle River and Avon Road and then travel up to Beaver Creek.
The gondola won’t do much good for the town if skiers coming down from Beaver Creek can’t get into Avon conveniently, he says.
“If you have a gondola, but nowhere to go, you have nothing,” Sipes says. “It’s not going to energize most of the town.”
All these plans, however, are still very much on the drawing board, he adds.
“This is very early in a work in progress,” Sipes said.
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at email@example.com.