Urban loft living … in the mountains
EDWARDS – Even the most high-end, innovative buildings constructed in Eagle County rely on wood, stone or some combination of the two in what one might call the upscale mountain look.And that’s exactly the kind of familiar architecture Bobby Hernreich and Rick Mueller are rebelling against as they plan what may well turn out to be the most radical development Eagle County has ever seen. To do so, they managed to retain world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, whose dramatic, ultra-contemporary designs are known from projects as diverse as the new Denver Art Museum addition, the tower and office complex to replace the World Trade Center in New York, and other iconic structures around the world.”We’re stepping into thin air with this one, but that’s the way we do business,” said Hernreich, whose Remonov & Co. – formed with Mueller – has built some well-known and distinctive projects of its own, including The Corner in Edwards and Edwards Village Center. Self-described “boutique developers,” Hernreich said they look for unfilled niches.”We’re about the only ones doing contemporary design,” he said.Mueller said Libeskind and his wife, Nina, love the Vail area – part of the reason the architect, who typically does much larger, high-profile buildings, agreed to the proposed Remonov project.”We all just hit it off,” Mueller said. “He’s a wonderful man, very charismatic and creative.”
It will likely be about two years before the yet-to-be-named Libeskind project is built, but planning has been ongoing, and designs have already gone through several phases.
What they have now is a plan for 45 to 55 condominiums on 5 acres in the 1,800 to 2,600 square-foot range. Hernreich and Mueller have identified a couple of possible pieces of land “downvalley,” but hesitated to say exactly where they are until a deal is completed.
In the meantime, what they have is a set of drawings with that futuristic Libeskind look: seemingly impossible lines, a sweeping, cohesive theme and an arresting overall impact that’s a 180-degree departure from anything that’s been built in the valley previously.”It will be art,” Hernreich said. “People will be living in art.”And paying for the privilege: Mueller said the construction cost alone will be in the $500 per square-foot range, meaning the condos will likely sell for over $1 million. The two partners don’t think they’ll find any shortage of people who can afford that, and they think some local high-end homeowners are ready for something new and different.”The market we’re looking at are people who have had it with 10,000-square-foot homes,” Mueller said. “People want to downsize.”In exchange for a smaller living space, Hernreich said, condo-dwellers will enjoy a great many services and amenities, like a high-tech workout area, concierge, transportation and even turn-down service if they want it.
The Eagle County project may be much smaller than other Libeskind endeavors like the Jewish Museum in Berlin or the Imperial War Museum in England, but 50 or so units in four stories of high-concept design represents a significant departure from other local developments – especially since it’s not necessarily aimed at second-home owners or anchored near one of the resorts.
“What we’re talking about is urban loft living in the mountains,” Hernreich said. “We think it’s time for a change,” Mueller said. “People want architectural diversity.”But are buyers in the Vail Valley real estate market ready to give up their timber mansions for brushed aluminum, glass and sharp angles?
“We’ve talked to about a dozen Realtors, and we hear ‘are you sure you don’t want to do something with logs?'” Mueller said, laughing. “But if you do things right and use the right people, we believe it can work.”Treading water has never been Hernreich’s way, evidenced by his multi-faceted business dealings that range from part ownership of the Sacramento Kings basketball team and the Arizona Rattlers stadium football franchise to his local development projects.”You have to take huge risks,” he said. “This is going to be something the Vail Valley has never seen.”Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931, or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado