Vail ‘Civic Area’ plan has options, but no firm ideas
Planning for town-owned land between Vail Village, Lionshead a key to Vail's future
What’s in the ‘Civic Area’?
- Dobson Ice Arena.
- Vail Public Library.
- Lionshead Parking Structure.
- Vail Town Hall.
To learn more: Go to http://www.EngageVail.com.
VAIL — There are plenty of design ideas, but no firm plans, for town-owned property between Vail Village and Lionshead. But don’t expect much in the way of new parking.
Members of the Vail Town Council Tuesday went through a roughly two-hour presentation about the “Civic Area” plan being developed by town officials and consultants. The first step, working with both public meetings and a web-driven process at http://www.EngageVail.com, will lead to more public input — including an April 17 open house, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Grand View Room — and, eventually, a guiding plan for the area.
Council members are looking at the Civic Area for a couple of reasons. The facilities in the area are all getting older. In addition, the town has roughly another 10 years of “tax increment financing” proceeds from a special improvement district created to renovate public and private facilities in the Lionshead area.
Those tax collections represent the added value of improvements.
Starting with the library?
Consultant Lou Bieker of 4240 Architects noted that based on public input, the library might be most ripe for improvements, including another floor with meeting space, along with better access to the creekside lawn on the south side of the building.
Improvements might also include some kind of pedestrian walkway between the Lionshead Parking Structure and the library.
From there, projects get more complicated — and potentially more expensive.
Dobson Ice Arena is 40-ish years old. Expansion plans there could include adding a floor and opening up the facility to more meeting space. But a long-discussed second ice sheet at the facility would be both complicated and expensive.
During a brief public comment period, resident Margaret Rogers, a former council member, urged the council to carefully consider whether or not to upgrade the aging facility.
Rogers was on the council when that board worked on ideas to upgrade the clubhouse at the Vail Golf Club. Eventually, the facility was completely replaced.
Rogers said she believes the town would be better served building an entirely new ice arena.
What about meeting space?
The Civic Area also includes the Lionshead Parking Structure and the adjacent parking lot that has long been used for charter bus and large RV parking.
The structure itself, though, isn’t likely to be expanded to handle more vehicles.
Councilman Greg Moffet said technological advances could result in reduced private vehicle use in the next 20 years or so. The recently-completed Red Sandstone parking structure on the north side of Interstate 70 includes space that can be converted to other uses if demand for parking wanes.
Councilwoman Jenn Bruno agreed with Moffet, saying “I’m not interested in adding more parking.”
If something is built on the current charter bus parking lot, town officials will need to determine where those vehicles could be parked.
Resident Gwen Scalpello said a reasonable replacement should be considered. An obvious spot at the east end of Ford Park isn’t well served by transit, she noted.
One possibility could be using the top floor of the Red Sandstone structure in summer months.
Scalpello and others who commented on the ideas presented Tuesday said any future Civic Area plan needs to include expanded meeting and conference space.
In earlier comments from members of the Vail Local Marketing District, board member Beth Slifer said that filling in weekday lodging occupancy holes will depend in large part on group and corporate visitors. That’s going to require more meeting space, she said, since there’s currently a lot of competition for existing facilities.
“We either need a building with many (meeting) rooms or multiple buildings,” Slifer told council members.
Town voters in the early 2000s approved a new lodging tax to build more conference space, but the plan was dropped when estimated costs outstripped available revenue.
While the land including the library, arena and parking structure can be viewed as a whole, the Civic Area also includes the town’s municipal offices, which date back to the 1970s.
Beiker told council members that site “has an appetite for change,” adding that the town could make the site dense and tall, if town offices are moved to another site.
This is just the first part of the plan, though.
Another round of public engagement is set to follow this one, with both web access and public meetings. Expect a presentation at at least one of the town’s community picnics this summer.
And, while some council members hope to have a plan finished before the next municipal elections in November, Rogers urged patience.
“You can’t rush something as big as this,” Rogers said. “I’d rather have (the plan) go to the next council and have it done right.”
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