Vail conference center look still evolving |

Vail conference center look still evolving

Scott N. Miller

VAIL – The “mushroom” is gone. In its place is something similar, but different.The Vail Town Council Tuesday got its first look at a new set of drawings for a proposed conference center. Those new drawings present a different idea for the center than the first drawings, which were likened by some to a mushroom, or even a cartoon structure more suitable for Bedrock than Vail.

The new drawings use a lot more glass and wood and quite a bit less copper cladding, especially on the roof. What was first envisioned as a steel evergreen tree out front has been replaced by a vertical stone structure that looks a bit more like a chimney.That evolution of a building’s design is common, said architect Kurt Fentress, whose Denver-based firm, Fentress-Bradburn, working on plans for the center.”It’s a process of back and forth on projects,” Fentress said. From the concept drawings, the designers then refined their ideas based on comments from the public and officials, as well as the architects’ imaginations.The drawings the town council saw Tuesday were the end of what Fentress called the design’s development phase. From there, the drawings will get even more detailed. The design, though, may not be final until after work starts.Setting up a building mock-up on the construction site lets designers experiment with colors and textures, even down to the color of the mortar holding the stone together, Fentress said. “It’s a matter of finding the right balance,” he said.Part of that balance is being able to afford to build a center.Consultant Chris Squadra told council members that if the town can sell bonds by April of this year, the sale can raise enough money to build and pay for the facility. Those numbers were generated by Fentress-Bradburn, Squadra’s firm, ARC Consultants, and estimates provided by three contractors bidding on the project.Based on the market now, Squadra said the town could raise about $45.9 from a bond sale. Out of that total, about $36.5 million will be available for construction.Councilman Kent Logan, who also serves on the town’s conference center advisory board, said that group is still working on updating financial models. He said he expects the town council will have enough information to make a final decision whether or not to issue bonds by mid- to late May.And the design will continue to evolve.”You’re heading in a better direction,” said Councilwoman Kim Ruotolo, who was a critic of the first “mushroom” drawings. “There are still some things that need work. But the materials are going in the right direction.”Councilman Farrow Hitt said he still has some worries about the project’s financial picture. But the design is moving along.”I’m just glad the ‘Smurf’ roof is gone,” he said.Councilman Greg Moffet, who was an early champion of the design, called the latest drawings “fantastic.”But Councilwoman Diana Donovan, an early and persistent critic of the entire project, remains unconvinced.”It’s still absolutely the wrong building for Vail,” she said.Vail, Colorado

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