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Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: Eagle River Station all about quality of life

Don Rogers
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

From my vantage a mile out of town, up Eby Creek itself, I favor Eagle River Station.

Fighting words, I know. I can’t vote. But like you, I will be directly affected either way Jan. 5’s town election on the shopping center goes.

Eagle will survive with or without the center. That bears declaring in the midst of the doomsayers hollering hard against their Pollyanna neighbors. The future of the republic does not really hang in the balance.



If it passes, the center will succeed financially over time, as everything west of Vail in its turn has. Every significant development – Beaver Creek to Cordillera to Riverwalk and so on – has run this gauntlet. I remember not long ago hearing how Eagle Ranch was crazy talk and no one would buy there. Only they did and will again.

Each recession heralds the End Times to those prone to look that way. That’s not to blithely dismiss this one. But it is to bring some perspective. There’s a boom or two in this valley yet, too.

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There’s enough shopping leakage now in this valley due to a lack of options. This is the best location along Interstate 70 for such a center. And future growth in our region will only help make Eagle River Station work.

An Eagle Target would not sell groceries to compete with City Market, although the valley’s first truly organic market would indeed offer something new.

The center’s presence would clean up Chambers. The hidden downtowns in old Eagle and Eagle Ranch would improve, as well, I’m convinced. That’s counter to fears that the Central Business District would dry up if Eagle River Station were built. Of course, that’s assuming an always-struggling downtown was flush now. Hardly.



Eagle is a geode rather than a pearl – butt ugly on the outside to anyone driving along I-70 or U.S. Highway 6. The gems of downtowns are too-well-kept secrets and too small to ever provide for the town government’s needs. Eagle River Station is far more likely to attract more traffic downtown than take away what’s not there to begin with.

As Glenwood Springs’ similar center, Glenwood Meadows, has helped that town this way, Eagle River Station would do much the same.

All the hollering will not change that. Yes, there’s some short-term uncertainty. There’s also risk with every new venture, starting with Vail itself. But the odds are far more with Eagle River Station rather than against it. And the risk is the developer’s rather than the town’s.

The developer is among the top in the business. Their financing looks solid. They pay the price of miscalculating the market, not the town. And they have a track record of doing what they say they will do.

By the way, the retail occupancy rate at all their existing projects, including ones under construction, is 94 percent. They turn to local builders first, which is why every local builder I know supports the project even while out-of-county carpenters’ union members picket for “local” jobs they would not qualify for.

The quibbling over the financial picture pretty much misses the point. The real question is this: What is your sense of small-town values and quality of life – and would Eagle River Station help or harm that?

I believe the shopping center out of the core town, between I-70 and Highway 6, would be a gain in quality of life. The gem inside the geode only benefits with town revenue from the project. No town residents live in the vicinity of Eagle River Station. Chambers, in time, cleans up and so do other parts of town. The town government gains enough to better provide its services.

I believe that there’s such a thing as too small and that critical mass for amenities and crucial services matters. Unless your idea of “small-town quality of life” is symbolized by the ruins of the Ping complex, appropriately festooned with “No ERS” signs. Indeed, that’s what residents will vote in favor of keeping in reality. More bicycle races and dog shows will not make up the difference.

But I can see my neighbors’ point that growth is a genie out of the bottle, too. I get that small-business owners might fear a center. There’s a conceit that comes with living in a place with no stoplights or box stores; yes, Eagle has both.

This town at 3,000 or 6,000 in population, as I’ve seen it grow in my time, is still a speck, not even a cheering section at Invesco Field. It’s not going to be a “big city” with 8,000 or even 16,000 residents.

Owners of Diamond Star ranchettes across the river from where Eagle River Station would be have cause to finance an opposition in the election campaign. Like me, they are out-of-town yet hardly neutral parties undeserving of a voice. It is a little funny that the opposition group won’t acknowledge where they are getting their funding, but that’s neither here nor there with me.

And so we have a hot campaign season to rival any seen over a development. Well, since townsfolk fought most of Fred Kummer’s dreams for a ski resort and thousands of acres sprinkled with homes south of town anyway. Interestingly, a prime opponent of Kummer’s plans in the wilder country south of town now supports the shopping center along the freeway east of Chambers.

I was with Roxie Deane’s thinking about Adam’s Rib back when, and I agree with her support for Eagle River Station now. It makes sense.

Don Rogers is the editor and publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920. He welcomes your comments at http://www.vaildaily.com.


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