‘Vail is not a real town’
VAIL – A grocery store, a bookstore, a gas station, a music store.Some might call these essential – or at least important – businesses for a town. But with the current redevelopment, Vail Village and Lionshead are poised to be without these businesses in the near future.Some of these types of businesses could return to Vail, but others may not.”I think it’s a tragedy,” said Kaye Ferry, executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association. “This is the absolute result of the soaring real estate values in Vail.”For years, few full-time, working residents have lived in Vail Village or Lionshead, and grocery stores and gas stations that cater to locals have become concentrated in West Vail.Still, the loss of these seemingly vital businesses in central Vail raises the old question of whether Vail – which was built around nothing more than a ski mountain and not out of a mining town like Aspen, Crested Butte or Breckenridge – is in fact a town or a resort.”It’s never been a real town,” said Steve Kovacik, owner of 8150, a nightclub whose future is up in the air with the impending redevelopment of Crossroads.Councilman Mark Gordon said he’s “very concerned” about stores moving out of Vail Village. But he’s optimistic about more retail space coming to Vail, which will lower rents, he said.”We’re on the cusp of becoming a real town again,” he said.
While it may end up relocating some businesses from Vail, the Crossroads proposal is meant to bring families back to Vail. The centerpiece of the proposed redevelopment is a public plaza, an ice rink, a bowling alley and a movie theater.Return of retail?Some expect more businesses to return to Vail after the current period of construction. Vail is now undergoing a billion dollars’ worth of construction for its “new dawn.””You’re going to see a resurgence in retail here with the advent of Crossroads and One Willow Bridge Road – all of those have hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space,” said John Kaemmer, owner of the Toy Store on Bridge Street and a Vail resident since 1965.Indeed, there are plans for a Whole Foods-style market on the first floor of the new One Willow Bridge Road condo and timeshare building, plus another market across the street in the new Solaris building, said Bob McNichols, developer of One Willow Bridge.”We don’t want the stores that were providing essential services to go away,” McNichols said.And 8150 and Eagle Valley Music Co. may have a place in the new Solaris building.Craig Cohn, who is working on the Solaris development for developer Peter Knobel, said there may be a nightclub in the new building, albeit smaller than the current 8150.
“(8150) has long roots in the community,” Cohn said.And Cohn said Solaris will work with other longtime tenants such as Eagle Valley Music Co. to try to accommodate them in the new development.”We will to a point,” he said. “But you can’t charge someone 10 percent of rent because they want to be there.”Cohn, who previously owned a clothing store on Bridge Street, said Vail needs small businesses that cater to locals.”If you talk about a ski town versus a ski resort, it’s a place where someone can live and shop and run their daily errands,” he said.’Real town’?Daphne Slevin, who has lived here since 1962, said Vail is a “real tourist town.””It’s not like a little village that is an entity of a lot of different people living in a little community,” she said.
It’s not the community it was in 1960s, when you knew everyone you passed on Bridge Street, she said. Slevin, who lives near the golf course, said only two out of 24 houses on her street have people who live there full-time. The retail offerings reflect the lack of full-time residents, she said.”In the early days, we had everything we needed within walking distance,” she said. “As people migrated down the valley, more stores opened downvalley to be where people lived.”Even when she does shop in Vail, Slevin said, she sometimes finds it difficult to park in the village to shop.”With no locals, (businesses) just have to cater to the tourists,” she said. “There’s rather a lot of T-shirt shops and jewelry stores.”Kaemmer said West Vail – where Vail has its grocery stores and gas stations – is becoming the “real town.””I really do think Vail proper has been moving toward more a resort and not necessarily a town,” he said. “It really is kind of becoming one big town, the whole I-70 corridor.”Both?Vail is both a resort and a town, said Bill Jensen, co-president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division.
The ebb and flow of businesses are part of the natural evolution of towns that happens all over the country, he said.”People make economic choices about their businesses and the rent they pay, and they make decisions that are in their best interests,” he said.Vail is becoming more of a resort and less of community every year, Ferry said. But new types of stores are needed in Vail nevertheless, she said, and she hopes that more retail space will lower rents.Vail shouldn’t aspire to be a “real town,” Ferry said. No one wants to admit that Vail is, in fact, a resort, she said. “Vail is not a real town,” she said. “Vail was never a real town. it’s just something somebody dreamt up one day. It will never have the same character that Aspen or Sun Valley has. But it has its own character.”Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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